Friday, March 31, 2006

Iggy Gets It Wrong


"I just can't answer the question honestly," he said. "I respect the decision taken by Mr. Chretien in 2003. He did it in the interests of all Canadians. He did it because he understands that every decision to commit troops overseas in our nation's history has been a national-unity question."

Support for Iraq war dogs Ignatieff

If Michael Ignatieff is saying here that Chretien kept Canadian troops out of the Iraq War because he was afraid it might exacerbate national unity issues, then Iggy does not understand the country he wishes to rule. There was never majority support for joining the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, either in Quebec or the ROC. Chretien kept the country out of the war because it was desperately obvious that the war was a bad idea.

This is not Iggy's first time making drop dead stupid statements. As others have noted, his recent Prospect Magazine article, still available at, makes the following claim:

While some abuse and outright torture can be attributed to individual sadism, poor supervision and so on, it must be the case that other acts of torture occur because interrogators believe, in good faith, that torture is the only way to extract information in a timely fashion. It must also be the case that if experienced interrogators come to this conclusion, they do so on the basis of experience. The argument that torture and coercion do not work is contradicted by the dire frequency with which both practices occur.

The argument here, in short: torture must work because torturers swear by it.

CPT "Rescue" Update: Ex-Hostage Thinks a Ransom was Paid

From CTV:

Canadian Harmeet Singh Sooden, who was held hostage in Iraq for close to four months, says he believes it's "highly likely" that his rescue last week was the result of a ransom being paid.

In his first interview since his release, the 33-year-old told Reuters that it was "highly unusual" for his captors to be absent, especially on the day of the rescue. Rescued hostage Sooden believes ransom was paid

This would explain the apparent lack of gratitude of the Christian Peacemakers towards the Coalition forces who "rescued" their representatives in Iraq. The CPT paid for the release of these people; it wasn't the result of detective work on the part of "special forces" or the Mounties or anyone else.

Not Even a Pair of Boots

From Today's Globe:

CANCUN, MEXICO — Stephen Harper and George W. Bush ushered in their newly minted relationship yesterday with orders to their staffs to find ways to kick-start talks aimed at resolving the softwood lumber controversy. : PM, Bush eager to resolve softwood dispute

Attempts at partisan spin aside, it is clear that Stephen Harper got nothing of substance from George W. re. the softwood lumber dispute during their Cancun meeting. Apparently, you have to actually take your nation to war with George W. before he'll give you your own pair of cow-boy boots. But the American President has solemnly pledged that if Canadian casualties reach triple-digits in Afghanistan, he will strike a task-force to re-examine the issue.

What does this abject failure of diplomacy tell us about Stephen Harper, George W., and the state of Canadian/U.S. relations? Well, it tells you that the "new, more mature" relationship
between Conservative and Republican administrations has yielded no more than the "old, abrasive, dissonant" relationship between Harper's Liberal predecessors and the same Republican government. This isn't really surprising; on issues like softwood lumber, political stances are detemined by a summing of the various domestic pressures on the government in question, and "personalities", whether congenial or not, account for almost nothing.

But, on the other hand, flip this around. It tells us how little Canada's defiance of the United States on issues like Gulf War II and the Missile Defense System (Star Wars II) have actually "cost" the country in terms of lost trade or lost influence in Washington. This too should not be surprising; in economies as intertwined as those of Canada and the U.S., retaliating for a diplomatic slight is like shooting yourself in the foot. The only serious attempt I am aware of was a bill in the House of Representatives that recommendedd renaming Branta canadensis "Freedom Geese", and this bill died in the Senate.

So of course the lesson is exactly opposite the one that the current federal government and the Canadian business establishment would have you believe: it really is possible to stand up for Canadian values, and if necessary stand against our Southern neighbor, if they are for example engaged in illegal wars or attempts to weaponize space.

