Monday, August 30, 2010

Can't trust Clements

Until the Big Four sports in North America (baseball, basketball, football and ice hockey) as well as NASCAR ™ irrevocably adopts the World Anti-Doping Code, rather than a limited list agreed to with the so-called "players' associations", one can never truly believe any athlete who says they were "clean" when the drug policies were a joke.   Particularly with Roger Clemens and the so-called "home run king" Sammy Sosa.    It is important to remember Clemens is charged with perjury, not with being juiced up.

One's hopes that things will improve got dashed with the news that Donald Fehr will now be running the NHL Player's Assocation.   Remember he was absolutely opposed to any kind of drug testing while he was kingpin for the baseball players until forced to cave in under huge political pressure.

Sad thing number one:  If the charges are true, Clemens could get more time in jail than he would have if he had just told the truth in the first place.

Sad thing number two:   Some of the sports not sanctioned by the Olympics but which have mandatory drug testing include:   Angling, Body Building (after decades of resistance), Bridge, Checkers, Cheerleading, Darts, Dragon Boating, Go, Karate, Minigolf, Skateboarding, and Sleddogging.    What do they understand that the millionaires in the locker rooms cannot even begin to comprehend?  Oh, that YOU CAN'T CHEAT????

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Bring 'em on (the stock cars, that is)

Yes we can.   We CAN have a real NASCAR race in Canada.   Besides, we probably have as many rednecks as America does ... if not more.

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Nailbiter in Australia -- if only this happened in Canada

Talk about a nail-biter!   A week after the 2010 Aussie elections, we finally have some preliminary results.   With 83.2% of the votes counted and a magic number of 76, the challenger Tony Abbott of the Liberal / National coalition has 73, the "incumbent" (if you ignore she shoved out Kevin Rudd in a coup) Julia Gillard of Labour has 72, the Greens 1 and 4 independents    One "National" from Western Australia has already pulled out of the caucus and will sit as an independent as well so it's actually a dead tie at 72 each.

Both Gillard and Abbott are claiming they won but for different reasons.  Gillard claims she won and has the right to govern based on leading in the two party preference percentage (Australia uses a preferential instant run-off ballot for the lower house and she is presumably in the lead after votes for minor parties have been redistributed after being knocked out).   Abbott claims that on the popular vote on the first round, he was in the lead by at least 800,000 votes and therefore he has the right to be the PM.

Oh to be one of the six MPs who now hold the balance of power.   The concessions they can wring out to be king or queen-maker.

Not to mention the chaos in the Australian Senate (where voters either choose one party list, or ranks all candidates in order of preference from 1 to x even if x runs into the low hundreds) -- with the Green Party now holding the balance of power there by a wide margin.

So unlike Canada where a minority party can rule as if it was the majority and does as long as it retains the "confidence" of the house.    Oh yeah, we have first past the post.   So many winners aren't really that, just the ones who got the plurality (not the majority) of votes.

If we ever got our act straight and have real election reform in Canada, imagine how fun we'd have on election night .. or week.

Mind you, there is one huge difference between their federation and ours.   We have an entrenched bill of rights.   They don't at the federal level (although the national capital, Canberra, and the state of Victoria have in their basic laws).   Even the British, which have experimented with one for a dozen years (when they merely adopted the European Charter as domestic legislation), were thinking of limiting its application or withdrawing from the treaty all together (although at present the law allows both the courts as well as Parliament or the devolved legislatures to adopt a "declaration of incompatibility") but the coalition ruling there now says they'll leave well enough alone for the time being; and by next year the country will have a national version of PR anyway, as they do now for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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Avril Lavigne wannabe, a terrorist?

They come from where you'd least expect them.    But I would never have guessed a former contestant on the karaoke / lip-synching contest called Canadian Idol would now be a suspect in a cross-Canada terrorist plot.

Unfortunately, this is a reminder that we need to remain constantly vigilant to ensure that a 9 / 11 or a 7/7 doesn't happen on our soil.   But we all know it will sooner or later.

By the way, Dr. Khurram Sher could use some singing lessons.    (Click to  Sher's audition video here.)  He sounded like a male Florence Foster Jenkins, and by the way that was not a compliment  if you know who "Flo Fo" was.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cabbie stabbing: Did debate over "mosque" really have to get to this?

