Autonomous Source

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May 31, 2005

You think it can't happen here

Okay, one last Canadian item before I begin my sabbatical. Mike at the London Fog has unearthed some comics showing the plans the Liberals have for the country. An amusing diversion or a chilling look at our future society? The answer is for you to decide.

I'm betting on amusing diversion.

Where this blog is going

Long term: Damned if I know. I write about what I'm interested in at any time on this blog, and that's something that's constantly in flux. I wrote about economics when I started blogging, drifted towards the war in Iraq and the US Presidential election, and lately I've dedicated it to running the Liberals out of power. By this time next year, this blog could have a heavy emphasis on Buffy the Vampire Slayer memorabilia. Who knows? I've contemplated trying to focus my writing on a few select subjects, but I know I'd never be able to keep it up. I lose interest. The voice in the back of my head starts saying, "who cares?" whenever I try to write about something I'm not passionate about. So it'll stay the unfocused hodge-podge it is today.

Despite this lack of a center, my readership has grown. My goal for the blog when I started was to get 100 hits a day, and now I get at least 150. This may be due to more and more google-hits from my ever-increasing archives of content, but who cares? A hit is a hit. I've even managed to evolve up to a Marauding Marsupial, thanks to many other kind bloggers who've linked to me. (To those other bloggers that have made it here: how long does it take for the plaque to arrive? I still haven't received mine.) I appreciate those links and generally will stick up a reciprocal link (and use it!) when I become aware of them. (It would be nice if more bloggers did this. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Glenn Reynolds...) But I'm happy with the synaptic connections I've formed with other blogs and am in no danger of throwing in the towel any time soon.

Still, I'm not quite satisfied with the quality of the blog lately. I think it's lacked a bit of polish and shine. It just may have something to do with the two little people taking up so much of my time. I've never been so busy in all my life! My blogging was a little better a year and a half ago when they were less mobile and demanding, but now the 'terrible twos' (times 2!) are preventing me from sharing the true depth of my wit and wisdom with the world. But they can't stay raging narcissistic lunatics forever. Autonomous Source can only improve.

Short Term: This blog will be taking a two week detour to attempt to break out of the rut it's in. It will become self-indulgent and possibly artistic, and will not mention Canadian politics. I'll see if I can write when I don't have Max and Talia to worry about, or if I'm just using them as a convenient excuse. Tune in (later) tomorrow to find our what I'm talking about.

The big machine is rattling apart

If you can only read one column on the French 'non' vote and where Europe is going, make it Mark Steyn's in the Telegraph. It seems few other writers are willing to notice the contempt with which the political elites hold their subjects, and the danger of that contempt.

May 29, 2005

It's on the internet, it must be true...

It's still under construction, but you can now buy tickets for the Paris to New York trans-Atlantic undersea train. Check out their way-cool website (en français).

May 28, 2005

Carter sabotaging democracy again

Here's an excerpt from an open letter to Jimmy Carter from an Ethiopian news service. What he's done here reminds me of what he did in Venezuela, seeing only what he wants to see and ignoring the truth:

Many believe that, had you acted differently and with care, Ethiopia’s suffering for 17 brutal years under Soviet hegemony would have been averted. But, as I already said, this was an old story we chose to leave for historians to grapple with until you brought fresh memories of it with a huge blow by mishandling an election that we Ethiopians seriously worked on and believed would take us on the road to democracy. It is possible that people may be killed and blood spilled in Ethiopia that could be justified on your words of premature and biased assessment of the election process in favor of the ruling party. You began spoiling the process by emboldening the ruling party to tamper with the process when you began extolling their handling of the process without qualification moments after you arrived at the Ethiopian airport.

I know you are a good man and I honestly find it difficult to accuse you of contempt for my people or other Africans. I sincerely believe you are not that kind of a person. But in reality, your actions were not very different from some in the west who think that Africans don’t deserve anything near comparable to what the civilized world has, and whatever little improvement from their past is more than enough for them.

I am not sure how you respond to the latest EU report that accuses you of undermining the election process by your premature pro government assessment. But millions of Ethiopians are now accusing you of being instrumental in destroying their hope. I am not sure what answers you would give to families and relatives of Ethiopians who have just started paying prices for their participation and activism on the side of the opposition. We hear people are being intimidated, beaten and dragged to prisons. Some, I just heard, are seeking refugee among Red Cross offices in rural areas. Opposition parties are claiming that some of their election observers and activists are fast disappearing. I am sure you will soon hear about widespread abuse of Ethiopia’s citizens by a government which is parading your election assessment as a justification.

May 27, 2005

My son is a genius!

Max has taken up the art of photography. I think his work radically transcends the moribund passivity traditionally associated with this medium. He imbues his images with a passion and dynamism that gives his subjects a freshness that is bracing for the viewer.

The photo of the baseboard heater is especially evocative, don't you think? I don't think I'll ever see it the same way again.

Jimmy Carter strikes again

Friend of despots Jimmy Carter has again aided a authoritarian regime hold on to power through a fixed election. Last time it was in Venezuela, this time he struck in Ethiopia:

The EU report also said former U.S. President Carter, who led a team of 50 election observers, undermined the electoral process and EU criticism with "his premature blessing of the elections and early positive assessment of the results."

Unless there is a "drastic reverse toward good democratic practice" the observer team and EU "will have to publicly denounce the situation."

"Otherwise, the EU jointly with ex-President Carter will be held largely responsible for the lack of transparency, and assumed rigging, of the elections."

The opposition repeatedly has accused the ruling party of fraud, though foreign monitors have said the elections were the most open in Ethiopia's history.

The opposition threatened to boycott parliament if the allegations of vote fraud were not properly investigated by a joint team that should include representatives of political parties, electoral authorities and international observers.

(via LGF)

The gay marriage wedge

A couple of months ago I was polled on the subject of gay marriage. Unlike most of the polls I answer, this one was very short. Three questions: Do you support it? Which federal party would you vote for today? And does the gay marriage issue change how you will vote?

I'm a more socially-liberal conservative, so I responded that I support it (though mostly I think it's a non-issue), will vote Conservative, and am not swayed in my intentions by that issue. It was an interesting poll and got me thinking.

Why are the Liberals raising the whole gay marriage thing anyway? Marriage laws and licences are a provincial responsibility, so you would think that if the time has come in our culture to recognize gay marriage, the provinces could make the necessary changes to the laws. Some provinces would lead the way eagerly, and some would have to be prodded by the courts. But eventually it would happen and the federal government wouldn't have to do anything. So why are the Liberals doing this? Especially when polls say a slight majority of the population is against it?

The answer comes in the third question of the poll I answered. Does the gay marriage issue change how you will vote? For most of the people that are opposed to it, I'd guess GM is a non-issue. There's a certain inertia in the population that resists change (especially in timid and fearful Canada), and the poll picks this up. But they don't really care about the issue. For the rest, those that are noisily opposed to GM, they're probably planning to vote Conservative anyway. So the GM issue doesn't lose the Liberals any votes.

But now let's look at the supporters of GM. I think their commitment to the issue is greater than the majority of those that oppose it. They're not ready to go out and march for it, but they think it's a important issue that represents their values. Many of them are as disgusted with Liberal corruption and arrogance as anyone. They can see that the Liberals have been in power too long and really should be thrown out. But as they look around the political landscape for an alternative, what do they see? They see a Conservative party increasingly associated with opponents of GM. Some of them may be able to overlook this and vote Conservative anyways, but many will hold their noses and vote Liberal. This is why GM is a winning issue for the Liberals.

I'm convinced that the popularity doldrums the Conservatives are in is a result of this issue. And they have no effective way to fight it. They can't take the Liberal position and alienate many of their members and supporters, and they can't vigorously oppose it for fear of looking 'scary'. ('Scarier', actually.)

And that's why you can count on the Liberals making GM a big issue in the next election...

May 26, 2005

A hint of consciousness?

Andrew Coyne has collected a number of opinion pieces from across Canada that express a slight hint of outrage over the appalling policy of patronage bribery that the Martin Liberals depend on. Maybe, just maybe, this story will be a sleeper that will slowly gather the requisite outrage from the public.

May 25, 2005

Poundmaker protest

One of the great embarrassments in Canada has been the dismal conditions in many native communities. As I see it, the problem has not been the federal government's fault, but a result of massive corruption in native governments. But anytime an outsider points out this obvious fact -- or worse yet, suggests doing something about it -- they're met full-force with charges of racism.