We can afford it. We can afford to remain Canadian.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Bush and Harper Meet: Nothing Happens

Bush "hopes" some progress can be made on the softwood lumber issue. BigCityLib's prediction: the two emerge from behind closed doors, babble a bit and say nothing substantive on the issue. Was just watching Bush's interview on CTV. His body-language said "expect zero". Bush 'hopes' lumber issue can be resolved

That Didn't Last Long

From the Globe:

OTTAWA — Two Conservative staffers have already left jobs working for cabinet ministers to lobby the federal government, despite Prime Minister Stephen Harper's pledge to bar former ministerial staffers from lobbying for five years.

The two, Kevin Macintosh and David Salvatore, left their government jobs this month and started signing up private clients, but the Tories say they broke no rules because they worked as parliamentary aides, rather than ministerial aides, for cabinet members Rob Nicholson and Monte Solberg. : Ex-Tory staffers lobby despite Harper's vow

Though Harper promised "to enact strict ethics rules, including a five-year cooling-off period before ministers, ministerial staffers and senior officials can start lobbying the government", this does not apparently apply "to the staff working in a minister's parliamentary office rather than at the department the minister leads."

No word on whether Harper intends to close this loophole.

We Were All Illegal Once

As the Tory crackdown on undocumented workers continues, - Toronto And GTA - Illegal workers go into hiding, it occurs to me to write that this country was built on the backs of illegals.

I'm not just talking about our current situation where, for example, in Toronto the local construction industry is powered by a large underground labor force. I mean the situation that has always been.

For the average Canadian, if they look at their parents, or their parents parents, they will eventually find someone that came here "on the dodge" or with the their papers "not entirely in order" or under suspicious circumstances of one kind of another.

For example, there was my great-grandfather on my mother's side.

I heard his story from my grandmother, when my mom's family (originally Pushenko) decided to hold a Reunion on Granny's farm outside of Yorkton, Saskatchewan. That was sometime in the mid-70s, and I was about twelve or thirteen years old years old.

Grandma's farm was a hoot for a townie kid my age. Two big red farmhouses stood in a field of grain the size Lake Ontario. As dad drove us up the road to the place, I could see several bitterns

at the edge of the field to our right, standing stock still with their long necks pointed sky-ward as they attempted to hide from our vehicle by acting like wheat.

We parked in a big grass cul de sac at the center of a cluster of houses and storage buildings. Through the open doors of Grandma's barn I spotted the biggest, ugliest motor craft I had ever seen. It was like a small square shack plopped down on wheels, with a rolling-pin strapped to the front of it.

Mom said: "When your grandfather was alive he used to drive that old combine up and down the fields to harvest the wheat."

Dad said: "Harvest some of those birds too. They stiffen up when they hear the combine engine coming." (His family were also farmers originally, but from down the road in Alberta).

Mom said: "Some of the wealthier farmers have little tvs inside the cab, and a bunk-bed, and even a shower in some cases. They don't go very fast, and on a big farm you can just point them straight and relax until a timer goes off that tells you to turn around."

Wow! I saw myself cruising across the wheat ocean in one of these things, watching tv and taking showers whenever I wanted!
But Uncle Fred, who drove the combine and did most of the serious farming now that my grand-dad had passed away, wouldn't be on site until the rest of the Pushenko's began showing up this weekend. I had to be content to sneak inside the cab of the old combine at night when everyone else had gone to sleep and run my hands over the controls, dreaming of traveling...

But this story isn't about an old combine.

What happened was, as the week passed and my brother and I settled into our quarters in the guest house (which we had to ourselves!), Grandma walked us around the farm and showed us the highlights. One cool place was, in the midst of the flat yellow wheatfields, a small wood that bordered a pond with perch. There was a path through this, and a tree that I could climb near the water. I saw myself going up and sitting on the sturdy branch that over-hung the pond, casting a line into the water.

So on Thursday, when the rest of the family went into Yorkton to shop for the upcoming reunion, Grandma found me an old fishing rod and I dug up some worms and ran off into the wood to catch some perch.