When the name "Michael Enright" was coming up as a top search term yesterday, you could have been mistaken as I was in thinking the reference was to the long-time broadcaster at CBC Radio One.   Instead, this Michael Enright is a coward who -- if the reports are correct -- stabbed a Muslim cab driver in NYC.   Enright has been charged with three counts, the most serious being attempt murder two with the aggravating circumstance of a hate crime, which carries up to 25 years in prison.   Even crazier is that this Enright may be the same one who was a volunteer at Intersections International, a Manhattan group that promotes religious tolerance.

Thankfully, the driver, Ahmed H. Sharif, is okay although certainly he is going to have to cope with PTSD maybe for the rest of his life.

So far, Sarah Palin, John Boehner and Rush Limbaugh have been amazing silent about this.   Strangely though Bill O'Reilly wasn't.

I realize passions are running high over the proposed Corboda Center near Ground Zero, but did it really have to get to this?   Since when did we hallow ground over a military defeat?   Oh yeah, been there done that.   Kosovo (battled over by Serbians and Albanians for as long as anyone can remember), the Plains of Abraham (now a federal park, no doubt to the angst of the Québec separatists), Anteitam (a Confederate victory on Union ground) ...

Just an observation.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

TO neighbourhood stands up for gay couple

You'd think this kind of confrontation would happen in the Deep South, or the Bible Belt in the Mid-West.   Not in Toronto.   But it's time somebody stood up and said, not here.   People certainly have a right to pray, even publicly.   But there's a fine line between persuasion and being a bully.   

Here's a link to the video.

Judge for yourself.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Is it time to clean housse at Hamilton City Hall? Yes

Only in Hamilton could they screw something up like a stadium. It's official – the track and field events for the Toronto Pan Am Games in 2015, the “glamour” events as it were – will now be held at York University instead. And their facility just needs a bit of upgrading for cheap which will no doubt come as a relief to the federal and provincial governments worried about cost overruns that inevitably happen with multi-sports extravaganzas.    With that, we're left with soccer and cycling, and at the rate things are going soccer is gone by next week -- which means no new stadium and the local football team will be gone by the end of next year.

A couple weeks ago, under very suspicious circumstances, and not reported at all by the mainstream media, council approved without any debate a two for one public for private land swap around Hamilton Airport with -- get this -- Senator David Braley, the auto parts magnate and owner of 2 CFL teams, who is widely suspected of being the source of the brief rumour that Hamilton would get any federal funding pulled if it did not kowtow to the current Hamilton Tiger Cats ownership and go with East Mountain as the site of the new stadium instead of the West Harbour which is what council decided on regardless.

Keep in mind, this all going on while we're debating the merits of the so-called "Aerotropolis" which would put commercial development on pristine farmland.

We can't get it straight when it comes to projects that come with the promise of money.   Whether it's public transit or sports facilities or whatever else, we take too long to debate these things -- meanwhile, other cities are shovel ready and the shovels go in the ground the moment the green light is given.   Or we swap land under very suspicious circumstances even if everything is above board and legal.

City government may be government, but many cities in Ontario like Cambridge and Missisauga are run like businesses.   Here it's like a mom and pop shoppe and accounting is done as if we're still on a cash system instead of accrual (i.e. transactions are recorded when they happen, not when cash or equivalent changes hands) as it's supposed to be.

Perhaps there is an argument to be made that there should be a wholesale cleaning of house when the local elections are held October 25th.  The Mayor (Fred Eisenberger) I like.   Some of the councillors -- in fact most of them -- not so much.   But with FPTP, instead of alternative vote (ranking candidates 1, 2, 3 and so on) there isn't much hope unless enough voters wake up; and with only 39% turnout last time I don't see it happening.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Are our veterans really that expendible?

Yesterday, Impolitical asked the question a lot of us have been asking privately:   Is Stephen Harper a wanabee Maurice Duplessis?    She was writing about how some in the Cabinet want to force out Judge Konrad von Finkenstein from the CRTC and get a new crony that will require cable companies to carry Sun News -- um, Fox News North -- even if we don't want to pay for it.

I have to ask if the same attitude applies to our veterans, especially those who served in Afghanistan or in peacekeeping missions and are fighting like crazy to collect LTD, which Impolitical also wrote about in her space two days ago.   If the comment being circulated was corrected quoted and attributed, that our veterans are better off dead than alive, then Harper and Co. can, I believe, expect the collective wrath at the ballot box equal to that of a single woman scorned.

