Sunday, January 13, 2008

How The Heckfire Did 'Falling Slowly'....

End Up On Three Albums?



I'm talking about stuff from The Swell Season and The Frames as well as the 'Once' soundtrack.

Well, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova tell the story on our favorite radio show, Sound Opinions.

The interview with Glen and Marketa starts about halfway through.

I only own two movies. Neil's heart and Once. The latter, which was given to me by my girls for Christmas, is now my second favorite movie of all time behind Catch-22. Go figure.


Coolin' Up The Old Guy


Our good friend and culture king Prince Gomovilas informs us that The Magnetic Fields soon-to-be-released flip-disc titled, 'Distortion' can now be heard for free at their MySpace page.

Me, I'm with PG and am most partial to 'Drive On Driver'.

Regardless, just knowing about the thing is sure to up my coolness quotient considerably with the kids in the lab.



The Tangible Results Of The Anschluss


Well, you'd think people like me, people who have made a fuss about the softwood lumber capitulation for a resource-based nation, would be eating crow today.

After all, on the surface at least, Mr. David Emerson, my MP from Canforcouver Kingsway, appears to have come through:

OTTAWA - The federal government is distributing nearly $470 million to six lumber-producing provinces in the first payout of revenues from charges on exports of softwood lumber products destined for the United States.

The announcement was made Friday by Minister of National Revenue Gordon O'Connor and International Trade Minister David Emerson.

And out here in Lotusland the story seems, at least at first blush, to be even better:

BC will get $371 million from the $467 million collected in the first year of the deal

Of course, Mr. Emerson, ever the self-promoter, is crowing:

International Trade Minister David Emerson said the payment demonstrates that the agreement is "delivering tangible benefits."

Now that's all the surface stuff, released on a Friday for maximum headline effect, hoping that the few true diggers still left in the pro-media would just let it slide.

Unfortunately, for the Anschluss makers at least, business writers are often not as easily bamboozled as political ones.

Case in point is a very good article in yesterday's Vancouver Sun by Gordon Hamilton that digs deep below the surface:

B.C. Forests Minister Rich Coleman said the tax transfer is already being folded into other government revenue streams, but it is not a windfall. The $372 million does not cover a decrease in stumpage revenues caused by low timber values, he said.

Now this is important because if the Anschluss' blood money is not even covering stumpage revenues lost, which are based on sales, how, exactly, are Mr. Emerson's results 'tangible'?

Well, you could, if you were in the Anschluss business, argue that the stumpage was lost because of the subprime mortgage-induced timber price collapse and the high Canadian dollar.

Which, of course, is part of the story.

But, you should also realize why BC got the lion's share of the money.

Essentially, along with all that beetle wood, it is because producers in Lotusland are paying an extra 15% tax on every board foot of lumber sold.

As a result, David Gray, a Lotuslandian lumber producer (ie. an owner, not a worker) told the VSun's Mr. Hamilton the following:

"The industry has been flatlined. The softwood deal prevents any resuscitation of the industry and our workers are being offered some consolation cookies," Gray said in an interview.

"The combination of today's market, the exchange rate and the softwood deal has placed the industry at its worst point in living memory. There is no dressing that up.

Now that's tangible.

As in, a tangible kick to the head of the industry when it's down.


The thing that really gets me about the softwood deal, and in fact so many of the privatization/ corporate welfare deals of the neandercons, is that the vast majority of them were built for good times which can have dire consequences for huge swaths of people when things go bad.
Please note that Alberta is the only other province that gets to kick themselves in the head to the tune of 15% thanks to Mr. Emerson. Thus, they came in second in the 'tangibility sweepstakes.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Not-So Random Acts....

Of Kindness And Light #8



After school on Thursday bigger E. was in a gaggle of her friends on their way to the bustop.

And as so often happens, when the gaggle was all done discussing the intricacies of the quadratic equation (not) the talk soon turned to gossip.

On this particular rainy winter afternoon in Lotusland the gossip was about one former member of the gaggle who has started hanging out with older kids.

E. is in the 9th grade, (ie. she's a highschool freshman in Excitable States terms) which elicits in me, as you might imagine, all manner of anguish and the gnashing of teeth.

Anyway, the missing kid is, according to the gossip at least, getting into all kinds of 'trouble' with said older kids.

All of which resulted in another kid, not E., telling them all to shut the heckfire up because the missing kid wasn't there to defend herself.

And so they did.

Shut up, I mean.

E. was impressed.

And I was pretty impressed that E. was impressed.

Of course, upon reflection I was even more impressed that E. even told me about it.

And once again, for at least the 3,467,924th time in the last fourteen years, a fantastic feeling washed over me.

Which is the feeling that my kid is, indeed, alright.



Thursday, January 10, 2008

Confirming A Communication.....


In our last post we noted a textual difference between a column by Paul Willcocks that was originally published in the Victoria Times Colonist and a post reprinting that column on Mr. Willcocks' personal website.

The title of the column was 'More delays ahead in the Basi-Virk case' and it was a most interesting read on a whole lot of levels.

The 'difference' we noted was a paragraph that was present in the Times-Colonist column but absent in the reprinted post on Mr. Willcocks' website.

The paragraph came at the end of a passage about a report of the Basi-Virk pre-trial hearings that was written by a British Columbia government information officer. This report was later obtained by reporter Bill Tieleman via a freedom information request. When Mr. Tieleman received the report there were a number of redactions.

Here is what Mr. Willcocks had to say about those redactions in his Times Colonist column:

And the documents Tieleman got were censored, with sections whited out. If taxpayers are paying for a government worker to report the trial, surely they have a right to the information.