It didn't take me five minutes to cast a hook into the back of my head, though. I have no manual skills whatsoever. Luckily, when I fell out of the tree I landed in the pond itself, which was about six feet deep at this end. I struggled out of the water with the hook stuck in my skull, and the hooked worm kicking against my left ear.

Grandma, who was in her kitchen making perogies, fixed me up in no time, and stuck a bandaid over the puncture mark. Then for some reason she decided to share a little secret: "Come with me," she said, and led me to her bedroom on the third floor of the main house. Once there, she opened a chest and pulled an old framed picture from inside of it.

"This is your great grandfather Jan, as he was when he left the old country."

There were two men in the picture, dressed in old world peasant dresses, with white shirts underneath and laces down the front.

"Which one is Jan?"

"The dark dress, with the hat. The other man was his friend Petr, who settled North of the city."

Now, my great grandfather Jan Poshenko and his friend Petr were Ukrainian, big fat Hunkies, so they were built like two cubes made of meat, about five and a half feet across in any direction. It is difficult to describe their appearance in female garb. I might start by saying that they both looked like Gertrude Stein. And although the term "Big Bull Dyke" had not been invented when they boarded the boat out of Odessa in 1905, it fit pretty well. They had carefully stuffed something down their dress tops to simulate the female shape, and the results were impressive, if not erotic.

"Jan and Petr left the old country after the first wave of Ukranians had already landed in Montreal and taken the train out West to the plots of land given to them by the Federal government," Grandma explained. "Most of the first ones out here were men, but then the government began looking for single women to ship out after them, so they would have something to marry and settle down with."

"And when you got down to the docks, the process was not scientific. You held your papers up and a little Canadian man in a bowtie picked you from the crowd, or didn't. He would say "You, you, and you...not you," and your fate was settled. Jan and Petr understood that they had a better chance to make the crossing as women than as men, so they "borrowed" clothing from Petr's sister. Ukrainian women and Ukrainian men come to look very similar after they reach a certain age, especially if they've spent their lives on the farm."

"Your Great Grandfather's ship was kept in port two days by a storm in the Eastern Mediterranean, and he knew that if he was seen dressed as a man (he carried the proper clothes in his suitcase) he would be set ashore, so he remained in this dress and tried not to come above deck where the light was bright and people could see his whiskers."

"All said, he wore this dress for six days, until the boat was far enough into the Atlantic that they could not think to turn it around."

I said: "Was this picture taken in the Ukraine?"

Grandma replied: "No, Jan and Petr kept their dresses in their suitcases as they came West on the train. They were let off outside of Yorkton, pointed in the direction of the empty quarter that was to become their farm, and told to start walking. A few years later, when they had become established a little, they took the two dresses from where they had hidden them, washed them, and posed in them one more time for this photo. just so they should never forget what they had done to come to this great land of Canada."

Grandma died in 1995, and I never did see or even hear of that picture again. But the memory has always stayed with me: my great grandfather, aboard the boat out of Odessa, come to build Canada in a dress.

Monday, March 27, 2006

David Orchard For Liberal Leader?

According to CTV, Saskatchewan farmer and two-time Tory leadership hopeful David Orchard is thinking about leaping into the Liberal race.

Ahh! David Orchard and I go way back. When was it? About 1997 or so, when the Tories were selling Memberships to anyone would would cut them a cheque for $10? This allowed David Orchard supporters to join up en masse, which garnered him just enough votes (about 18%) to deny good old Joe Clark his majority win. Because of this, the Tories had to go to a runoff, which made them look stupid as hell and cost the party millions.

And a couple of months before the leadership convention an idea started going around some of the Lefty mailing lists. Why not fork out ten dollars to the Tories and crash the party? That is, join up and vote for Orchard's insurgent campaign? Your own BigCityLib just did that, and helped set back the Conservative cause for nearly a decade!

Mind you, in so doing I became familiar with Orchard's ideas and beliefs and came to a certain admiration for the man. Certainly, he represented a wing of the Conservative Party (somewhat left, proudly Nationalist) that had fallen by the wayside, and probably doesn't exist at all anymore.