Don't believe it?   In 1932, American veterans of World War I, sideswiped as many others were by the Great Depression, demanded up-front payment of deferred benefits that were not due until 1945.   The then current Army responded by firing chemicals at the veterans.   President Hoover actually ordered the response to be stopped but General MacArthur ordered a new attack believing the veterans to be Communists.   (Posse comitatus does not apply, it seems, to Washington DC.)  Ordinary people were so outraged when they saw the newsreel footage that they turned out to the polls in droves and ensured FDR got an even larger win than he would have otherwise.    Ultimately the bonuses were paid in 1936, and fresh thinking during World War II led to the GI Bill, which ensures UI benefits and a university education for veterans to this day.

We don't have a draft here in Canada -- our armed service is all volunteer and we try to make sure those we recruit are the very best men and women.   Don't we owe it to them to make sure they're taken care of if they get injured before they complete their twenty?    Judging by the number of veterans' plates, there are a lot more people to whom we owe our gratitude than we may think.    Those who are disabled should get payments indefinitely until they can work again -- not a lump sum and a "slam, bam, thank you ma'am" shove-off.

So what of the analogy?

Duplessis dealt with the unions with a heavy hand; opposed urban development (highways were improved in rural areas to just before city limits -- often right at where riding boundaries were where someone from the opposition had been elected); attempted a legal form of a "Final Solution" for the Jehovah's Witnesses; and stood idly by while Wilbert Coffin was lynched.   All while having an incestuous relationship with the Catholic Church and big business.   (Priests got away with saying "Heaven is blue, hell is red" during election campaigns, ensuring win after win for the Union Nationale.)  The only thing that ensured the end of the "Great Darkness" was television, when people in Québec finally saw the outside world and just how much they were being ripped off.

Change a few players in the present day and we see history repeating itself -- with the proviso that media concentration means fewer media voices and not more.   Harper knows the bread that butters him and he will kowtow.   Judging by the news archives of TVA, Québec's largest network and owned by the same kingpins of the Sun Newspaper Group, veterans are not that important to Kory Teneycke and his scribes either -- the item about the ombudsman at Veterans' Affairs not having his term renewed was at the very bottom of the national news items from Wednesday.   If QMI is the official organ of the Conservative Party just as Fox News is of the Republican National Committee, then we know who's dictating policy and determines what should be news.    And not just the QMI outlets -- even independent outlets owned by Con-friendly interests make their allegiances known on-air at great risk to their tax-exempt status.

A sign of things to come?   I hope not.    Even those of us who are Catholic are not subjects of the Vatican but citizens of Canada.    We should owe no allegiances to the head office of any evangelical religion either -- but it seems that there, too, is where a lot of the hare-brained ideas are coming from these days as well.

UPDATE (1:49 PM EDT, 1749 GMT):   Yeah, I know, I misspelt Duplessis' name.  I corrected it.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

US draws down last of combat troops.

It all started with a lie from GWB and Tony Blair -- about so-called weapons of mass destruction, that were never in Iraq.   It was always about ensuring permanent American and European access to Middle East oil.   Early this morning, the last American combat brigade left Iraq.    There are still about 50,000 troops left ostensibly to "retrain" Iraqi troops to fight against paramilitaries and terrorists but at least this is one election promise Obama managed to keep -- sort of.

The US dramatically increased its forces in Vietnam after the faked Gulf of Tonkin incident.   Remember in school when they talked about the so-called "Domino theory" that pervaded Western policy right up to the 1980s?  The claim that if one country went Communist, others would fall unless we contained it?    Hmm ...  Vietnam is still communist.   So is Laos.   Cambodia, while its constitutional monarchy has been restored, is still heavily influenced by the successors to the genocidal Khmer Rouge.   And there is virtually no hope for Burma ... led by a kleptocratic military junta funded by Mainland China.   The only bright spot in the region, other than Japan, is India -- and even there the Communists (some Marxist, others Maoist) hold power in several states.

Make no mistake ... twenty, thirty years down the road another American President, be he or she Democrat or Republican, will come up with another lie to get Americans into a war that is unnecessary and costly and creates another enemy that lasts for decades.   Don't forget in the early part of the last century, the US forced the so-called "Platt Amendment" on Cuba.   While FDR largely repealed it in the 1930s as part of the so-called "Good Neighbor" policy, latent resentment against what was left of the prior policy (especially over Gitmo) led to the rise of Fidel Castro in the 1950s.