However, in the reposted column on his website, Mr. Willcocks did not include this short paragraph. Given that the paragraph is, in my opinion at least, pretty powerful, I noted the difference in my own post:

The reprinting of Mr. Willcocks' column
on his personal website did not include the important bolded paragraph.
It would be interesting to know if this was just a coincidence (or not).

Which led to the following posting in the comment threads:

No coincidence in terms of the excision. A government communications person I respect called after the column ran in the papers and said the portions whited out were brief and dealt only with matters unrelated to the Basi-Virk trial. Since I hadn't seen the documents — and since it was the least significant aspect of the story — I edited it our before I posted the column.

When I received this comment, I thought it was very likely from Mr. Willcocks, but I wasn't absolutely certain.

Thus, I contacted him directly by Email.

He graciously responded and confirmed that he did, indeed, make the comment.

So, there you have it.......

Or, to be more precise, there you have the 'just the facts ma'am' part of the story.

I'll give you my opinion, once I've had a chance to do a little hunting around and to think about it a bit more, later.



Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Is There A Leak In The Special Prosecutor's Office?

WhenInformation Is SuppressedVille


Please See Not-Quite-Yet-Confirmed Update At The Bottom Of The Post



Please See Conclusively Confirmed Update Here

Yesterday, Paul Willcocks momentarily ruffled the British Columbia government's Railgate Blackout curtains when he wrote the following in his prominent CanWest Victoria Times-Colonist column:

The Campbell government's effort to withhold evidence is a big mistake. The other interesting development comes courtesy of Bill Tieleman, columnist for 24 Hours, a free Vancouver newspaper. Tieleman, who has done a first-rate job covering the trial (and who is also a New Democrat), did a freedom-of-information request for the notes of a government public affairs staffer who had been monitoring the trial daily.

There's nothing wrong with that. Given the nature of the case, the government has reason to want to know what's going on. But there are a couple of problems. Attorney General Wally Oppal offered some quite goofy reasons for the premier's office watch on the trial when the news broke. The staffer was there to help the media and the public, he suggested. The FOI response shows that was not true.

And the documents Tieleman got were censored, with sections whited out. If taxpayers are paying for a government worker to report the trial, surely they have a right to the information.*
(bolded mine)

Now, of course, that lack/suppression of information is something we, the Railgate obsessives that roam the Internets, have been fussing about for about as long as I can remember (ie. slightly more than 4 years).

And, as a result, we tend to seize on every scrap of information from all comers, including stuff like the following, from Mr. Keith Baldrey, that appeared in CanWest's much more jude-the-obscurian 'Burnaby Now' column of Dec 29/07:

But will this actually come to trial? The latest delay results from the Crown appealing a ruling that the defence can sit in the courtroom and hear secret testimony from a secret Crown witness.

Now, why would such a seemingly innocuous statement like that from one of British Columbia's more prominent pundits cause we the obsessives (and Mary's Anon-O-Mice) to start whispering?

Well, because, Railgate court proceedings went into recess on Dec 18th, a full 11 days before Mr. Baldrey's column appeared.

And when the recess began there was no indication from any official circles that the special prosecutor was going to appeal the Judge's previous ruling about secret witnesses and defense exclusion.

In fact, it was not until, surprise!, yesterday, Jan 07, that this became clear when court resumed a full 9 days AFTER Mr. Baldrey's column appeared.

How do we know that is what happened?

Because Railgate's hardest working reporter Mr. Bill Tieleman was in the courtroom, and he told us so:

Two NEW developments - one from the Special Prosecutor, one from the defence - could further push back the trial, which has suffered from lengthy delays already.

Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino is appealing a decision of BC Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Bennett to allow defence lawyers to be present when a secret witness who is a police informer testifies. Berardino will take that fight to the BC Court of Appeal but the timing and length of that hearing are as yet unknown.

Please note the term 'new' (caps/bold mine).

Which has us wondering......How did Mr. Baldrey know nine days before the fact? Was it a good guess, or did somebody from the inside tell him.

If it was the former, we bow down to Mr. Baldrey's extreme wisdom and prescience.

And if it was the latter.....

Well, wouldn't that suggest that the office of the special prosecutor assigned to this case, an office that has repeatedly fought for official secrecy, is, perhaps, tainted?

*The reprinting of Mr. Willcocks' column on his personal website did not include the important bolded paragraph. It would be interesting to know if this was just a coincidence (or not).

Not-quite-yet-confirmed update:
A commentor who identified him or herself as Mr. Willcocks left a comment that said:
"No coincidence in terms of the excision. A government communications person I respect called after the column ran in the papers and said the portions whited out were brief and dealt only with matters unrelated to the Basi-Virk trial. Since I hadn't seen the documents — and since it was the least significant aspect of the story — I edited it our before I posted the column."
Now, based on our previous discussions here and elsewhere (ie. at his own website) I have no reason to believe that this was not Mr. Willcocks. However, because there is no verifiable link with the comment, I'm waiting to hear back from him via Email either confirming or denying it. Thus, hopefully there will be a more fulsome and fully-confirmed (or not ) update soon.

Confirmed Conclusively Update: Mr. Willcocks, via Email has confirmed that the comment above was, indeed his. A post on the matter can be found here.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Not-So Random Acts.....

Of Kindness And Light (#7)


So, after yesterday's near descent into a road rage-induced act of vigilante pseudo-samaritanism, today I decided to spend more time on my bike.

Which turned out to be both a good and bad idea.

Good because it got me outside and got my blood pumping a little

Bad because today was one of those cold, wet midwinter Lotusland grey-day specials that almost (but not really) make me agree with my friend from Edmonton who likes to say that 'Ya, sure it's cold here, but at least the sun's out.'.

In other words, on a day like today in Vancouver it's not the cold, it's the humidity.