Except that he jumped very badly wrong in regards to the Kosovo conflict. He was peddling the whole pro-Serb line (like Lewis MacKenzie, I might add) where the Serbs weren't really cutting anybody's throat, and that people were doing equally bad things on both sides of the conflict, and that Kosovians were ethnically cleansing themselves, and so on. I lost a certain amount of respect for him over that.

But we shall see. If he does decide to run, he will be worth a good look at least. He has an impressive seriousness, though sometimes seems to be more like the head of a cult than a politician. David Orchard mulls run at Liberal leadership

More on Tory Immigration Crackdown

The Conservative Government crackdown on (mostly European) immigrants who have overstayed their legal time in Canada continues apace, despite the fact that it will involve forcing Canadian citizens (the Canadian-born children of deported illegals) to leave the country as well.

Here is some information gleaned from the Portuguese Canadian National Congress submission to the "Cross-Canada Hearings on Citizenship and Immigration", which took place in March of 2005. Because of the skill sets possessed by Portuguese illegals (building and costruction skills), the current crackdown has particular relevance to that community, but I imagine a fair bit of the information applies to undocumented workers of other nationalities as well.

* The typical undocumented migrant from Portugal is a male between 20 and 45, likely to be unmarried with some secondary education. Because they tend not to have a post-secondary education, they are not considered "ideal immigrants". In fact, however, they tend to assimilate fairly quickly, gaining employment in line with their existing skill sets (often in the construction or home-building industry). This is something which is not as often the case with "high quality immigrants". Think of all the Indian doctors you've met driving cabs.

* The GTA has a population of about 5,000 to 9,000 undocumented construction workers (Portuguese and otherwise).

Imagine removing 5,000 to 9,000 hands from the local construction labor force. This is what the effect of the Tory crackdown will have on the GTA alone. The results are predictable: higher housing costs passed onto the consumer. Tories, being Tories, want to appear "tough" on illegal immigrants. But are they cutting off their nose to spite their face?

The full submission appears at the Portuguese Canadian National Congress. Enter the site and scrowl down about a half dozen items to "Federal government called to act...":

Portuguese Canadian National Congress

I'm not sure what political games Immigration Minister Monte Solberg is playing here. Officially, the amnesty for illegals contemplated by his Liberal predecessors is off the table and the whole issue is a "low" priority. I wonder however, if the Tories consider this a cheap gift to their political base. After all, while Portuguese aren't Arab and aren't terrorists, they are certainly more than a little swarthy, and maybe the goobers back in the farm belt can't tell the difference. Furthermore, most of them live and work in the Toronto area and so, from a Western Conservative POV, who gives a shit?

This whole situation reminds me of a joke overheard on Letterman back in 2003: the government can't catch Osama; Saddam is still running loose (which was true at the time); but they have managed to have Martha Stewart arrested.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

How Can You Tell Iggy's Running for the Libs?

Because now he's definitely against torture. The money passage from Prospect Magazine:

We cannot torture, in other words, because of who we are. This is the best I can do, but those of us who believe this had better admit that many of our fellow citizens are bound to disagree. It is in the nature of democracy itself that fellow citizens will define their identity in ways that privilege security over liberty and thus reluctantly endorse torture in their name. If we are against torture, we are committed to arguing with our fellow citizens, not treating those who defend torture as moral monsters. Those of us who oppose torture should also be honest enough to admit that we may have to pay a price for our own convictions. Ex ante, of course, I cannot tell how high this price might be. Ex post—following another terrorist attack that might have been prevented through the exercise of coercive interrogation—the price of my scruple might simply seem too high. This is a risk I am prepared to take, but frankly, a majority of fellow citizens is unlikely to concur.

Essays: 'If torture works�' by Michael Ignatieff Prospect Magazine April 2006 issue 121

Let's be blunt: if the Liberals elect a guy who spends his political breath ruminating on torture, and having to continually explain with fine distinctions why he does not support torture, they are doomed.