We Canadians value America as an ally, and I hope we remain friendly with them until the end of time.    But the Pentagon -- and the civilians who boss them around -- just seem to have a propensity of constantly shooting itself in the foot.   So today's news of withdrawal is not a time to celebrate, but to pause.   4415 KIA.   31,905 WIA.   655k + civilians killed.    All over a lie.

Speaking of which, the annual memorial ceremony re the Dieppe Raid in 1942 is being held in Hamilton today, about an hour from when I write this.   That too, was based on a lie -- that taking over that beachhead would be a piece of cake.    The Nazis were ready, killing 913 Canadians, 275 Brits and 3 Americans.   True, the lessons we learned set the stage for D-Day, but the fact is the fiasco should never have happened in the first place.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Preston Manning's refreshing view on the oil sands

During the summer, CBC Radio One has been running an excellent series about environment and business called The Bottom Line, hosted by no less than David Suzuki.   The last three episodes were about the Tar Sands, and surprisingly Suzuki actually got a warm welcome in Fort McMurray and many who work in the oil patch that Suzuki interviewed have the same concerns as he does -- especially about the amount of water being used to get the oil out of the bitumen that has about the same consistency as peanut butter.

The third installment about the sands included an interview with Preston Manning -- you remember, "I love that word, Reeefoooooorm!"    To my amazement, this larger than life guy said things that would make our current PM, Stephen Harper and the Alberta Premier, Edward Stelmach, very angry.    Not the least of which was his response to one of the alternatives being suggested on how to extract the oil -- the natural gas that will be piped in from the Beaufort Sea once the Mackenzie Pipeline is built.

Manning pointed out correctly the original purpose of the pipeline was to serve heat homes and power industries in the United States while ensuring a steady stream of income for the Northwest Territories government and the area's nine First Nations (and making them less reliant on federal transfer payments).    It makes absolutely no sense, he said, for one of the cleanest fuels to be used to pump out one of the dirtiest.

To be clear, Manning wasn't saying shut down the tar sands all together.   He was saying, if we're going to mine the stuff, do so in a responsible way and one that returns as much to the environment as we take away.

Keep in mind, this is a very pro-business, small-c conservative guy, the man who basically revived the Social Credit movement that is now the "Conservative" government in Ottawa.   And yet he is a deeply religious man (long ago he hosted the Canadian edition of the "Back to the Bible" radio broadcasts) and one who cares for the environment, someone who understands "dominion" over the earth does not mean "domination" unlike what some others in the religious right think.

Sustainable development means just that.    Creating tailings ponds and replanting only a handful of trees for every hundred or so cut down to strip mine bitumen sure isn't sustainable.   And while new licenses call for underground mining, as for gold or copper, the methods being used to get that oil out aren't all that pleasant either.

The ancients once said there were four elements -- earth, air, water and fire.   We take from the earth, pollute the air, put contaminants in the water and create the perfect conditions for forest fires.   I thought the Heritage Fund that Alberta had was supposed to help diversify the province's economy.    Instead they go into the province's general revenues to maintain its no sales tax and flat income tax status.   The North of the province needs better roads, but if all they're doing is carrying out dirty oil for processing then piped for export to a sworn enemy of Canada -- Mainland China -- then we're shooting ourselves in the foot.    And sooner or later, the oil will run out, even if they are the second largest reserves on the planet after Saudi Arabia (because of the voracious appetite of China and India).

Manning is on to something.   I have to ask why Harper won't heed his predecessor's wisdom.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mosque: Welcome to the neighbourhood

Guess what you can find within three blocks of Ground Zero?

A strip club, an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory store, a grocery and video store, a cell phone outlet, a Catholic church, an Episcopalian church, a sausage / pretzel vendor, the offices of the landlord (Silverstein and Co.) of what was the World Trade Center, buskers, pizzerias, City Hall.   And not too far away, Greenwich Village.

So what's the uproar with a community center, two blocks away, only part of which would serve as a mosque?   I mean, get real!

Folks, the nineteen evil-doers on 9/11 weren't even real Muslims.  They were about as apostate from Islam as you can get as much as OBL is.    And Muslims, true Muslims, suffered the injury and death of the destruction in as much measure as Christians and Jews did.