Anyway, today I rode to and from the Health Care Industrial complex and on my way backto Campus I took the 10th Ave bike route as far as I could and then swung up to 12th instead of heading down to 8th because I very much favour the short, steep hill up to the pinnacle of GordVille (ie. Point Grey) to the long, winding one.

So, just before I got to Dunbar I came upon a guy washing (on a day like this?!) his car at the side of the road. As I passed he dropped his hose to the pavement and it started to snake all over, spraying me down in the process.

The guy was so apologetic that I couldn't help but smile and wave.

Then I started laughing - hard.

After all, it's not as if I could have possibly gotten wetter.

It's quite possible, however, that the poor fellow thought I was completely deranged.


Monday, January 07, 2008

Not-So Random Acts.....

Of Kindness and Light (#6)



When the E's and me came up with the idea for this forced-march search for tender mercies right under our noses I never thought it would come to this.

Which is to say that this morning I found myself wondering, when I wasn't cursing under my breath, if being a mean guy in a very small and mundane way would actually be viewed by others as a good thing.

I'll tell you all about it in a second, but I must, once again, first digress.


When we lived in the Excited States, Northern California to be exact, one thing you never ever did was try to weasel into line on the freeway.

You know what I'm talking about - that guy who tears down the exit lane to the right of you as you sit in a long line of stopped cars and then cuts back in front of everyone at the last second just before the exit ramp veers off for good.

I mean, heckfire, if you did that kind of thing along that stretch of the Nimitz in Oakland as it moves throught the MacArthur maze, you would almost certainly suffer all manner of verbal abuse, fast food reigning down your windshild, a pole-assisted long distance keying of sidewalls, and/or the flashing of something previously concealed.

Or worse.

Thus, down there at least, it hardly ever happens.

But up here Lotusland it happens all the time.


Well, I think it has something to do with the fact that a very small percent of the population takes liberties with the politeness of the great majority of Canuckistanians.


Anyway, this morning I wasn't driving on the freeway.

Instead, I was trying to get across Vancouver's great East-West divide.

Otherwise known as Cambie Street.

And I was attempting to do it via 33rd Avenue.

Of course, as luck would have it, the never ending RAV line construction had slowed things to a crawl along 33rd all the way back to where it passes between the lower edge of Queen Elizabeth Park and Nat Bailey Stadium (and about a billion forever expanding curling rinks ).

Now, 33rd Ave is a wide single lane each way along that stretch due to the presence of a bike lane. However, at the very end it narrows considerably as it comes 'T' at Cambie.

And these days the SNC-Lavalin makes sure that that narrowing is even narrower.

And everyone who travels that stretch with any regularity at all knows about that narrowing.

But that doesn't stop a steady stream of folks from whizzing up the right side in the bike lane only to slow everybody else (ie. those waiting patiently in line) down even more when they cut back in at the 'T'.

Which was the reason for my cursing.

And it was also the reason for my thoughts of playing the mean guy card.

Which was that maybe I should swing the VW (not-so)Microbus over to the right a little bit, just enough to stop those right-sided gate crashers without giving up my place in the 'patient line'.

But my politeness got the better of me and I didn't do it.

But now, I'm wondering..... If I'd cut a few people off 'that deserved it', would the other folks around me have given me the thumbs up?

Or would they have thought it was me that was the jerk?

Not to mention the two E's (ie. my kids).

Sheesh - It's a hard-knock life.

Of course, travelling the Nimitz/880 (and American freeways in general) on a motorcycle seems to be an entirely different experience altogether.


Has The BC Rail Trial's Hardest Working Reporter....

Really Been Duped By Brian Mulroney?


OK - this is a bit of a strange one because it shows how, sometimes, when you pay attention it can be very difficult NOT to connect a few dots, regardless your disdain for baseless media and/or toobz-based conspiracy theories

In fact, if truth be told, I actually tried pretty hard to sit this one out entirely.

But as more folks around the bloggodome, including the Anon-O-Mice over at Mary's place, have been discussing the thing, I have decided to comment.


What the heckfire am I talking about?

Well, there was this very interesting year-end column by Victoria commentator Mr. Norman Spector that includes his thoughts about the state of reportage on both the BC Rail Trial and the 'Mulroney story'.

The column was first published in the Dec 31st, 2007 Globe and Mail. It has since been liberated from the BellGlobeCTVTSNRDSCHUM (ie. a Big Media Conglomerate) subscription wailing wall and has been reprinted, in full, on Mr. Spector's personal website:

From time to time – and there have been more of these times lately – I run into people who are convinced that the charges against Dave Basi and Bobby Virk, the two ministerial aides targeted in the 2003 raid on the legislature, will never come to trial.

Though that show – er, scene – that featured boxes being carted away from the seat of B.C.'s democracy, took place four years ago last Friday, no doubt you remember it. How fortuitous it was for cameramen to have been standing in the right place at the right time outside the Parliament Buildings that year, during what traditionally are the lazy days between Christmas and New Year's.

I'm not sure whether the Victoria police official who tipped the local television station at which I was working of the coming action was among the swarm we've repeatedly seen on our television screens. But it was left to another force, the RCMP – an organization then still held in high esteem by most Canadians – to speak darkly about the “cancer” of organized crime and drug money having infested our political system.

Mercifully, that kind of talk has all but disappeared from the arena.

Unfortunately, though it's rarely stated as boldly, it has been replaced by dark hints of a plot to protect Gordon Campbell's government by ensuring that Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk never have to testify in open court.

In the main, this overheated talk circulates on the Internet among people whose minds incline them to believe in conspiracies. Sadly, however, some of the speculation is fuelled by New Democrats and their allies in the media, who see the Basi-Virk trial and its links to the BC Rail privatization as their big chance – okay, their only chance – to win the 2009 election.