Not all intellectuals are like Trudeau, Libs! Some are just pointless Nerds, like this guy! Big thumbs down from BigCityLib!

Conspiracy Confirmed?

From the U.K. Telegraph:

A deal had been struck with a man detained the previous night who was one of the leaders of the kidnappers. He was allowed a telephone call to warn his henchmen to leave the kidnap house. When the troops moved in and found the prisoners alive, they also let him go as promised.

Telegraph News Released hostages 'refuse to help their rescuers'

So the kidnappers were allowed to get away. What would you call this, then? A rescue? A release? Definitely a deal was done.

Update: It occurs to me that if the deal went down as described by the U.K. Telegraph, then coalition forces let go one of the men who was reponsible for the death of Tom Fox after it was clear that the hostages had been "rescued". Thats quite bizarre when you think of it. Coalition Forces are pissed that the CPTers "aren't cooperating" in their investigation, but they released one of the "leaders" of the kidnappers. No, something still stinks here.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Garth Turner Slams Tory Spending, Hints at Ditching GST Cut

When old BigCityLib used to live in the Eglinton/Laird area, he used to see Garth Turner (who at the time was an ex-Tory MP for the Mulroney government) all the time at the local liquor store. Who knew that this man, who the LCBO clerks used to refer to as "the scowling midget", would become the conscience of the new Harper government?

Recently, he has been pointing out some of the holes in the Tory election platform:

"The total (cost of the platform) - $75 billion - is a huge amount," said Garth Turner, MP for the Toronto-area riding of Halton.

"I'm basically saying we should not proceed with some of this. I don't think we can afford it."

Furthermore, it looks like old Garth is hinting that the GST cut is one of the promises that should be sacrificed on the alter of common sense:

Asked if he'd shelve the GST promise, Turner said, "I'm not going to confirm that that's it."

See the full story here: - Canada - Turner slams Tory spending

All common sense. Can we really afford a deep water port in the far North to protect our nationhood if we cut our sales tax to the benefit of every middle man standing between the maker and the consumer, but not the consumer themselves? Probably not. Will Stephen Harper listen? Probably not.

Probably Garth Turner, who has the shittiest office on Parliament Hill, will be working out of a tent by month's end.

Keeping Conspiracy Alive

Some suggestive words from The TO Star concerning the alleged "rescue" of CPTers in Iraq:

But questions remain about how the rescue unfolded and the level of Canada's involvement. The fact no kidnappers were there when the rescuers arrived gave rise to speculation the men were released as part of a pre-arranged agreement.


Harper said he had seen no evidence a ransom was paid to secure the hostages' freedom.

"I certainly haven't been told that and everything that has been told to me would suggest the answer is no," he said.

But the Washington-based SITE Institute, which monitors extremists' websites, noticed a posting yesterday on an Arabic website that claimed the Christian Peacemaker Teams had paid a ransom for the release. The group vehemently denied the claim. - `We caught a very lucky break': Hostages

We shall see over the next couple of days/weeks whether there is any truth to these speculations. I suspect we will have another "Jessica Lynch" moment as it is revealed that the Christian Peacemakers were "released" as much as "rescued".

Update: 7:00 am More material from The San Francisco (?) Mercury News:

The statements left many unanswered questions. It was unclear whether the kidnappers -- who claimed to belong to a little-known group called Swords of Righteousness Brigade -- had been tipped off about the raid, had been paid to leave or simply left the men unguarded. The group had accused the men of being Western spies and had threatened to kill them unless all Iraqi prisoners were released.

British officials refused to answer questions about the raid. It could not be learned whether any of the abductors was arrested or whether a ransom was paid.

Pritchard said he did not know whether the freeing of the men came after any negotiations.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

CPTers Released

My favorite bit from the Christian Peacemakers news release concerning the release of Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember, and the death of Tom Fox:

Today, in the face of this joyful news, our faith compels us to love our enemies even when they have committed acts which caused great hardship to our friends and sorrow to their families. In the spirit of the prophetic nonviolence that motivated Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom to go to Iraq, we refuse to yield to a spirit of vengeance. We give thanks for the compassionate God who granted our friends courage and who sustained their spirits over the past months. We pray for strength and courage for ourselves so that, together, we can continue the nonviolent struggle for justice and peace.