The only way Native communities are going to get out of this cycle of despair is by overthrowing the mini-Mugabes who rule them, and setting up the conditions to prevent them from returning. Not an easy task, and there hasn't been a lot of precident.

But right now some members of the Poundmaker First Nation in Saskatchewan are challenging their corrupt leaders. The story has had minimal media coverage (this CBC story from May 6 is all I've found), but the Manitoba-based group blog Dust My Broom has been all over it and is working to get the message out. The story starts here, and continues here and here. The latest press release from the protestors is here. (Best to just go to the main site and start reading.) Ian Scott of Ianism is accepting donations for a grocery delivery to the protestors scheduled for tomorrow.

Politics is never just about voting. It's also about working to support ideas you believe in any way you can. These guys deserve a lot of credit.

Hey, he's cheating!

Fans of Dance Dance Revolution might want to check out this video...

(via Beautiful Atrocities)

Not being intimidated

I was worried that the National Post's lawyers had reacted to the libel suit by PMO Chief of Staff Tim Murphy by going into full duck-and-cover mode. The Post had nothing on the Grewal story in yesterday's paper, and Coyne still has not made available the column that started it all. The paper usually manages to do good work, but Chairman David Asper tightly orbits planet Liberal and could have shut down this story.

But in today's Post, Coyne follows up his uppercut on Murphy with a roundhouse (subscriber only) that should have him staggering:

'He started it' is not a defence

It has now been one week since Gurmant Grewal, MP, first made his sensational allegations that senior members of the Liberal government had offered him a public office -- a bribe, in effect -- in exchange for his abstention in last Thursday's budget vote. The same offer was allegedly extended to his wife, also an MP. As evidence, Mr. Grewal produced an eight-minute tape he had secretly recorded of a conversation between himself and Tim Murphy, the Prime Minister's chief of staff, a snippet of what he now says are four hours of tape-recorded conversations, not only with Mr. Murphy but with Ujjal Dosanjh, the Health Minister.

The Liberals have had a week, then, to come up with an innocent explanation for all this. They have not done so. Instead, they have attempted to change the subject. Mr. Grewal approached us, they insist. In some versions, he is described as having asked for a public office; in others, it is maintained that he wanted the government to call off an RCMP investigation into his affairs, launched just days before at the behest of Joe Volpe, the Immigration Minister. And when they rejected his advances, Liberal ministers chime in unison, he "wouldn't take no for an answer."

This is utterly irrelevant, even assuming it was true. If Mr. Grewal had corrupt objectives in mind, it seems odd that he would tape himself in the act, still odder that he would tell the world of the tapes' existence. A more plausible explanation, if indeed it was he who first approached them, was that he set out to lay a trap for them. Fine: It was within Mr. Murphy's and Mr. Dosanjh's power not to fall into that trap.

There's lots more. Pick up the Post today and read the whole thing. But I will quote Coyne's conclusion, which is something I've been saying for a while:
Finally, the media has a responsibility. There are allegations that a crime was committed here, allegations serious enough to warrant an investigation. And not just any crime, but one that strikes at the heart of our democracy. Do we just shrug and leave it at that -- because the Liberals won the vote? Or do we pursue this?
In other words, "Can you give me a hand here, guys?"

UPDATE: Coyne has the latest column up on his site. What also must be read is the intro to the column where he cruelly mocks Jeffrey Simpson's lame hand-waving over the affair.

May 23, 2005

Sibling rivalry

Bad news for those who think we can build a society of tolerance, love, equality and mutual respect. We're not built for it. Until the end of time, humans will always seek to dominate and impose their will on others. Sorry.

I came to this shocking and unique observation by watching my kids. They've moved from being primitive creatures of instinct -- seeking food, attention and stimulation -- to being more sophisticated creatures of instinct. Now that they're more socialized, they're concerned with things that are pretty intangible, but nonetheless drive our civilization.

Talia started playing the game of domination. She loves her train game and adapted it for play when there was no chairs around. She would grab Max from behind to make a 'train' and shout, "Choo Choo!" to try to get him started. Max hated it. He doesn't like being immobilized and would scream when Talia grabbed him. She took note of this and started doing it solely to demonstrate her power over him. It got to the point where she could simply lean over and whisper, "choo choo" in his ear and he would start bawling.

After a while the 'choo choo' strategy started losing its effect. Max regained his composure and developed his own counter to Talia's tactics. He would... Roar! Max started taking on the aspects of various animals. He would be a lion, a 'scary monkey', or his current favourite, a jaguar. They're all the same from Max's point of view; he raises his hands above his head and shouts, "RRRROOOAAARRR!!!" as loud as he can.

The tables were turned. Talia fled in terror at the animals, and Max was in now firmly in charge. Whenever conflict arose, he raised his arms and shouted and Talia gave way.

But Talia didn't give up. In the past couple of weeks she's introduced a new strategy to reaffirm her primacy in this household: scratching, pinching, and hitting. And it's very effective. Even though Max is much bigger than her, he's been very intimidated by her assaults. What's contributed to Talia's success is that she doesn't just show Max who's boss when she wants something, she works to keep a permanent low level of fear in him. She does this by reaching out at random moments and giving him a good pinch or scratch. By doing this she's saying, I'm the Boss, don't you forget it.

And that's the way the situation stands right now. We try to police these behaviors but it's not very effective. Talia chooses her moments perfectly. I wonder what Max will come up with to counter her?

May 22, 2005

Cancelled

Because Canadians really don't want an election right now...

Dissent being stifled...

Andrew Coyne is being sued by the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff Tim Murphy for libel. There's no other details on exactly what Coyne wrote that was so libelous, but I'm guessing it's his column in the National Post that mused on the legal nature of what Murphy may have done. Coyne has not put the column up on his site as he usually does, and his site has shut down comments and has had no new content added for a couple of days. Something's happened; it may be the thuggish hand of the Liberal Party, or it may be a bad case of stomach flu.

Debbye Stratigacos of Being American in T.O. and I feel that the Prime Minister's office should not be able to shut down the questioning of their ethics with legal threats and have decided to post the column. Because of copyright issues, we'll both post just half of it. If Andrew Coyne requests we take it down, we will, but for now, here's the first part of the offending column.

A majority lost, then found

OTTAWA - And then we all went off to Hy's. The last vote had been bought and paid for, the government had staved off defeat by the margin of heiress, and all of Ottawa, it seemed, was young and in love.

But me, I couldn't get this song out of my head, the soundtrack to the day's events. Do you know it? It goes like this:

"I don't think it's good if anybody lies, or if anybody is asked the question, 'Well is there a deal?' and you say, 'No.' Well you want that to be the truth."
Well, you'd have to listen to it. It's Paul Martin's chief of staff, Tim Murphy, in a rare bootleg edition of what I gather is his signature tune. In this case, his duet partner is Gurmant Grewal, Member of Parliament -- a position of some honour in this country, I am told -- and Tim is explaining to him how Gurmant could abstain from voting against the government, and the government might sometime later make Gurmant a Senator or some such, but there wouldn't be anything sordid or dirty or, you know, illegal about it, as there would be if there were "an explicit trade" of one for the other. That's what Tim says elsewhere on the tape: It's a "bad idea" to have "any kind of commitment that involves an explicit trade." Rather, you want to arrange things in such a way that if somebody asks "is there a deal?" you could say no, and it would literally be true. Because "you want that to be the truth."

Because "I don't think it's good if anybody lies."

A reminder: This is the chief of staff to the Prime Minister of Canada talking.

So: you want to be able to truthfully say there's no deal. That would seem simple enough, if in fact there is no deal. So why would you need to spend eight minutes discussing how to say it? Why would you even need to discuss whether anybody should lie?

"That can be done on the basis, those members can do it on the basis, 'Well look, my riding doesn't want an election, doesn't want one now.'"
That tape will forever serve as the background music, the theme song if you will, for yesterday's vote. A government that had lost its majority spent nine days pretending it had a majority in order that it might obtain a majority. It used powers of state to which it was no longer entitled for the sole end of establishing its claim to the powers of state. And it used those powers in the most tawdry possible ways.

There is no other way to interpret that tape. It is incriminating by virtue of its very ambiguity: it is deliberate ambiguity, calculated ambiguity, in the discussion of matters that should brook no ambiguity.