This is not to say that repeated delays in setting a trial date are not a source of legitimate concern. However, there's no conspiracy here: British Columbians are simply witnessing for themselves how badly the justice system is managed. We're also seeing how that system can be played by anyone who can afford a good lawyer, or can find a way to have taxpayers pay for one – assuming that person isn't in any particular hurry to clear his name.

If you want to see a system that does accord special treatment to the politically powerful, you need only look to Ottawa. There, too, the allegations swirling about Brian Mulroney are related to lobbyists and money.

Here in B.C., however, the judge presiding in the Basi-Virk case is fully independent and has tenure. She has left no doubt of her intent to bring the matter to trial and, when that happens, it will be governed by the same rules that apply to any Canadian.

In Ottawa, by contrast, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed David Johnston, who once reported directly to Mr. Mulroney, to determine the terms of reference for a public inquiry. And, though it is not within Mr. Johnston's mandate, Mr. Harper in year-end interviews essentially invited him to recommend against holding a public inquiry, now that Mr. Mulroney no longer wants one.

In British Columbia, an independent special prosecutor was appointed to investigate and recommend the laying of charges. In Ottawa, the RCMP completely shut down its investigation – an exceptionally rare occurrence – a few months before the matter of the cash payments to Mr. Mulroney became public in 2003.

The role of the media points to another contrast. The National Post had learned about the cash payments to Mr. Mulroney two years earlier, but the paper refused to publish the story. Reporter Phil Mathias wrote in protest to the owners, to no avail, and ultimately retired. In comparison, there's been considerable coverage by B.C. journalists of the Basi-Virk pretrial manoeuvring – including in The Post's sister CanWest papers, which underplayed the Mulroney story until recently. That story, too, featured a long secret trial to deal with the matter of a confidential police informant; yet I cannot recall a single article hinting at the possibility of a conspiracy to aid Mr. Mulroney, as was the case in B.C. at the first news of a similar issue cropping up in the Basi-Virk affair.

Interestingly, 24 Hours, the Vancouver paper that has been leading the coverage, as well as the hints of conspiracy in B.C., is part of the Sun Media chain. Owned by a company that Mr. Mulroney chairs, its papers have distinguished themselves over the years by their light to non-existent coverage of the allegations against the former prime minister.

So, as one of the Anon-O-Mice, reader 'pg', asked over at Mary's:

Is (Mr) Spector saying that in the Mulroney cover-up there was a conspiracy but with the BC Rail trial there isn't one?"

Now, I'm not sure about that.

One thing I do find extremely interesting is the way Mr. Spector's feelings about 'the Mulroney story' appear to have changed since the former Prime Minister (that he once worked for) explicitly admitted that he took bags of of cash from Mr. Karl Heinz-Schreiber for what also appears to be at least 57 varieties of reasons.

I also find Mr. Spector's current stand on this issue find pretty darned admirable.

However, what I find less admirable is the fact that Mr. Spector also appears to be suggesting that 24 Hours, the local commuter newspaper who's publishing company, Sun Media, is owned by Quebecor, a holding company (ie. another Big Media Conglomerate) on whose board of directors Mr. Mulroney sits, is being irresponsible and/or inflammatory because they are actually covering the BC Rail Trial proceedings in some depth.

And then there is that other thing.

That dot-connecting thing.

Before I get down to that I would like to set it up by reprinting two short, but important, passages from Mr. Spector's column once again:

In the main, this overheated talk (about the Basi-Virk trial) circulates on the Internet among people whose minds incline them to believe in conspiracies. Sadly, however, some of the speculation is fuelled by New Democrats and their allies in the media, who see the Basi-Virk trial and its links to the BC Rail privatization as their big chance – okay, their only chance – to win the 2009 election.....


Interestingly, 24 Hours, the Vancouver paper that has been leading the coverage (of the the Basi-Virk trial), as well as the hints of conspiracy in B.C., is part of the Sun Media chain. Owned by a company that Mr. Mulroney chairs, its papers have distinguished themselves over the years by their light to non-existent coverage of the allegations against the former prime minister.

(stuff in brackets mine)

Finally, I would also like to make the point that, as far as I'm aware, almost all of the Basi-Virk trial coverage in 24 Hours has been carried out by one reporter, a man that Mr. Spector knows well (see below), Mr. Bill Tieleman.

Oh, and just one last thing before the connecting of the dots - you might find it worth knowing that Mr. Tieleman has also written extensively about the Basi-Virk trial for the online publication 'The Tyee' and on his own website.


OK, enough with the interminable preamble.

Here goes......

After reading those two passages bolded above and putting them into the context of the entire column I am of the opinion that Mr. Spector may have been insinuating that Mr. Tieleman is both an ally of the NDP and, due to his employment at 24 Hours, a dupe of Mr. Brian Mulroney.

Now, anyone who knows a little bit about British Columbia politics also knows that the first portion such a potential insinuation does is based on fact. However, given the quality of Mr. Tieleman's reportage so far, I think that most reasonable people would also agree that Mr. Tieleman's previous connection with the NDP is at least as irrelevant as another indisputable fact - that Mr. Spector once worked for Social Credit Premier William Bennett.

Regardless, the second part of such a potential insinuation is laughable in the extreme. In fact, I would even go so far as to suggest, particularly in the absence of any proffered evidence other than a very tenuous Big Media Conglomerate boardroom connection, that it is, to coin a phrase that Mr. Spector might appreciate, little more than the:

"overheated talk (that) circulates in Canada's elite media among people whose minds incline them to believe in conspiracies."

This conclusion is, I believe, further bolstered by fact that 'The Tyee', where Mr. Tieleman's most in depth articles about the Basi-Virk trial have been published is most definitely not owned by Quebecor or any of Canada's other Big Media Conglomerates.

All of which might lead reasonable and discerning readers to ask the following question.....