I suspect at this rate the planners will just give up and move the Cordoba Center to another part of Manhattan, where they'd be more welcome ... say, Harlem.   (Hey, the locals let the adulterous Bill Clinton open up his offices next to the Apollo, didn't they?)

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Process refugee claimants, don't detain them

Yesterday, Ezra Levant suggested that we should have a "refugee processing centre" like Australia does.  Levant even suggested a location -- the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia.   For what it's worth, the Tamils who arrived in Canada last week are being held in detention centres on the Lower Mainland of BC and on Vancouver Island, as well as a vacant ward of a hospital in Victoria.

Several problems with Levant's suggestion.

First, the Queen Charlottes aren't called that anymore.   Officially, says BC, they are now known as Haida Gwaii.

Second, because of its abundant and unique wildlife, the area operates under strict environmental and development controls -- managed jointly by the feds, British Columbia and the Haida First Nation.   And it has a population of just under 5000.   There is no way the Haida would ever agree to their land being run over like that.   The US has its own immigration problems; France definitely won't let us use St. Pierre and Miquelon (off Newfoundland); and Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat), not in the EU but still part of Denmark, is also out.

Third, we don't detain refugee claimants like they are would-be criminals.   We may hold them to ensure their safety but they normally aren't criminals.  While there is a burden on applicants to prove they are refugees (and the threshold is a lot higher than it used to be), the burden of proof is still on the federal government to demonstrate that they are not.

Oz used to have a detention camp on the island nation of Nauru (really not a prison camp, more like a holding centre where applicants were still free to roam about the country) but then when Labour won in 2007 they closed it, causing a major economic headache for Nauru -- and the country now has one on one of Australia's colonies, Christmas Island.    Immigration, not surprisingly, is an issue in next weekend's elections with the Liberal-National coalition vowing to reopen Nauru if they win.

One concern I do have, expressed to me by conservative friends, is how the people on board managed to pay the $45k to $50k per person (about $20 million total).    One suggestion made is that they were funded by sympathetic Tamils already in Canada, either voluntarily or through extortion by the Tamil Tigers.   I would not be surprised if the Sinhalese majority government -- or fronts for it -- are doing the same with their brother community here to fund the persecution of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

If either or both are true then it is really troubling.   It means organized crime has penetrated yet another vulnerable community in this country, and that is something that cannot be tolerated -- any more than when some Catholic Irish people in America felt it was their "patriotic" duty to funnel money to Sinn Féin -- knowing full well it was going to the very illegal IRA, ditto with Protestant Irishmen who did the same for fronts to equivalent "Loyalist" paramilitaries.

There are currency reporting requirements when cash or equivalent instruments exceed pre-determined limits.   But this does not stop people from circumventing the rules either by wiring amounts just below the limit (which is potentially illegal under the crime of "structuring" if the process is repeated).   Nor does it stop people using hawala, a system of money transfer operating on the honour system and mostly under the radar and which has come under increased scrutiny since 9/11.   Last I checked, brokers for the hawala are subject to the same restrictions as banks, brokerages and wire transfer systems and there should be greater enforcement of these rules.

What about turning back ships?

Seems reasonable except that our territorial waters only extend to 24 knots (44.448 km).    We do have a 200 knot (370.4 km) "exclusive economic zone" to protect our fisheries, and a 370 knot zone (685.24 km) to protect threatened and endangered marine species but that's it.   We can't turn back ships just because they have refugees on board unless we have a reasonable suspicion that an overwhelming minority, at the least, are attempting to invade Canada for the purposes of war or terrorism.

This is a truly pathetic situation that has happened.   We now know at least one passenger died on the four month trip, and there may have been an outbreak of TB (a disease which has been all but eradicated in Canada or if it's detected is fought by antibiotics and not isolation as we used to).

We need better ideas, and since provinces and territories share jurisdiction with Ottawa the field of immigration they may have ideas on how to cope with the front lines.   So let's hear what the 13 Premiers have to say -- they've been remarkably silent which is shocking.

But we don't need stupid ideas like using a nature preserve to encamp boat people, or detain them in concentration camps inland.   That's what we did with the Japanese and Italians who were already here during World War II.   Do we want to go down that path again?

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Refugees, terrorists ... or what?

A conservative friend of mine and I actually agreed on something while we were taking a trip to Toronto yesterday ... something has to be done to stop the flow of those who would abuse our normally generous system of asylum for refugees.