"If someone abstains in that environment who has exercised a decision based on principle, [it] still gives him the freedom to have some negotiating room on both sides. Then the freedom to have discussions is increased."
Continued at Being American in T.O.

May 21, 2005

'Has the whole world gone CRAZY?'

The Toronto Star paints the picture:

Partying Liberals were treated Thursday night to the incredible sight of Belinda Stronach, Canada's new human resources minister, and Tim Murphy, the Prime Minister's chief of staff, dancing atop a speaker at an Ottawa bar.

The tune? "Material Girl," by Madonna.

The lyrics to that song include these memorable, and some would say fitting, words:

"Some boys kiss me, some boys hug me, I think they're OK,
If they don't give me proper credit, I just walk away.
They can beg and they can plead,
But they can't see the light. That's right,
'Cause the boy with the cold hard cash is always Mr. Right."

Tim Murphy, of course, is the man whose voice is heard clearly on a tape (transcript - audio) offering a bribe to a Conservative MP. Dancing on the speaker with his prize trophy, he doesn't appear too concerned about this proof of his guilt in a serious crime being available on the internet. And why should he be? No one cares.

This story is not screaming-headlines front-page news. It's page eight news, noted only after prefacing the story with Liberal denials and alibis. Soon it will disappear and be forgotten. It's the precise opposite to the way the media should be covering this. They should be questioning what the PM knew and when he knew it, not making excuses for him and speculating about what the Tories are hiding. It may be that the Conservatives cynically created this scandal to embarrass the government (though if you listen to the tape, you'll find this hard to believe), but the possibility of the Prime Minister using his powers of office to corrupt members of the opposition deserves a full and noisy investigation. Especially in light of another high-profile defection that happened just days ago! What has the media in this country become? Has the whole world gone crazy? (No, just Canada.)

At least Andrew Coyne is still following this story. He's got a good link round-up here.

May 20, 2005

Belinda Stronach? Yes, Belinda Stronach!

As of yesterday, Google has ranked my blog very high in searches for 'Belinda Stronach'. Many people in the last few days have been looking for information on Belinda Stronach and are being led to my page. I'm also getting lots of hits from people looking for 'Belinda Stronach whore', 'Belinda Stronach pictures', and 'Belinda Stronach dipstick'. I have never tried to 'game the system' to get higher page ranking for anything, certainly not Belinda Stronach, so it's interesting that this is happening.

I don't really have any interesting information or pictures of Belinda Stronach that couldn't be found somewhere else on the web. I have no special interest at all in Belinda Stronach. It's very unfair of me to be taking all these Belinda Stronach hits away from people that are working hard on a Belinda Stronach webpage. Like the creators of this page, for instance. Go here if you want more information on Belinda Stronach.

UPDATE: I thought that would work. I've dropped from 8th to 50th...

Very Sithapointed*

The short review

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. With a bigger budget. And worse dialog.

The longer review

My wife and I didn't want to hate this movie. We saw both of the other first trilogy movies in the theatres and -- unlike most people -- actually enjoyed them. Sure, they were a little hokey. And had bad acting. And had Jar-Jar Binks. But... okay okay, we didn't like them that much either...

But we didn't hate them. And the buzz for this latest chapter is that it's pretty good. And it could have been pretty good. The overall plot is great; if I were to describe what happens you would find it hard to imagine that anyone could mess it up. It's got intrigue, action, drama, suspense, and characters wrestling with the moral choices. With the piles of money they had to invest in this thing, it's inconceiveable that they'd mess it up.

But they did. Or he did actually -- I get the feeling that George Lucas smothered this movie with his massive ego. The movie has a feeling of being just stuffed with self-importance. Everything has the tone of being so weighty and deep -- when really it's just fluff. Maybe some others were able to get into the spirit of the thing, but whenever some deeply over-important statement was made over the sweeping over-important music... we just had to laugh.

We probably weren't the best people to sit next to during the movie because we did a fair amount of jeering and sniggering. The terrible, terrible lines. The terrible, terrible acting. The overblown and incomprehensionable special effects. They were funny, but not funny enough. And the final showdowns at the end were just ridiculous. Yoda bouncing around like a green ping-pong ball and some of the oldest one-on-one fighting clichés you've ever seen -- except with lava.

This movie had too much fake Orff-like choral music, too many bad lines that made you wince, way too many light sabre duels, and not enough fun. And it dragged! If I was watching it at home, I probably would have turned it off out of boredom. Oh well, maybe they'll learn some lessons from this one and fix the series for Episode VII...

Oh, and the political metaphor some people have been talking about? It was there, but not in any way that was distracting. Sure, the way Palpatine turned a democracy into a dictatorship by luring a one of his enemies into his fold seemed familiar, but Belinda Stronach is not really a powerful force like Anakin, just a convenient one. And Paul Martin probably can't blast those cool blue lighting bolts from his fingers either.

*Official Episode III Bad Pun number 89. Collect all 231!

Impact

I get the feeling from the Canadian blogs on my blogroll that many have been too stunned by events last night to write much about it. Or perhaps they've just taken my advice and have been overcome with apathy. But a few managed to scratch out some thoughts:

  • Colby Cosh asks a few questions about Chuck Cadman and his motivations and doesn't come to any nice conclusions.
  • Bob Tarantino also looks at Chuck and is a little more charitable. But after seeing the picture of him hugging Carolyn Parrish in the paper today, I have to side with Cosh. Tarantino explains Cadman's motives, but that still doesn't make what he did right.
  • Jaeger crawls out of his cave to drop a few quotes. Barry Goldwater is on his way to being rehabilitated.
  • Andrew Coyne doesn't have anything on his blog, but his last post has almost 700 comments, many of which I suspect have something to do with last night's vote. He does have a great column in the Post today which has a succinct summary of the noxious nature of what Paul Martin did:
    A government that had lost its majority spent nine days pretending it had a majority in order that it might obtain a majority. It used powers of state to which it was no longer entitled for the sole end of establishing its claim to the powers of state. And it used these powers in the most tawdry possible ways.
  • Keith at Minority of One is mad. Mad, mad, mad, mad, mad. But then, he usually is, so this really isn't news.
  • The Last Amazon is hopeful that the Liberals will eventually run out of money and their hold on power will weaken. Well, whatever gets you through the day...
  • Mike at the London Fog offers poetry. Somehow, I don't think the Liberals can be defeated with poetry.
  • Debbye points out that that this country is sailing into unknown territory now. That's a positive way to look at things -- make it into an exciting adventure!
  • Kate at Small Dead Animals has a small link round-up and a big pile of comments. Some of the comments contain... cuss-words.
I'm just going to spend the day with the kids and not think about this mess for now. Actually, I'm just going to spend half the day with the kids, then try to slip out to see that silly movie everbody's talking about.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention honourary Canadian blogger Captain Ed, who has a long analysis on where he thinks Harper went wrong. I think Harper handled things pretty well, but Ed makes a couple of very good points:

He made the decision to drop his challenge to the earlier motions which should have qualified as no-confidence votes for no return whatsoever, a decision which legitimized yesterday's vote.
This was Harper's biggest screw-up. I think the Conservatives panicked when public opinion bought the Liberal's spin on the lost confidence votes rather than theirs. But they should never have accepted the Liberals position, explicitly or implicitly, and continued pointing out the illegitimacy of Martin's government.

His other major criticism is a point in Harper's favour, for me anyway:

Harper may have been undone by his own basic honesty. During this entire episode, Harper made clear what he wanted to do and was aboveboard in his efforts to topple the Liberals. Harper clearly underestimated Martin and overestimated the man's ethics. Harper appeared unprepared for the garage sale that Martin kicked off, buying the NDP with a budget package and Stronach with a second-tier ministerial position. Anyone who paid attention to the Gomery Inquiry should have known better, but even I was pretty amazed at how baldly Martin and his cohorts sold out Canada just to squeeze past the no-confidence vote.
What am I doing? I said I didn't want to write about this stuff! Okay, enough...

May 19, 2005

Tequila will ease the pain

Scientists are still in the dark as to how its wonderful properties work, but tequila has been shown to numb the painful effects of life's little disasters. Many studies -- similar to the one conducted in my basement this evening -- have shown that tequila can induce strong feelings of apathy and detachment from events that would otherwise be disturbing or depressing. This new feeling of apathy allows the inbiber to 'get on with his life' or just sleep dreamlessly and without grinding his teeth. This marvelous and miraculous liquid is widely available, and is strongly recommended to those who have recently experienced a great disappointment.