Why would a highly skilled writer and apparently unbiased commentator such as Mr. Spector allow such a potential insinuation to linger within his column?

Well, it is possible that it is entirely unintentional.

However, reasonable and discerning readers might also like to consider the following, which is based on the recent regional media record out here in Lotusland:

Not so long ago there was an exchange between Mr. Tieleman and Mr. Spector that literally thousands of people heard because it took place on 'British Columbia's most listened to radio station', CKNW

More specifically, this exchange took place on a highly popular call-in program that is moderated by Mr. Bill Good which carries regularly scheduled discussions that include both Mr. Tieleman and Mr. Spector as co-participants.

The exchange in question, which took place in the spring of 2006, involved a discussion of the word 'bitch' and a certain female MP from Ontario who crossed the floor and also broke up with her then boyfriend, who also happens to be a cabinet minister in the government of Mr. Stephen Harper. During that radio exchange Mr. Tieleman was steadfast in making the case that Mr. Spector's continued use, and public defense of that use, of the word 'bitch' to describe the MP from Ontario was unacceptable.

Now, given that exchange, and the considerable post-exchange publicity that was associated with it, reasonable and discerning readers may wish to consider the possibility that, perhaps, Mr. Spector is not completely unbiased in this matter.

Alternatively, those same readers may instead wish to consider another possibility, which is that everything I've had to say here is nothing more than the:

"overheated talk (that) circulates on the Internet among people whose minds incline them to believe in conspiracies."

I leave it for you (especially if you are reasonable and discerning) to decide (or not).


By the way, the next scheduled co-appearance for Mr. Tieleman and Mr. Spector on Mr. Good's radio show is today, Monday , at 10am Lotusland (ie. Pacific) time. It can be streamed here.
And one last, last thing - apparently the Basi-Virk (-Basi) court proceedings are scheduled to start-up again this week. Sure hope Mr. Tieleman makes it to Studio 54 on time. After all, some of us in British Columbia are not ostriches and really do want to read about what actually goes on in there.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Not So Random Acts....

Of Kindness and Light (#5)



There's an out-of-the-way coffee shop on campus that is tucked away in student family housing.

If I've ridden my bike at least part way I'm allowed to stop in and get a raisin scone on the way to work.

It can be crowded during the week but on weekends it is almost always empty which is an extra attraction for somebody like me.

When I went through this morning there was a youngish older guy in line in front of me who I know vaguely. He was talking to the young girl behind the counter about the bizarre seating arrangements on discount airlines as they had both, it appeared, just returned from winter vacation trips.

At first I was a little annoyed, because all this talk was slowing me down.

But as I turned to go a couple of minutes later, with scone in bag, they were still at it and I noticed that both of them were really enjoying the conversation, which had expanded to talking about all of the interesting places they had both been in Europe, on what looked to be a whole lotta levels.

Life's like that, sure is.

*Youngish older people are those that are much younger then myself (ie. at least a year, maybe even two, younger than myself).


Rupert Murdoch's Two Percent Solution


Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation launched the 'Fox Business Channel' this fall behind a cranked-up, multi-level stratification promotional blitzkrieg that hasn't been seen since, well, since 'Shock-And-Awe'.

So, backed by all that hype, how many viewers do you think Rupert and his Miracles garnered during the network's first nine weeks on the air?

A few million......?


A few hundred thousand.....?


Fifty thousand......?


The real number is actually a reported 6,300, on average, on any given weekday.

Which is precisely 2.2% of CNBC's 283,000 average.

Or, put another way, it is less than some of the more popular local cable access channels in a number of major metropolitan U.S. television markets.

In fact, it is a number so low that A.C. Nielsen, the company that tracks such things, will not even officially confirm it:

While Nielsen, at the network’s request, has measured the viewership of Fox Business since its premiere, Nielsen is not permitted to release or even confirm those figures publicly. That is because they are so low as to fall below Nielsen’s minimum standards for reporting, said Gary Holmes, a Nielsen spokesman.

In other words, the number is so low that Nielsen, based on it's sampling methods, is not actually sure it is real.

Thus, the number could, statistically speaking, quite possibly even be zero.

Guess folks that care about making money are more discerning about where they get their 'fair and balanced' news than are those folks who care about making war*.

*Not that the two groups are necessarily mutually exclusive, of course.


Saturday, January 05, 2008

Not So Random Acts......


Of Kindness & Light (#4)



I'm riding along 15th Ave and as I approach this construction site I notice a group of kids, maybe 8 or 9 years old, with their noses up against a wire fence surrounding the thing.

Inside the fence a bunch of workers are hammering and sawing, and cursing, and doing all that stuff that construction workers do.

Except for one of them who is up and out of the hole explaining to the kids what was going on.


The Torture Club - Are We In It?


In case you missed it there is a federal inquiry going on, right here and right now, into Canada's apparent involvement into the International Players Torture Club.

Alison has the story:

According to Ottawa, turning a blind eye to the torture of Canadian citizens abroad is just the price of doing business with the international intelligence community in the 'war on terror'.

CBC : "Human rights abuses are not necessarily enough to keep Canada from sharing information with security agencies overseas, Ottawa tells a federal inquiry on torture in a newly released submission.
Canada must maintain relationships with "non-traditional" allies, some of whom do not always treat people appropriately, in order to fight terrorism, says a government brief made public Thursday."

This astonishing submission was made last week to Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci's federal inquiry into the cases of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, Canadians who allege they were tortured in Syria after Canada submitted a list of questions to Syrian authorites to be asked of them.


Let me get this straight.

If you're not actually doing the torturing, but you are sending questions to the torturers to be asked of the torturees while the torturers are torturing them, what does that make you exactly?

Or, more to the point, what would that make us?