I am of course talking about yesterday's seizure by the Canadian Navy of the MV Sun Sea which came to our Western shores after an odyssey of many months and after having been turned away by Australia.   Many if not most of those on board (who have been living in squalor and after paying tens of thousands of dollars each for passage) are likely legitimate refugees, and of course we should process their claims compassionately.   But it is also highly likely that some on board are members of the LTTE (Tamil Tigers), a listed terrorist organization in Canada, the US and the EU.   Not to mention those who actually organized the voyage are gangsters -- to put it mildly.

Canada finds itself in this bind almost every year, even almost every few months, thanks to a 1985 Supreme Court of Canada decision, Singh v. Employment and Immigration. which declared that everyone has a right to an oral hearing to determine their rights under due process, even stateless persons.    Significant was that in the 6-0 decision three of the justices found such a right under the Charter of Rights' guarantees of "security of person" and "fundamental justice", while the other three found it in Diefenbaker's Canadian Bill of Rights which prohibits "depriv[ing] a person of the right to a fair hearing in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice for the determination of his rights and obligations."

While no doubt this bipartite decision was the right decision (since it was founded in both the Constitution and statutory law, respectively) this unwittingly led to a huge backlog in refugee claims, one that persists twenty-five years later.   Being the son and nephew of refugees from Croatia from a time when it was a part of Yugoslavia (and both my father and uncle were persecuted for their religious beliefs whilst serving in the military), it does bother me that the line between legitimate refugees and those who are merely seeking better economic opportunities is increasingly blurred.   Far worse, however, are those in the underground who take advantage of the situation and create a black market to try to smuggle in those who truly need help.

This really isn't a time for partisanship.   After a long civil war, there is no doubt the Tamils in Sri Lanka are suffering even greater persecution from the controlling elements of the Sinhalese majority.   Those who have come here fleeing real and well-founded persecution (the standard under the four Geneva Conventions) must be granted protection.

But those who have no other interests other than economic ones should have applied through the regular process.   And those who would spread terrorism or organized crime should be sent home at the earliest opportunity -- or prosecuted here for their extortion and wilful neglect of their "passengers".

Expedite the process if we have to, but let's not screw it up either and send an innocent person home -- after all, one ship we sent back in 1939 -- thanks to the anti-Semitism of many Canadians including the most ardent "monarchists" -- headed right to a Nazi death camp.     There is no reason why this situation should turn into another "Voyage of the Damned."   That would be, in my opinion, even worse than what we're dealing with right now.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

RIP Dan Rostenkowski

Another political death ... this time it was the notorious Dan Rostenkowski, who shepherded tax reforms and NAFTA through Congress, but then got into trouble over how he expensed office chairs and postage stamps.   Seems like a minor thing now, but back in the hypersensitive era that led to the rise of Newt Gingrich, Dan's conviction may have actually led to the death of Clintoncare as he was its main champion in the US House.   Not to mention the political machine of Richard Daley Sr. that led to his rise in the first place had long gone.

Dead at 82, from complications of lung cancer.   Despite his shortcomings his accomplishments were nonetheless many.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

RIP Ted Stevens

While one may have profoundly disagreed with his pork-barrel politics, he was still a human, and a good servant to his fellow Alaskans.   Ted Stevens, former Republican Senator from the last frontier, died in a plane crash Monday night along with four others.  RIP.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Farrow KOs Campbell

So actress Mia Farrow has now contradicted what Naomi Campbell said last Thursday at Charles Taylor's war crimes trial -- Campbell knew exactly what she got.    One huge, shiny diamond ... not the rough diamonds Campbell claimed.

Maybe Campbell was mistaken.   Or maybe she decided, to protect her "reputation" as a model, she had to pull a Bill Clinton.   Rough or polished, a blood diamond is still a blood diamond.    And more and more women actually do care about where that magic stone comes from.   As should the men who buy them.

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

West Harbour Out

It looks like the fix was in even before the debate started.   Word broke late yesterday that the West Harbour, next to the CN railyards and the bayfront parks, is off the list of sites for the Pan-Am Stadium.   Now up front is the East Mountain, a greenfield that will become the start of a public sewer when 30,000 people flush and the waste goes down the Red Hill Parkway.    This sudden turn of events is no thanks to inteference from, you guessed it, Stephen Harper.   Even the city's mayor, a Conservative no less, is pissed.