Spider blogging

I was just outside splitting some wood, when I discovered the biggest spider I've ever seen. Naturally, my first thought was to share it with the blogosphere. It was inside a rotten log and somehow it survived the axe blow. Spiders give me the creeps. Brrr.

I don't care if you've seen bigger. This is Canada, not South America. We're not supposed to have any ookey creatures like this wandering around in the wild...

Nothing to see here, move along

I'd think a bribe by the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff to a Tory MP in exchange for him betraying his party on the eve of an extremely important vote would be big news. Especially when the offer was caught on tape. But then, I'm not the editor of one of Canada's big news services. The Globe and Mail's 'Breaking News' page has nothing on the story in any of the headlines, but has a couple of paragraphs tucked in to the general story on the upcoming vote. The tone suggests the offer is just a sideshow and isn't important.

The Star, to their credit, has a partial transcript of the tape, and the CBC has a story, but neither suggest what a colossal breakdown of ethics this shows about the Martin Liberals. In a couple of days (especially with all the big news those days will bring) there will be no memory of what happened. The press in this country are pathetic.

My friend the Latin American correspondent wrote me an email which I will take the liberty to quote:

The media is responsible for a LARGE part of this...shallow reporting, reporters taking Senate seats, reporters hanging out at meech lake, failure to investigate...it's perhaps the laziest and worst media in the Americas....and I've seen them all...Even in places like Venezuela, reporters have the guts to stand up and challenge.

UPDATE: The London Fog has the list of questions asked of Grewel during the scrum he had with reporters. I get the idea that the reporters are not so concerned with finding out about the offer as they are in destroying his credibility. It's madness.

May 18, 2005

Good news

The Liberals are still fishing for Tory rats to board their sinking ship (apologies to Gnotalex for borrowing that metaphor):

Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal says the Liberals offered him a diplomatic post or a Senate seat for his wife in return for scratching his crucial budget vote.

The MP from Surrey, B.C., whose wife Nina is also a Tory MP, alleges he made an audio recording of the offer from Liberal cabinet minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Tim Murphy, Prime Minister Paul Martin's chief of staff.

"I was approached early this week by Ujjal Dosanjh and asked to abstain or vote with the government on the budget vote," said Grewal, a three-term MP.

"In exchange, I was given an understanding that I would be rewarded in some fashion."

Grewal said the options included a diplomatic appointment for him or a Senate seat in the future for Nina Grewal, who was first elected to Parliament just last June.

If they're still casting for turncoats, they may not have enough votes to pull it off tomorrow. When you think about it, given all the power the PM has to bestow goodies for favours, the fact that he was only able to pull in one out of ninety-nine looks like a pretty good endorsement of Stephen Harper's leadership.

The vote tomorrow is going to be a nailbiter.

UPDATE: The tape has been released and it's pretty damning. Andrew Coyne is all over it. This is a criminal offence, of course. How's it going to play out?

Another sexist Tory MP

Medicine Hat MP Monte Solberb has a blog and couldn't resist taking a shot at Belinda. I think he manages to strike the perfect mix of bemusement, condescension, and breezy sarcasm:

Belinda Stronach of no fixed address

Come on everyone, lay off. Belinda is who she is. I'm sure this time she's really found her niche. Wouldn't surprise me if she stuck with it for several months. Maybe even a year. Next, who knows, maybe she'll be a marine biologist, or a circus performer. That's what free spirits do.

No there is none of that getting stuck in a rut for that girl. When things aren't going her way, she gets going. She's gone before you can say, "The Liberals are corrupt", which is what she used to say all the time. But it's a woman's perogative to change her mind, and I support her right to do that. But it's also her perogative to use her mind, which I would also support.

(via The Gods of the Copybook Headings)

Now I've heard everything

Stephen Harper owes Belinda Stronach an apology, according to Liberal MPs:

Speaking with reporters in Ottawa, members of the Liberal women's caucus accused Mr. Harper and others of “unacceptable and disrespectful” comments following Ms. Stronach's departure from the party and said both she and the women of Canada are owed an apology.

“I think it's important that we try to raise the level of discourse and debate and they shouldn't be reduced to the kinds of throw away comments that people are clearly using last night and this morning,” Liberal MP Judy Sgro said.

“So I would call on Mr. Harper to apologize to Ms. Stronach and to women of Canada and ask his colleagues to very much do the same so that we can try and restore some level of respect and discussion here in Ottawa.”

So this woman attended strategy meetings for the (hopefully) upcoming election when she knew she was going to defect, owes the party hundreds of thousands of dollars, and accused the leader of being a narrow-minded incompetent -- and she deserves an apology? Oh right, she's a woman. She's immune from criticism.

And by the way, what are these hurtful comments? The Globe digs up everything it can find:

“She sort of defined herself as something of a dipstick, an attractive one, but still a dipstick, with what she's done here today. She is, at the end of the day, going to paint herself as something of a joke,” Ontario MPP Robert Runciman said of the move.

Tony Abbott, a Conservative member of the Alberta legislature, described Ms. Stronach as a “political harlot” and called the situation as one of “a little rich girl who is basically whoring herself out to the Liberals.”

Mr. Harper, meanwhile, told reporters in Montreal: “I've never really noticed complexity to be Belinda's strong point.”

Headlines around the country also described Ms. Stronach's announcement as a “blonde bombshell.”

At Wednesday's news conference, women members of the Liberal caucus described those kinds of comments as “overtly” sexist and noted that, when former Conservative Scott Brisson crossed the floor, he wasn't subject to the same level of personal attack.

“I don't think you'll disagree with me that being called a dipstick and being called a whore is the same thing,” Liberal MP Sarmite Bulte said, when asked by a reporter if friendly comments about Ms. Stronach's shoes were also sexist.

So two members from provincial legislatures, a mild comment from the leader -- and newspaper headlines? For this Stephen Harper should apologize? And what's this about calling someone a 'dipstick' being the same as calling them a 'whore'? Is there any doubt the Liberals were disappointed in the material the Conservatives gave them and had to make up their own?

These episodes of phony and preplanned outrages from the Liberals are getting really tiresome. But I expect this kind of stuff from them, it's the way they do things. But is it too much to ask that 'Canada's National Newspaper' provide a little more skepticism in their stories? This one read like it was a Liberal press release.

UPDATE: Andrew Coyne has a few quotes on Belinda from some women columnists. Presumably they're not sexist.

A break from the smirking

One of the things that disappoints me about politics in Canada is how the population has been indoctrinated into viewing those who exhibit passion with suspicion or condescension. Canadians are too cool to care, and routinely tell pollsters they think all politicians are the same. The media for the most part plays up to this, reporting on the crude maneuvering of this government as if it was the latest news on Brad and Jennifer.

It's nice to read some reporters getting angry about this and who understand what it all means. Andrew Coyne has a good column in the Post today (not yet available) and David Warren's is right on the money:

Am I making this personal? Yes, and it ought to be made personal, by everyone who has been betrayed -- every Canadian not directly in the pay of the Liberal Party. We have been taken for a ride, we have been cheated of the constitutional order that was our birthright. And we have been cheated by people who have used the stations with which we entrusted them to advance their own personal interests at the expense of ours.

If Mr. Harper did not seem angry, I would have no hope for him. He is in fact angry, because he is a decent man; and because he is looking directly into the sleaze at the heart of our government. There is such a thing as righteous indignation, and now is the time for it to be expressed.

I'm still in shock right now, but I've got over my initial pessimism. I'm not abandoning the country or voting for seperatism. These guys have to be fought, and I'll continue to fight them in my own limited way. In fact, I'll step it up a bit and start challenging my neighbors and friends who react to what's happening with nothing but a shrug. They've got to wake up or this country is lost.

UPDATE: Coyne's column is here.

May 17, 2005

Democracy on life support?

Predictably, the Canadian blogosphere has been a-buzz with reaction to Belinda's defection. Most of it has been shock, disgust, dismay, and insults (Publius has a good round-up), but Colby Cosh has a powerful post about how this country might just be strolling into a huge constitutional crisis:

The whole point of the tradition that the confidence of the House will be tested at once, upon the government's defeat in a supply-related division, is to prevent exactly the sort of shenanigan just perpetrated. Martin has used the delay he imposed unilaterally to purchase the services of a disaffected Conservative leadership candidate--one, it bears noting, elected by her constituents as a Conservative. (She'll be in charge of "democratic renewal", says Martin--never let it be said the man lacks a taste for irony.) "I am not sure," Bliss concluded, "that Canada has ever had such a serious parliamentary crisis." There can be no doubt about it now. If the Liberals win Thursday's confidence vote by virtue of Stronach's presence on the government benches, we will continue to have a government openly acknowledged to be illegal by most if not all of the major constitutional authorities in the country.
Well, the ones not bought off by the Liberals, anyway.