An important question is why?

Why would we want to belong to the Torturer's Club?

I mean, why wouldn't we just invoke the words of that famous Marx guy (ie. Groucho, not Karl):


And then decline, given also that we are a signatoree to the UN Declaration Against Torture:

The prohibition on torture is absolute, Amnesty International says in a submission to the (federal) inquiry.

Canada is duty-bound under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, along with the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

"Under no circumstances can Canada engage in activities that would render it complicit or otherwise participate, instigate, consent to or acquiesce in the use of torture," says Amnesty. "The prohibition is intransgressible" under any circumstance, "including in times of war or in the face of terrorist threats."

Well, according to Canadian officials, we have to do this because we are a 'net importer of information':

The federal (government) brief stresses that both CSIS and the RCMP require the assistance of foreign agencies to fulfil their security mandates since Canada is "a net importer of information."

Which, we would like to most humbly suggest, is nothing more than pure, unadulterated codswallop.

For all kinds of reasons, including the fact that torture, at least as a means of importing information that actually has value, does not work.

So, again - why?

Why are we willing to become a rogue nation that, if what is being said at this inquiry has even the tiniest grain of truth to it, is actively participating in barbaric acts of torture that can only lead to more, not less, extremism?

Well, Michael Byers, who was actually writing about our newly minted status as a rogue nation on climate change issues at the time, has an interesting take on this question:

Harper's Bush-like views extend beyond climate change. In July 2006, he described the far-reaching destruction of Lebanese infrastructure as a "measured" response to the abduction of an Israeli soldier, souring our relations with Arab states and precluding a diplomatic role for Canada in the Middle East.

He has also picked unnecessary quarrels with China over human rights, Russia over the Arctic and Iran over ambassadors, rather than seizing opportunities to constructively engage these increasingly important states.

In Afghanistan, Harper has stubbornly opposed negotiations with dissident groups, shown a casual disregard for the rights of detainees, and seems to view the mission mostly as a way of currying favour with the United States.

Why else would his defence minister, Peter MacKay, invite the U.S. ambassador along for a Christmas visit to Canada's troops in Kandahar?

Closer to home, Harper has refused to repatriate Omar Khadr, a Canadian child soldier arbitrarily imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay. He has curtailed the practice of seeking clemency for all Canadians sentenced to death abroad. He's even sought to curtail the civil liberties of Canadians by extending our anti-terrorist laws – now, more than six years after 9/11.

In September 2003, the cover of The Economist showed a moose in shades under the banner Canada is `cool'. Can anyone imagine us earning the same accolade today?

Thanks to Harper, Canada has become the pliant instrument of a failed U.S. presidency. We are now, for all intents and purposes, a vassal state.

In other words, we have actually joined the International Players 'Bully Boy Gangbanger Consortium' (ie. the umbrella group that includes the 'Torture Club') for no good reason at all.

Unless, of course, that $0.01 you saved on your coffee this morning is a reason worth having your country turned into a vassally quisling over.


Written to new Bruce - 'Livin In The Future' you don't need to listen to the actual song - The 'Big Man walkin' and the spoken word intro, all of which takes about a minute, will do.
Thanks to WEB for pointing us towards Mr. Byers latest.
Our friend, and sometimes co-blogger 'Q', has an interesting take on the 'higher' (or 'lower' as the case may be) why here.


Broadening The Bloggodome



The Devine Ms. Z, Antonia Zerbisias, is back!


Friday, January 04, 2008

Whispers Of Gzowski?


There once was a time when I really enjoyed listening to Shelagh Rogers on the Ceeb back in the days when she did that five hour music show on Radio Two.

Because she really does know music.

And she was pretty good reading other people's words (ie. letters) with Gzowski on Morningside.

But now that she has an hour-and-a-half to fill every morning with her own words that gush all over the place with sweetness and all things CanConLite, my teeth just can't take it.

So much so that hers is the only national CBC Radio One show I turn off before it even starts.

Unless there is a decent guest host.

And this morning there was one of those.


The guest host this morning on 'Sounds Like Canada' was the best Don Edwards impersonator money can buy - Kevin Sylvester.

All kidding aside, this morning Mr. Sylvester conducted one of the best human interest interviews I've heard on the MotherCorp since St. Peter passed away.

And why was it so good?

Basically, because Sylvester actually listened to the interviewee (Toronto Star editorial cartoonist Dusan Petricic), got interested in what the interviewee had to say, and then actually asked questions based on the interviewees answers and his own interest in those answers.

In other words, Sylvester had a real conversation with Petrocic while simultaneously coaxing him to flesh out his fascinating idea that there is a commercial/ideological orthodoxy that exists in North American newspaper publishing that he actually finds more constraining than the political/ideological orthodoxy he had to deal with back when he did the same job in Yugoslavia during the time of Tito.

It was really ear-rivetting stuff and something, sadly, that Ms. Rogers never seems to come even close to generating.

*Of course, for those in the know (or who, like littler e. and Bigger E., have to ride in the car with me in the morning), The Cluffmaster Flash also gets the gas pipe faster than you can say Alison Gsowski (unless it's Monday @ 8:25am and Fred Lee is coming on). However, despite Cluffie's ambitions, CBC Vancouver's 'The Early Edition' remains a local, not a national, program (which wouldn't be so bad if Mr. Cluff actually knew something about Vancouver).
Turns out that, as the outer fringes of the Google-Cache indicate, Mr. Sylvester, like Mr. Petricic, also spends some of his free time taking a turn as a children's book illustrator.


Not So Random Acts Of....

Kindness And Light (#3)


Yesterday, I decided to take the day off work to take Bigger E, littler e., and their friend A. up to the snow at Mt. Seymour which is the most sideways hanging of Lotusland's Northshore Mountains.