If people wanted the arena on a park, then why did the city take Confederation Park off the list in the first place?   It's not like anything's going to happen to the campground, in fact it's being abandoned.   And at least it'd be within some walking distance of public transit.

Message to Bob Young:    You wanted the East Mountain, and it looks like you won.   Fine.   Now, reach into your billions and pay for a spur line for the forthcoming Hamilton LRT.    With your own money.    Not all of us care for or want the "driveway to driveway" experience.   If you don't want to do that, you don't get a stadium.    Period.

We may lose the Ti-Cats in the process, but we should get something that benefits everyone and not a greedy computer geek for eight or nine home games while the place sits empty the rest of the year.  It's a fair quid pro quo.   A stadium and an LRT.

At this rate, the Pan-Am committee will look at the mess we've gotten into and say screw it, Hamilton gets no facilities at all.   We already lost track and field.   Now it looks like we'll lose soccer and cycling as well.   For shame.   Then again, it's Toronto that's the host city in 2015, not Hamilton.

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Friday, August 6, 2010

How could she NOT know?

Call me a skeptic on this one, but does anyone seriously believe that Naomi Campbell didn't know what she was receiving from Charles Taylor were in fact rough "conflict diamonds"?    Or her claim she didn't even know what the term meant until she ran it through a search engine?

Entertainment have some of the smartest people -- like Mia Farrow, who's been battling blood diamonds even before it became vogue to do so.

And the business also has some of the stupidest, or the most naϊve.   Especially in the fashion business.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

District court strikes down Prop 8

I suspected all along that this was the way the ruling was going to go on Proposition 8, and that's exactly what Judge Vaughn Walker did today in Perry v. Schwarzenegger (although "Ahnold" actually is personally opposed to Prop 8 as he himself pointed out in his filing and repeated publicly today, he was legally bound as California's governor to defend the law hence his being listed as the main defendant; Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown, the state AG, was also co-listed as a defendant although his position is the same).

The co-counsels, David Boies and Ted Olson (who represented Gore and Bush respectively in the infamous 2000 Florida recount), teamed up for this one and argued that Prop 8 violates due process and equal protection; and that is precisely what Walker said today.    Walker, however, has also stayed his ruling temporarily knowing that there will be an appeal.

No doubt that this is going to go next to the Ninth Circuit and onward to the Supreme Court in Washington.

The decision today goes into great detail about the history of marriage and the evolving roles of men and women within marriage, same-sex relationships, the changing nature of divorce laws and common-law partnerships, and the nature of family throughout history.   This background will, I think, be necessary when SCOTUS finally takes up the case.

When it does, the key vote will undoubtedly be that of Anthony Kennedy.   Either he will be the deciding vote as he has been on so many close 5-4 decisions (mostly on the side of law and order but also in favour of civil rights and environmental protection); or if Walker's ruling is upheld, Kennedy may actually manage to put together an even greater majority to underscore that this, like desegregation and banning sexual harrassment in the workplace, is a matter of civil rights.

Whatever happens down the line, this today is an important step forward.   There is no question about it.   But it's worth remembering too that many in California who voted for President Obama in 2008 also supported Proposition 8.    Just because one is economically progressive doesn't always mean he or she is the same on social issues, and this could become an issue in the extremely close race between "Moonbeam" and eBay founder Meg Whitman who supports Prop 8 but also says (or so she says) that she favours "civil unions," which was the status quo before the measure was passed.

But personal kudos from me to Olson especially.   The conservative icon, whose wife Barbara was killed when American 77 flew into the Pentagon on 9/11, has made a dramatic conversion and recognizes that equal rights mean equal rights for all and not for some.   No doubt he has burned some bridges with long time allies but he has made new ones, and gained new respect from many.   He's on the short list of 100 finalists for this year's Time "Person of the Year" and he deserves to be.

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Massacre in Connecticut

Sure it could happen anywhere in the world, and it does.   But the vast majority of incidents of disgruntled workers "going postal" seem to be in the US, no thanks to the "right" to bear arms.

Is getting fired really worth killing eight people, then oneself?

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Who's the extremist here?

It says so much about America these days that there would be so much opposition to a building two blocks away from "Ground Zero" in Manhattan of which only a part would be a mosque -- the proposed Cordoba Center would be a community centre open to all.    Opposition that is coming even from Sarah Barracuda urging the project to be "refudiated".   But this is America today, and it's really sad.

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