Paul Martin seems to be intent on destroying this country as we know it. The corruption of his party and his banana-republic tactics have infuriated Quebec and the West, yet still he sits in the driver's seat. If the Liberals somehow manage to create a majority government , there'll be another Quebec referendum, followed shortly by one in Alberta.

I could even see myself voting 'oui'...

Shameless

I wondered why the Liberals were so desperate to hold on a few more days before allowing a confidence vote. If they were going to lose anyways, why allow themselves to look like they were clinging to power so pathetically? And now we know: they were working to find the price that would bring Belinda Stronach over to the dark side.

There's nothing, nothing these guys won't do to hold on to power. They'll send unarmed soldiers to a war zone, let a bunch of socialists ruin the economy, and create a brand new cabinet post to satisfy the vanity of an ambitious heiress. Nothing is beneath them. And they don't care who knows it.

I wonder if I can persuade my wife to move to Australia...

UPDATE: I understand now that Martin didn't create a new cabinet post for Belinda, but booted out (future senator or ambassador to France) Lucienne Robillard to make room for her.

May 16, 2005

Cranky farmers invade Parliament!

The 'Take back the Hill!' rally collided with a much larger farm protest, leaving the farmers firmly in control. But there was plenty of common ground between the groups, so I don't think anyone minded.

I took the tots out for some air on Parliament Hill today and got a few photos.

More photos below the fold...

Farmers today don't bring pitchforks and torches when they want to run someone out of town, they bring farm machinery. Wellington Avenue was closed to give them a place to park.

These girls were as close to 'protest babe' that I was able to find on the Hill today. They were doing a brisk business selling shirts with the Liberal logo saying 'Still Liars' on them. They shook me down for $20.

More farm machinery. Max was loving every minute of this.

Some farmer (whom I forgot to get the name of) had rode his horse all the way from Alberta for this. His horse was named 'Shorty' and he was nice enough to let Max and Talia have a ride.

Sustenance break. Don't let their mother find out where they ate. I don't know why I buy them the burgers, all they want is the fries and the shake.

The media stunt. A coffin labelled 'democracy' and containing the 'bodies' from the hanging earlier was brought up to Parliament, where it was stopped by the RCMP.

I sympathized with these protesters, but I couldn't really agree with them. Much of what I heard in the speeches was listing all the goodies Martin had handed out, and asking when they were going to get their share. Hey! Give him a chance guys, he's ladling out the dough as fast as he can!

Time to let the kids run around and burn off some of that milkshake.

Ten minutes later. Nap time is not optional. Time to get them home...

UPDATE: Paul at Ravishing Light has many more photos. Looks like he got there a little later. He makes some good points about the negativity of the protest. Let's face it, hanging effigies of government figures doesn't help the opposition.

Rally today?

I've read a couple of blogs mentioning a rally planned for 1:00 on Parliament Hill today. The purpose is to 'Take back the Hill!' and attendees are requested to wear blue.

I'm a little dubious about it. While I support the idea, I don't feel that there's enough outrage out there to draw much of a crowd for something like this, and it hasn't even been well publicised. Better to have no rally than one that's a flop.

Still, nothing will happen if everyone thinks like that. Even though 1:00 is nap-time for Max and Talia, I'll try to make it out today and take some pictures. I guess we're eating lunch at McDonald's...

UPDATE: Not much outrage at all. *sigh*

May 14, 2005

Unarmed in Africa

Paul Martin's naked desperation is again on display. Despite having assured us that this military excusion to Sudan has been in the works for more than 6 months, it has now been revealed just what a shallow show it really is:

The Sudanese ambassador says her country will not allow Canadian troops into Darfur despite an assistance package from the minority Liberal government that includes up to 100 military advisers to help the African Union maintain peace in that war-ravaged region of western Sudan.

Ambassador Faiza Hassan Taha said Prime Minister Paul Martin rushed to make the announcement Thursday before anyone from the Canadian government asked the Sudanese whether they agreed.

Rather than meaningful consultation, she said in an interview, Canada presented Sudan with a fait accompli.

Mr. Martin telephoned Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir about 24 hours in advance to "advise" him of the announcement, PMO spokeswoman Melanie Gruer said.

When asked whether this was a "consultation," Ms. Gruer declined to use that word to characterize the conversation, repeating instead that "the Sudanese were advised." She said she did not know where precisely the troops would be deployed.

But wait, it's even worse. The National Post has a front page story on the plan (not available online) that says the soldiers sent will be unarmed:
Despite the comments from the Sudanese government, some of the troops awaiting deployment, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Post yesterday they will travel to the Sudan unarmed and not even allowed sidearms for personal protection.

Canadian Forces officials would neither confirm nor deny whether or not the troops would be armed. "That is in the world of force protection measures and operational security and we won't discuss it," Major Mike Audette said.

However, Marie Okabe, a spokeswoman for the United Nations in New York, said the Canadians attached to the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) will not be carrying weapons.

This whole thing is so sordid and pathetic that I barely know where to start. In order to win the support of an independent MP to prop up his failing government, Martin cooked up a 'package' to try to win the guy's loyalty. But he didn't even talk to the country that would be accepting the troops beforehand -- perhaps bizarrely thinking that the ruthless regime that's sponsoring the genocide would welcome foreign soldiers looking over their shoulders. And he didn't check out what kind of role the Canadian troops would be able to play before committing, so now he's sending unarmed soldiers to a war zone.

Kilgour seems unlikely to support Martin now. To do so would be to endorse this kind of shallow posturing and I don't think Kilgour is that kind of man.

The contempt Martin has shown for all involved is breathtaking. He expected Kilgour to be easily swayed by an empty gesture. He saw our armed forces only as resources to be drawn upon to save his political skin. He's putting their lives in danger for a mission that was a failure before it even began.

Words cannot express my disgust for this man. He's a disgrace to this country and he has to go. Now.

UPDATE: I find it very, very odd that I can find no source online that confirms that the Canadian Darfur mission will be unarmed. All I have is what I read in the paper this morning. The National Post's summary of today's news does not have the print story I quoted listed, and there's nothing about it in the corrections.

May 13, 2005

A couple of swingers

May 12, 2005

A chance for Martin...

...To act like a gentleman. The news is that Conservative MP Darrel Stinson, who has cancer, will miss next week's budget vote due to surgery. This gives Paul Martin a much better chance to squeak through his Santa Claus budget next week. Earlier, when Stephen Harper suggested Martin was delaying the vote because he was hoping some of the Conservatives would be too sick to attend, Martin played the indignation card:

"Mr. Harper's comments are simply beyond the pale and one would expect a higher standard from someone who is the leader of the Opposition," he said.

"It's very clear that these remarks just go too far."

Well, we'll see. Martin has a chance to prove his good intentions. He could have one of his MPs voluntarily miss the vote. It would allow him to show that he's not a complete sleazeball. But will he?

I doubt it. Unless he calculates he's going to lose the vote anyway. It'll be interesting if the possibility of this kind of gesture is raised in the media.

UPDATE: Too slow, Paul! Kate at Small Dead Animals reports Jack Layton has made the offer first, and Stephen Harper has accepted it. So all Martin's desperate delaying play got him was another opportunity to demonstrate his complete lack of honour. Has there ever been as great a Canadian political train wreck as this one?

UPDATE II: Harper hasn't said he'll accept the offer, just that he "wouldn't reject it out of hand."

Speaking of Chavez...

I found this revealing post by Facundo Rivera on Arianna Huffington's new megablog. He seems to strongly support the guy:

As a proud member of the Hispanic-American lower-class hoi-polloi, I would like to say how much I support Hugo Chavez and his wonderful land reform program.

Life as a Venezuelan peasant is not chic. I have seen it on television while being driven to the aromatherapist. One gets calluses on one’s hands from digging cassava. One cannot afford proper products for one’s hair. One must walk everywhere or use seedy public transportation. It is not like America, where one works three or four hours a day telling others what to do and then relaxes in the rear seat of one’s Bentley while motoring to one’s customary table at The Russian Tea Room...