And the snow-play was fun, if a bit wet because it has warmed up and greyed over considerably around here the last couple of days.

But perhaps the two funnest parts of the day had nothing to do with precipitation, fluffy-white or otherwise.

First, we stopped in at the 'Super-Valu' down along the water on the Dollarton Highway about half-way to Deep Cove because we needed two things - directions (I thought I had missed the Parkway and didn't want a car full of kids chanting 'Wrong way, wrong way, wrong way' over and over and over again as has happened on more than one occasion in the past) and lunch supplies. The directions were kindly offered by the young woman behind the till, but only after we went berserk in the aisles stocking up on any and all manner of junk food. Nothing is more fun, at least in terms of the shopping experience, than telling kids that they can run around and buy any kind of crappy foodstuffs they want (within gastronomical reason of course - I almost always draw the line at 'dunkaroos').

The second funnest part was when we headed into the lodge, cold and wet, to eat all that junk. And I'm not joking about the junkification factor - we began with Fudgeos and ended with Cheesepleasers (a weird, sticky/puffy cheesy thing that takes your small intestines prisoner and and forces them to wear G. Bay jumpsuit orange for 72 hrs or so). In between, we had one of the most rollicking games of twenty questions you could possibly imagine. Of course, my first guess was always 'Is it Fudgeos!' except for the one time when it was. We were so loud and boisterous that even the hardened and hardcore board-heads and their surburban crossword-puzzle-playing-for-the-duration Moms sitting at the next table were laughing in spite of themselves.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that I completely forgot to look for a not-so random act yesterday. Thus, Q's (who is not really a Lotuslander as he lives somewhere in the rest of Canuckistan [ie. east of the Rockies]) will just have to do:

"I didn't push one senior on the icy side walks must be catching?"



Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Not So Random Acts.....

Of Kindness & Light (#2)


This morning my brother and his wife came over with their two kids from Victoria so they could all go Christmas money shopping down at the Mall with the two E.'s at Metrotown.

I wanted no part of that, but I did hang around the house long enough to help with the serenading of the cousins from the sidewalk when they arrived on our shores.

All of which made me late for work.

And then, on my way there, I remembered that we were out of coffee in the lab.

So, by the time I hopped off my bike around the corner from the 'Around The World Bean' store I was in a pretty big hurry.

And there was this big herd of rowdy, noisy, 'no school today' young kids at the corner where they were waiting for B-Line bus and clogging the entire sidewalk which did not, at least initially, improve my disposition one bit.

Then I saw this old guy with a walker approach the herd.

He wanted to hit the pedestrian crossing button, but the herd was in his way too.

Which also didn't, at least initially, improve his disposition either.

Then, suddenly, a striking young woman with a shock of white-white hair, multiple piercings, and myriad tatoos separated herself from the herd, pushed the button and helped the old guy across the street, engaging him in an animated conversation all the way.

By the time they got to the other side of the street they were both beaming.

Then the bus came.

And the driver waited while the girl darted back across to him through the traffic.


All The Propaganda That Fits


Came across the following buried in a long translation in the latest Harper's which Santa-San stuffed into my stocking and to which I am finally getting to just now:

"Propadanda is the use of magic by those who no longer believe in it against those who still do."
W.H. Auden, 'De Droit et de Gauche', 1952

Pretty much says it all, I reckon.


Memo To Doug Finley......

.....Would You Like A Little Gasoline For Your Pathetic Little Fire?



So, HarperCon Campaign Headboy Doug Finley has decided to exploit the Tempest in a Mulroney/Schreiber Ethics Committee Teapot as an opportunity to conflate the CBC with the Liberal Party of Canada in a blatant attempt to jack more money out of the pockets of the faithful:

Let's face the facts.

Running as a Conservative in Canada is never easy....


....In the coming weeks and months Canada could be headed into an election forced by Stéphane Dion's Liberals.

We may not have the support of the Liberals' powerful allies. (As Campaign Director, I can assure you that the CBC will not be writing Stephen Harper's questions for his debate with Mr. Dion). But we do have the support of people like you. Proud Canadians who work hard, pay their taxes and play by the rules.

I would ask that you make a contribution - $200 or $100 – whatever you can afford to ensure the Conservative Party has the resources it needs to take on the Liberal Party and its vested interest allies.

We will need all of the money we can raise in order to fight back with paid advertising, direct voter contact and candidate support when the Liberals - and their vested interest allies – begin to attack our record, our leader and our plans for Canada's future.

Which, of course, has resulted in all sorts of handwringing and cringing from the usual quarters, including the current head of CBC News, a fellow by the name of John Cruickshank:

Dear Mr. Finley,

I have reviewed your pre-Christmas fundraising letter.

I write this public response to you because I believe that by its inaccuracy, innuendo, exaggeration and expressed malice towards hundreds of Canadian journalists you risk damaging not just your target, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, but also public faith in our political process......


.....No other news organization in the country operates within such a demanding ethical regime. For you to sully the reputations of so many dedicated Canadian professionals is utterly unacceptable. Your denigration of our ethical standards can only contribute to the public cynicism about public life that is already far too pervasive.

Yours sincerely,
John Cruickshank,
CBC News


Now, never mind the fact that Mr. Cruickshank is a former David Radler/Conrad Black man that was hired by the CBC in Sept 2007, which is more than 18 months AFTER the Conservatives came to power.


Because I have no interest in defending the current version of the fast slumping CBC.

Instead, I want it to be expanded.

Yes, that's right.

And then I want its News division to be completely unleashed.

And I want them to hire a million new Joe Schlesingers and Rick Macinnes-Raes and Karen Wells.

And then I want them to get rid of all the fluffies and all of the Cluffies and all of the Sports (at least on the radio).