Throughout these difficult months, we have been heartened by messages of concern for our four colleagues from all over the world. We have been especially moved by the gracious outpouring of support from Muslim brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Europe, and North America. That support continues to come to us day after day. We pray that Christians throughout the world will, in the same spirit, call for justice and for respect for the human rights of the thousands of Iraqis who are being detained illegally by the U.S. and British forces occupying Iraq.

During these past months, we have tasted of the pain that has been the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Why have our loved ones been taken? Where are they being held? Under what conditions? How are they? Will they be released? When?

With Tom’s death, we felt the grief of losing a beloved friend. Today, we rejoice in the release of our friends Harmeet, Jim and Norman. We continue to pray for a swift and joyful homecoming for the many Iraqis and internationals who long to be reunited with their families. We renew our commitment to work for an end to the war and the occupation of Iraq as a way to continue the witness of Tom Fox. We trust in God’s compassionate love to show us the way.

CPTers Released

Gutsy words. The conservative blogosphere will likely go nuts over this. No mention of allied troops involved in the "rescue"; reference to detainees held illegally by the Coalition. Come fellow Liberals, there is much smiting to be done!

Update: 9:10 am. And its already started. Drudge is reporting the "snub" of Coalition forces by "peace activist group".

Update: 10:57 am. My best guess is that the kidnappers planned the release and made a phone-call giving the location. According to reports, they were long gone when the "rescue team" showed up. Watch the pro-war camp try to spin this "rescue" into a great triumph over the insurgents. Don't be fooled.

Update: 6:37 pm. My conspiracy theory is till in play. Some discrepancy between the words of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who claimed the "rescue" involved "weeks and weeks of very careful work by military and coalition personnel in Iraq and many civilians as well", and U.S. military spokesman Rick Lynch, who said the whole job was done up in three hours.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More on Deporting Portuguese Construction Workers

Some of the Biggies in the Ontario development industry are stepping forward, and asking that the Feds reconsider their plan to deport several thousand illegal Portuguese immigrants. They are worried about the adverse effects this move may have on the GTA labor market for construction workers. From Today's TO Star:

A prominent GTA developer has condemned the federal government for wanting to toss "honest, hard-working" illegal immigrants from Portugal and other countries out of Canada.

"There is definitely a shortage of workers in the construction industry right now, and it doesn't matter-- from road building to plumber to bricklayers-- there is a shortage," Silvio De Gasperis told the Toronto Star yesterday.

"This process should be stopped until they get a chance to review and assess the entire situation," said De Gasperis, one of the country's largest private developers. "Maybe if they did they would realize that the good families, the honest people, should be staying and working."

It has been estimated that there are between 10,000 and 15,000 illegal immigrants working in southern Ontario's construction and hospitality industries; some estimates put the number of undocumented workers across the country as high as 300,000.

Neither the federal immigration department nor Immigration Minister Monte Solberg's office would comment yesterday on whether the government would consider any kind of regularization program. On Monday, Solberg called it "a low priority."

A Star report this week expressed concerns by immigration lawyers and consultants that illegal workers were being deported as the Conservatives abandon Liberal moves toward an amnesty plan.

The deportations threaten to rock Canada's booming construction industry. Construction represents 9.5 per cent of Canada's total Gross Domestic Product and 7.5 per cent of Ontario's alone, according to figures from the Greater Toronto Home Builders' Association. - Don't deport `honest' workers: Builder

I agree with M. DeGasperis on this issue with regards to delaying the process, mostly for purely economic reasons. The GTA construction/housing industry is in something just short of a Boom at the moment. Labor costs are going up and removing several thousand hands from the mix will makes things that much worse. The economic stakes are fairly high.