Wait a second. There's something wrong here...

Castro is nostalgic for the 70's

Fidel Castro, with the help of his sugar-daddy Hugo Chavez, has been implicated in a plot to deliver weapons to Marxist guerrillas in Mexico. It's not been enough for these two to stir up trouble in Bolivia, Columbia, and Brazil, now they're meddling in a country on the US border. They seem desperate to provoke some kind showdown with the US. I can't imagine how this will all end.

May 11, 2005

Canada's Orange Revolution is postponed

I was in downtown Ottawa today, and decided to take a stroll across Parliament hill. As I approached, I saw a small crowd with signs and flags listening to a speech. Was this a spontaneous response to the Liberals defying the will of Parliament? Could such a thing happen in Canada?

No. It was a group of milk producers taking advantage of the Prime Minister's desperation to lobby for dairy product import restrictions.

Right on, guys! Fight the Power!

Dueling experts

The Parliamentary fight over the meaning of yesterday's motion has now morphed into a publicity battle. Who can make the best case based on Constitutional Law? The Liberals have released their stable of experts to be available for interviews and for writing op-ed pieces in Liberal-friendly newspapers. One of them is Errol P. Mendes, who is described as a professor of constitutional and international law at the University of Ottawa. In the Toronto Star he makes his pitch:

Does the Canadian public need an eminent parliamentary expert such as C.E.S. Franks of Queens University to tell us that these motions cannot be regarded as votes of confidence?

Common sense would tell us that the motions that are being proposed are procedural motions that may, if passed by the respective committees, ultimately be considered as votes of confidence.

We know that in everyday life, we tell others that they cannot do indirectly what they can't do directly.

Indeed, with the Liberals supported by the New Democratic Party in the committees, it is also doubtful that these procedural motions would even pass at the committee stage, let alone in the full House.

This makes it even more problematic that these motions should be regarded as proper votes of confidence.

Experience from the mother of parliaments at Westminster should tell us that votes of confidence are grave matters that should not rest on procedural tricks.

In that Parliament, some past British governments have not even regarded taxation bills as votes of confidence.

Votes of confidence should be reserved for passing judgment on money bills of the government and proper votes of confidence submitted to the House of Commons, not to committees of the House, by opposition parties.

These foundations of responsible government in our parliamentary system rely on opposition parties acting responsibly.

It is also troublesome that the opposition parties will soon get the chance to make a proper confidence motion on the budget implementation legislation that has been tabled and will be the subject of debate this week.

Can anyone find an argument in there? I read it as a lot of hand-waving mumbo-jumbo. He talks about precedence, but doesn't give examples, he mentions other 'experts' but doesn't give their arguments, and heaven knows what he means when he says: "in everyday life, we tell others that they cannot do indirectly what they can't do directly." Basically, if I understand it correctly, he's saying that the opposition is being 'irresponsible' by not letting the Liberals continue to uncoil their nefarious schemes according to their own schedule. They'll get their chance when the Liberals let them. (And hey. Can't a professor of constitutional and international law write decent paragraphs?)

I was sent a link with the opinion of an expert on the other side. Andrew Heard is an associate professor in the Political Science Department of Simon Fraser University. He says:

At first glance the motion appears to be simply a procedural matter, sending a matter back to the finance committee with an instruction to amend its report. However, it should not matter what procedural context a vote of confidence occurs in.

What makes a vote one of confidence is the content of the motion. In order to qualify as a confidence vote, a motion has to contain wording that either states the lack of confidence explicitly, calls upon the government to resign, accuses the government of gross impropriety or incompetence, or questions the authority of the government to remain in office. However the the motion is worded, the essence of a confidence motion is to embody the House's judgment that the government is unfit in some way to govern. That specific wording can take many forms, and examples of this variety are found in Canadian provincial and federal precedents.

The fundamental basis of a confidence vote is that the elected members of the legislature express their collective view of the government. If that view conveys a loss of confidence or states that the government should resign, then the government must either resign or call an election.

The wording of the motion passed on May 10, 2005 indicates that it should be considered a clear vote of confidence. What is important in this motion is that the House had to collectively is express its view on whether the government should resign. One could not vote for the motion without agreeing that the government should resign, which is the essence of a non-confidence vote. While the wording of the motion is convoluted, the essential content is a clear expression of non-confidence.

The current motion is also strikingly similar, in procedural terms, to that proposed by H.H Stevens on June 26, 1926. That motion also recommended that a committee report be amended and precipitated the whole King-Byng crisis, when the Governor General refused a dissolution to King on the grounds that he should not avoid a confidence motion then before the House but not voted on; this was the Stevens' motion. For information on those events, see: House of Commons Debates, 1926, Vol.V, June 22 to June 25.

In light of the past precedents, and especially the relevance of the 1926 motions on the Customs Affair, the current motion appears to be clearly a vote of confidence which would normally require the government to resign or call an election after losing the vote. It is a fundamental blow to the government's authority for a majority of the House to agree on a motion that it should resign.

You can judge for yourself which side makes a better case.

Mendes' arguments were the best I could find supporting the Liberals in this morning's news. But they're so pathetic, I feel a little guilty using them to compare the Liberal and Conservative points of view. If anyone can find a better statement of the Liberal position, let me know so I can put it up here.

May 10, 2005

La-laaa-la-la-laaa! Can't hear you!

Well, he's done it. Paul Martin has now sunk lower than anyone could possibly have imagined, and turned this country into a banana republic. By ignoring the non-confidence motion passed in the House today, he spits on hundreds of years of Parliamentary tradition. How will the foreign press view this, I wonder? I'm hoping our press will rip him apart, but I'm not too confident about it. I'm expecting the detached, fair-minded response: "Critics blasted the government, but supporters say..."

Why are the Liberals doing this? If they can't win a vote like this, then they can't win any votes -- which is the point to non-confidence motions. If you can't win a vote, you can't pass legislation. And if you can't pass legislation, you can't run the country -- at least so you would think. Over the years the Liberals have retooled the workings of government so that more and more can be done without Parliamentary consent. All manner of slush funds sit stuffed with cash to be directed towards whatever project that will give them some political leverage. Who knows how long they can continue to operate this way?

UPDATE: I love this little detail tucked into the National Post story on the vote:

Conservative Opposition Leader Stephen Harper immediately demanded that Prime Minister Paul Martin call a formal vote of confidence.

"I would challenge the prime minister, if he believes he has the constitutional authority, to rise in his place and to call for a vote of confidence," Harper said.

The House broke down into shouting when Liberal House leader Tony Valeri said parliamentary precedent makes it clear the vote was not a motion of confidence.

The Speaker ruled Harper's demand out of order and the House returned to normal business, debating heritage lighthouses.

Heritage lighthouses. This is what the Liberals are wasting the House's time with rather than putting the unholy thing they call a budget to a vote. It's, it's... surreal...

May 09, 2005

Travel arrangements are being made

At the last minute, the Tories have managed to schedule a non-confidence motion for tomorrow. Again, the Liberals have denied that it's enough to force a resignation of the government, though others say differently. Assuming it passes, the outrage or apathy of the public will determine who's right.

This must be the first time in a long time that the result of a vote in the Canadian Parliament is not known in advance. Tomorrow should be an interesting day.

Sri Lankan circus

I wrote about Garth Pritchard's behind the scenes look at Paul Martin's expensive photo-op in Sri Lanka last January. He described in great detail the cynical maneuvering involved in arranging the right optics to portray Martin as a great humanitarian.

But seeing it firsthand is something else. Dust My Broom has alerted me to a video by Pritchard, just released, showing what he described. Watching some orphaned kid being pulled out of the crowd and used as a prop is something to behold.

I expect no more than this from Martin. He's a phoney of the first order. But the Canadian Press that were in attendence played along obediently and only presented Martin as his minders intended.

May 08, 2005

Mother's day tot shot

Sorry, can't resist: one more photo of the kids. This time with the addition of their lovely mother...

(Doesn't a green room do wonders for one's complexion?)

Science news

A new element has been discovered! And Canada is the world's leading supplier! Too bad it's not good for anything...

A major research institution has just announced the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element has been named ‘’Governmentium’.

Governmentium has one neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 224 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected, as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact.