And then I want them to dump the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and to get rid of all of the commercials.

And to do that I want the Canadian government to give them long term, stable funding at a level that allows them to all of that without having to look over their shoulder.


Because I don't want CBC News to have to worry about any commercial or political pressure points squeezing them so that they can go completely berserk telling us seven days worth of stories every single hour backed with unfettered critical analysis and absolutely no press poodling whatsoever.

In other words, here is what I would like to say, straight-up, to Mr. Doug Finley and his 'letter':

"Mr Finley, you will get no money from me to destroy the CBC. Instead, I will send twice as much to any party, or even any candidate, who promises to dramatically expand the CBC immediately."


Oh, and of course, the new CBC would have no cringers in the executive. And while Anthony (not-so-saintly - which is why we like him) Germain would get to stay on as the Mainland guy, we would most highly recommend they hire The Reverend (who is also a member of the International Santa Conspiracy and one kinghell headline writer) as the new chief of the greatly expanded Far Eastern Bureau.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Not-So Random Acts......

.......Of Kindness & Light (#1)



It was New Years Day.

My wife, C., was just coming in after dropping little e. at a friends.

As she got out of he car there was a binner coming up the street on his bike hauling one of those old, beat-up trailers that he probably found on a scap-heap somewhere.

A bunch of the empty bottles he had gathered up from revelers slipped out the back end of the trailer and broke on the street a couple of houses down.

The binner, who was old and weathered and rheumy did not take off.

Instead, he stopped, got off his bike and tried to clean-up.

C. went to the garage and got the push broom.

He smiled when he took it.

Then he finished the job.


Friday, we will try to put out even more bottles worth deposit money with the recycling.


Press Poodles Gone Wild


Inspired by a post by skdadl over at POGGE's place (which is still one of the best sites in the Canadian PoliBloggodome, by the way), a few days ago we wrote a piece about how the media-manipulation jockeys riding Stephen Harper are clearly using a strategy taken directly from the pages of the Rovian/Republican "Book of The Smear".

Which, of course, is to turn the National Press Gallery into poodles by limiting 'exclusive' access to their horse.

Why should we, as Canadians, care?

This, we think, is why:

Now a number of commentators, including even (gasp!) Mr. Don Martin, have made a wee bit of a fuss about all of this.

Which, unfortunately is just not good enough.

Not the 'fuss' part.

But rather the 'wee bit' part.

Because (media manipulation jockey) Ms Sandra Buckler's real evil in limiting access is not to cow (CBC Radio's ) Ms. Petty.

Instead, Buckler is making damned sure that the entire National Press Corps knows and understands that any of them can and will be shut-out if they don't play ball.

Which is why they should ALL make a huge fuss about this right now.

Up to and including going so far as to refuse to grant any exclusive interviews to Mr. Harper.

After all, it's not like the lizard brain is pimping a Ron Popiel pocket fisherman or something.

Because, last time we checked at least, Canada is not yet an infomercial driven shill factory.

Now, those words were written last Friday.

Then, on Saturday, we opened up the Globe and Mail and read the following from National Affairs columnist Jane Taber (no link: it's behind the BellGlobeCTVTSNRDSCHUMMedia subscription wailing wall):

"The Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, Ian Brodie, says: "Only Sandra is authorized to make New Year resolutions at PMO". Mr. Brodie, who has a good sense of humour, is referring to PMO director of communications Sandra Buckler and the continuing tension between the press gallery and the PMO over how press conferences are conducted, who can ask questions, and who can answer them.

Of course, no need to worry about Ms. Taber's 'objectivity' because clearly she has unfettered, unlimited, and unimaginably unfathomable access.

After all, she writes and commentates for one of the biggest media conglomerates this country has ever seen, so her access is safe, right?


Which very likely explains why Ms. Taber (and/or her bossess) ran a huge picture accompanying her BellGlobeCTVTSNRDSCHUMMedia piece that showed a virile, if wobbling and wide-waisted, Prime Minister Harper playing shinny on an Alberta pond during 'Holiday Week'.

And who took that picture?

Well, apparently it was taken by BellGlobeCTVTSNRDSCHUMMedia's new staff photographer - the apparently award winning shutterbug, Ms Laureen Harper.


But still, that kind of stuff is all in good fun, right?

Because, really, despite all that, the country formerly known as Canuckistan is still safe because we don't have FOX News North and we really are not "an infomercial driven shill factory."

Well, maybe/maybe not.

Why the hesitation?

Well, here's Ms. Taber again, this time apparently speaking in her 'own voice' the very next day, Sunday Dec 30th, 2007:

Taber said Harper's strategy is effective -- as long as he knows when to draw the line.

"I think that Canadians were looking for a decisive leader, but sometimes he can go overboard, sometimes he can be too black and white with stuff," she told "I think he's got to be careful about that. He can also be petulant about things."

Ya sure....... blabba, blabba, blabba, 'he's sorta bad, but he's actually good, unless he's bad, but, regardless it doesn't really matter because we like deciders"......blabba, blabba, blabba.

Which is inane in the extreme.

But the bubbles between the quotes isn't what is really worrying.

Instead, go back to the bolded bit (ie. she told

Yes, that's right!

Ms. Taber, who works for BellGlobeCTVTSNRDSCHUMMedia, was actually being interviewed by BellGlobeCTVTSNRDSCHUMMedia.


That sure is some great 'News Analysis' we're gettin' there with our Popiel Pocket Fishermen and our Zirconian Diamonds.

So how come my head feels like an empty suitcase, and why are my abs are still flabby?


For the record, skadl's post was inspired by the work and art of Alison who, we think, just made a resolution/kinda/sorta (something, by the way that Ms. Taber's new photog refuses to do because, as she apparently says, "Why set yourself up to fail and be depressed?).