A minute amount of Governmentium causes one reaction to take over four days to complete, when it would normally take less than a second.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of four years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganisation in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each re-organisation will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a certain concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as ‘Critical Morass’.

When catalysed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element which radiates just as much energy, since it has 1/2 as many peons but twice as many morons.

(unashamedly ripped off from Samizdata)

Born to be Wild

Twelve cars, coming very fast, Kemosabe

May 07, 2005

How low can he go?

Somehow, Paul Martin is always able to surprise you. Just when you think he's reached about as low as he can go, he manages to drop even further. This time it's his sudden decision to send Canadian troops to the Sudan:

Prime Minister Paul Martin has pledged a greater Canadian commitment to Darfur and was expected to make an announcement within days.

He said Wednesday the conflict "is one of the most important tests as to how the West is prepared to come to the aid of Africa."

Martin met earlier this week with David Kilgour, a former Liberal MP who now sits as an independent.

Kilgour is a strong proponent of sending Canadian troops to Darfur. Kilgour and the prime minister denied the meeting was an attempt to prop up the Liberals' shaky minority government.

Which means it is an attempt to prop up the Liberals' shaky minority government. So he's going to send Canadian troops to the other side of the world -- to buy a political favour and help his pathetic government hold on to power a little longer. It's absolutely unbelievable. I thought how he cynically handled the military with regards to the tsunami aid was bad, but this is obscene.

Now, I've advocated taking an interventionist approach to Sudan before. But what are our guys going to do when they get there? Were they invited by the Sudanese government? Has the UN asked for their deployment? Are we going to invade? Right now the Jangaweed militias -- supported by the Sudanese government -- are waging a brutal war of attrition against the Fur with the ultimate aim of genocide. This is a serious situation that doesn't have any solutions that don't involve serious firepower. Do we have any coherent plan to change this? Or Is Martin just going to set up a camp in the desert somewhere to look like he's 'doing something'?

The desperation of this man, it's... just breathtaking!

The Liberals' lock on power

Two articles in the National Post today (both subscriber only, unfortunately) sum up how the Liberals plan to maintain their grip on this country in perpetuity. In the first, Andrew Coyne describes how 'clientism' works, and why it's so effective:

There are many ways in which the Grits have set about barricading themselves in power over the years -- we are about to see this taken to its almost literal extreme, with the party declaring it will refuse to recognize a non-confidence motion as a motion of non-confidence -- but what is common to all is a strategy known as clientism: the cultivation of a vast array of dependent client groups, who in exchange for regular infusions of federal cash can be counted on to tout the party's cause at critical moments. Like, say, an election.

True enough, they have delivered. Not only Ontario has "hailed" the generosity and wisdom of the far-sighted Prime Minister and his dedicated Social Development Minister, Ken Dryden, in recent days. The governments of Saskatchewan and Manitoba have been no less anxious that you should know about the many wonders they will be able to perform with their own shares of the same funding, each one separately announced and each given the same lavish attention by the media -- each with the warning that all this could be lost if, well, you know.

City governments, for their part, have lately been added to the Liberals' client list, thanks to the Liberals' promise of $5-billion in cash -- to be delivered, irrelevantly, in the form of a share of the federal gas tax. Again, dire warnings are issued of what would happen to this funding should an election intervene, though again, the Conservatives have promised much the same. But the beauty of this system is that the Liberals don't even have to be the ones to say it -- they can let their surrogates do the talking, including such unimpeachable non-partisans as the mayor of Vancouver, Larry Campbell, or the mayor of Toronto, David Miller.

And in the second, Terence Corcoran actually reads the legislation that will alter the budget according to Jack layton's demands and finds it creates an enormous and perpetual slush fund that the government can spread at will without the consent of Parliament:
Never before has a Canadian government given itself such freewheeling fiscal elbow room. Certainly Don Drummond, former finance official and now chief economist at TD Financial, has never seen anything like it -- a $4.5-billion slush fund that government can dip into at will. "For years government has wanted an instrument that would allow it to allocate spending without having to say what it's for. This act will do it."

Readers can check out this blank-cheque spending legislation below. Here's how it works. Sometime in August, 2007, the federal government will check the final numbers from fiscal year 2005-6. If there's more than a $2-billion surplus, that extra money above $2-billion can be spent. For example, if the surplus is $5-billion, the first $2-billion will be used to pay down debt, but the remaining $3-billion must be spent on the grab bag of unspecified areas. Same thing the following year.

As Don Drummond put it yesterday, this is the first time Ottawa has been able to "define the money before it defines the program." The Layton list, sprawling over a dozen broad issues -- environment, housing, transit, training programs, foreign aid, energy, education, aboriginal, tuition fees -- is an open field. Not only are there no programs, Ottawa doesn't even have a jurisdictional outlet for tuition fees, for example. (Oddly missing from the list is a $100-million union pension fund bailout, mentioned in earlier news leaks.)

Just to be doubly safe that the government's ability to spend freely without parliamentary approval will be protected in future, Mr. Goodale threw in a clause giving the Cabinet power to "specify the particular purposes for which payments referred to in subsection (1) may be made and the amounts of those payments for the relevant fiscal year."

In a brief news release, Mr. Goodale called all this "new investments" that build on the "fiscally responsible manner" Ottawa is spending money. Here's how it works: Ottawa spends what it gets, when and how it wants, without parliamentary approval.

So. The Liberals have almost unlimited funds to direct at any nutty project that will help them consolidate their power.

If the Conservatives want to become the next governent, they'll have to fight this system. And the way to fight it is not by trying to match it, but by informing the country of how wrong it is and vowing to end it. This can be an issue in the next election if the Tories will push it. Somehow I doubt it will happen. Already they're saying they'll match all the Liberals' promises. It's a losing strategy.

UPDATE: Coyne's complete column is here.

May 06, 2005

The pro-democracy movement in Canada

We're going to need one. After successfully navigating through all the procedural roadblocks the Liberals have thrown up, the Conservatives have finally managed to schedule a confidence vote on May 18th. But almost immediately, the Liberals said they will ignore the results:

A Conservative effort to hold a confidence vote by May 18 was approved by the House of Commons on Thursday - but it took the Liberals just minutes to brush it aside. Constitutional experts say precedents in Canadian parliamentary history offer little direction as Prime Minister Paul Martin's government lurches toward a crisis.

House Leader Tony Valeri insisted the motion is simply a procedural matter that has no binding effect on the government.

"There is no non-confidence motion," Valeri said. Moments earlier, the Commons Speaker endorsed the Conservative motion, which calls on the government to resign.

"This is merely an instruction to a committee," said Valeri.

Our Parliamentary system is built largely on traditions rather than rules. The Liberals have been taking advantage of this over the past few years so that no longer do Ministers have to answer a direct question during question period or resign when caught lying to the House. I've been frustrated for years at the slow destruction of accountability in the federal government and the concentration of power in the PMO. But this -- THIS! -- it's just too much! If this Conservative motion passes and the government ignores it, Canada will no longer be a democracy. I just hope Canadians can be roused from their complacency to tell the Liberals that this won't be tolerated.

May 05, 2005

Is this vindication?

Last year The Economist suggested that the three major leaders of the war in Iraq, Tony Blair, John Howard, and George Bush, might face the same fate as Jose Maria Aznar in Spain and be voted out by an electorate that disapproved of their decisions. But with Blair's win today, all three have passed their tests and have been returned to office. Does this mean there is now broad support for the war and a consensus that it was the right thing to do?

Unfortunately, no. My theory is that voters are often more likely to trust leaders that go against the popular will every now and then. Making unpopular decisions -- no matter what they are -- demonstrates backbone and indicates the leader isn't a pushover. Reagan, Thatcher and Mike Harris fall in this category. Even Prime Minister Dithers was once considered resolute! I think it comes with the suspicion of having things too easy. Ice cream and cake for dinner followed by staying up 'til midnight playing video games may score well in a poll of teenagers on their idea of the perfect parent, but I think if they really had to choose they'd pick someone that made them eat their cabbage and finish their homework.

Outrage fatigue II

More whining by the Conservatives about non-existent racism.

"Frankly, if I was going to recruit somebody, I'd go a little higher up the gene pool," Alcock said Wednesday.

When reporters asked him for his response Wednesday, Mark dismissed Alcock's comment as a schoolyard taunt.

But the MP for Dauphin-Swan River had a change of heart overnight. He held a news conference Thursday morning, backed by more than a dozen other Conservatives, to call Alcock a racist.

"It demonstrates racial intolerance," Mark said of the "gene pool" comment. "It's about genetics. That's what the Second World War was about."

Oh, come on! Grow up guys! Do Canadians really want to elect such a bunch of sissies?

Lessons for the Conservatives

Max Boot in the LA Times:

How can you tell if a political party is brain-dead? Easy. It spends an entire campaign denouncing the incumbent as a smarmy, good-for-nothing liar, rather than outlining its own agenda. The Republicans tried it against Bill Clinton in 1996, the Democrats tried it against George W. Bush in 2004, and now in Britain the Conservatives are trying it, with equal lack of success, against Tony Blair.

Such a tactic is beguiling because, to True Believers, the other side's triumphs are never on the up and up; they must be the result of hoodwinking the hapless electorate. The problem with this approach was pointed out to me by a political strategist last week: "Voters think all politicians are liars. So telling them that someone is a particularly effective liar doesn't work."

All I've heard on policy from the Canadian Conservatives is reassurances that they're just as cuddly and squishy as the Liberals on all the top-polling hot issues. They're running as if their campaign slogan will be: 'We're not scary, honest!'

It's time to get scary. It's time for the Conservatives to start talking about what's wrong with Liberal divide-and-conquer methods and say what they would do differently. It's time to get over the fear of not winning over the comfortable client communities the Liberals have been servicing. Face it, they're not going to vote for you anyway.

The Liberals are corrupt -- this message has penetrated the populace's conciousness. There's no need for them to keep banging on the point. They should treat it as self-evident and concentrate their message on what they'll do differently. And some people will be scared. That's a good thing!

What's a war museum for?

I was worried about the new Canadian War museum before, but I'm quite a bit more worried about it now:

PROMINENTLY displayed in the new Canadian War Museum, which opens to the public next week, is a 10-foot painting of a Canadian soldier choking a young and bloodied Somali prisoner with a baton.

Done by Toronto artist Gertrude Kearns, it is copied from a photograph taken by Trooper Kyle Brown of Master Cpl. Clayton Matchee of the Canadian Airborne Regiment torturing Shidane Arone to death.

This has caused a lot of anguished head-shaking -- and rightfully so because this sort of display has no place in the story of our military history. This was the action of a small group of criminals and had nothing to do with the disposition of the Canadian Forces. Publius, Kate, the Last Amazon (and many others, no doubt) have already commented on this, and I have nothing to add.

Most people will hopefully be able to keep the context of this incident in perspective and will not let this shameful event tarnish their view of Canada's military. Unfortunately, I detect another theme that is running through the new museum's exhibits that is even more destructive.

Canada's new war museum will present a bleaker, more brutal and complex picture of war.

"We shy away from heroism because that tends to be associated with glamorizing war," says museum historian Peter MacLeod.

War is a miserable experience, he says. "This is why we respect our veterans, because they have gone through these hideous experiences themselves. To make it something dashing and heroic, like a war movie, insults their real achievements."

There's many more similar comments in that article. I get the feeling that the 'respect' this historian has for the veterans is similar to the 'support' American anti-war groups have for the troops in Iraq. It's a condescending attitude towards the honourable motivations of soldiers and their belief in what they do. Instead of people who have done or are doing something dangerous and horrifying yet noble, they're looked on as victims. Pawns in the games of greater men.

I'm hoping I'm wrong. A war museum is a place to honour and remember those who sacrificed to defend us. Every nation or civilization that has retained a core identity understands this. Showing soldiers as heros says that what they did was right and encourages others to see that their country is worth fighting and even dying for. Treating soldiers with pity (and especially contempt) is commiting cultural suicide.

I hope to visit the museum next week and see what they've done. I'm not optimistic.

May 04, 2005

Outrage fatigue

The talk of the Canadian blogosphere today is Immigration Minister Joe Volpe accusing the Conservatives of being just the same as the Ku Klux Klan:

The Opposition party is made up of racists, Volpe said yesterday, calling members recognizable "notwithstanding that they don't have their cowl and their cape."

"The Klan looks like it's still very much alive," the minister added. Volpe made the comments in response to a magazine graphic in which Liberals are depicted as The Liberanos, a mocking reference to the television Mafia show The Sopranos.

A pair of Conservative MPs -- Lee Richardson and Werner Schmidt -- were photographed this week pointing to the graphic from the Western Standard magazine.

The graphic depicts Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, Alfonso Gagliano and sponsorship adman Jean Brault, arms-crossed and lined up in a stereotypical mobster group shot.

The shot is labelled 'The Liberanos -- Canadian Politics Redefined' in bold, red letters.

Volpe blasted the two Tory MPs for using the graphic as a political prop.

"I think these are a couple of fine, upstanding members of the new Conservative Klan," Volpe said, holding up the picture outside the Commons.

What a dope. It's a totally outrageous statement and he really should resign as a Minister of the Crown for such crass stupidity. He represents the government of Canada, and he shouldn't be making such hateful comments about his fellow Parliamentarians. But what I find most interesting in this story is the heroic leaps in logic Volpe took to be in a position to make these comments. Volpe was outraged, so he says, because he is of Italian heritage and somehow he interprets this poster as a racial slur. But how? It makes no sense. A few years ago, some Italian-Americans (and Italian-Canadians presumably) were offended by The Sopranos as yet another representation of their community being home to organized crime. I hope they've gotten over it by now, but the grievance community has long memories. Today The Sopranos are a part of our collective popular culture; their name is shorthand for the well-connected and corrupt modern mob. So all this poster is doing is comparing the Liberal party to gangsters -- perfectly acceptable (and apt) political satire.

Volpe knows all this of course. His 'anger' and 'outrage' are just a platform from which to make these absolutely unacceptable comments. It's mystifying to me that anyone could take such nonsense seriously, but the Liberals seem to do this kind of thing frequently (remember the crosses burning 'as we speak'?) so they must believe this kind of attitude benefits them. Keep calling your opponents racists over the flimsiest of pretences and for some it will stick. This kind of tactic will continue until the default press reaction to the 'victim card' is skepticism rather than sympathy. I'd love to have heard a reporter say to Volpe after his outburst, "What? You mean you're this offended that two Conservatives smiled at a poster comparing members of your party to characters on a TV gangster show? And just because you are of Italian heritage? How stupid do you think we are?" I won't hold my breath though...

Not that the Conservatives are immune from this kind of shameless posturing.

Conservative MP Jason Kenney said that as a Roman Catholic, he found Volpe's remarks offensive because the major targets of the Ku Klux Klan in Canada had been Roman Catholics.
Oh cry me a river, Jason. Being called a racist should be enough for anyone to be offended, but you're offended because Volpe brought back the painful memories of -- what? -- the vicious Klan attacks you survived in your youth? Gimme a break.

May 03, 2005

Updated status indicators

The Blog Status Indicators I introduced last year have been very useful. No more inane posts apologizing for not posting. (Or not as many anyways...) But they didn't quite capture the range of attitudes I have towards my blogging. So I've updated them with new and more colourful descriptions. I'm also a little better at using my art software so they look quite a bit better.

Once again, feel free to use them (or just the idea) for your own blog.

May 01, 2005

Stuff & Things XIX

Special weird links edition! I gave the politics a rest this weekend and roamed aimlessly through uncharted territory (for me). Here's some of the odd stuff I saw:

  • Here's an interesting optical illusion. It somehow short-circuits your peripheral vision.
  • Horrible, horrible dancing. Horrible, horrible singing. Neither should be missed.
  • A very nifty Google game. It shows you 20 images and you have to guess the keyword that summoned them. Very slick.
  • I linked to Magical Trevor last year. There's a sequel.
  • A very elegant little game that will take up too much of your time: Gridlock.
  • Art: Hey you, in the red truck, shave your mustache!
  • Just in time for Episode 3 (though it's probably been around for ten years) -- ASCII Star Wars! You have to TELNET to towel.blinkenlights.nl. (And I'm not going to explain how to telnet...)
  • Here's a clever and well-edited video of various women getting, erm... an intimate waxing. It's actually quite tasteful and safe for work. And it's funny too. (Bit of a long load though...)
  • Ahhh, to be young and stupid again. You will either be horrified or wildly entertained by this clip, depending on your gender.
  • This archive of Chinese propaganda posters is absolutely wonderful. I just love this stuff.
  • And finally, Nintendo: acappella style.