And I wonder if this is a problem anywhere else than in Toronto/Ontario? Specifically, are there large pockets of illegal Portuguese construction workers in other large urban areas that may also be affected? And, therefore, will this be a story in other cities? I have seen no coverage other than in the TO Dailies.

Politically, this will mushroom if the development community as a whole raises a stink. Furthermore, Canadians will get a chance to see the (more or less) white faces of crying Portuguese children as they are hauled aboard the plane bound for Lisbon, and will decide that this is hardly the place to begin any crackdown on illegal immigration.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Tories Should Stop Mass Deporation of Portuguese!

You should probably file this under the heading of "Stinkbombs Left By The Libs For the Incoming Government", but it is possible that up to 15,000 Portuguese construction workers working in and around Toronto will be sent home in the next couple of weeks because they have overstayed their papers and an amnesty deal worked out by the Martin government has been allowed to die. From the TO Star:

Illegal workers in Toronto's underground economy are being deported as the new Conservative government abandons a Liberal amnesty plan, immigration lawyers and consultants say.
Some families who have been in Canada five years or more are being given less than two weeks to pack up and leave.

Toronto's Portuguese community-- with up to 15,000 undocumented members, working mainly in the booming construction industry --is especially concerned.

Early last year, then-Immigration Minister Joe Volpe said he would try to find a way to get legal status for undocumented workers.

"They are here already and have proven themselves to be integrated," Volpe said at the time.

Last May, he said he had signed off on a final draft and the plan was set to go to cabinet. But nothing was done during the following six months before the Liberals were defeated.

Immigration officials now say they will continue to enforce the existing policy, with increased resources. - Tories begin deporting illegal workers

This has potential to do real damage to the Toronto New Housing Market and broader economy. The past ten years of so have been boom years for the TO New Home Market, but nevertheless prices have remained pretty reasonable, going up about five to ten per cent every year, which is beyond inflation but still within range of people trying to get into the market.

Remove 10,000 to 15,000 construction workers from the picture, and this situation changes pretty fast.

Again, this is probably a Liberal sin that the Tories are paying the price for, but now its their problem and they have to fix it. Some kind of amnesty program should restored here real quick.

PS. I'm not really up to this tonight. Will attempt to post something more reasoned within the next 24 hours or so.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Is Western Seperatism an Ethnic Problem?

Catherine Ford is a national columnist with the Calgary Herald. In early 2003 she produced, for Opinion Canada, an excellent analysis of the phenomenon of Western Seperatism. She points to a factor that is seldom mentioned in the usual discussions of the issue:

Sarcasm and ridicule aside, there is a serious aspect to the recurrence of separation talk in the West. Much of it centres on both geography and invisible ethnicity and our geographical north-south orientation and our population of ex-patriate Americans, drawn by Alberta's oil industry and Calgary's head offices. They feel right at home here, as they should. Americans have always easily drifted north, from the first cattle drives to an escape from racism; from explorers to draft dodgers. They have always felt comfortable in Calgary where American values are prominent.

It can be argued whether those values-- including, but not exclusively, such traits as self-reliance, market forces, trickle-down economics, pull-up-the-bootstraps attitudes, family values --developed because of early American immigration into Alberta.

Nonetheless, they dominate the thinking of the politically powerful and thus, the voices most heard.

Many in Alberta want the rest of the country to share such values--in effect, to become more American. Not that this is such a bad thing, in and of itself, but the rest of Canada's reluctance leads to outbreaks of separatist thinking.

Opinion Canada

I never realized the extent to which the Western Seperatist movement was driven by ethnic American immigrants trying to force Canada into the ideological mould of the United Stats.

But we do tell old Mohammed with the turban that he's going to put away the old values when he comes to Canada. Why isn't it appropriate to tell Bubba with the cowboy hat the same thing?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Do None Dare Call Them Traitors?

A quick post on Mark Norris, who is running to replace Ralph Klein as Leader of the Alberta Conservative Party. Mark Norris is a Western Seperatist, or at least one of his slogans is "Separation if necessary, but not necessarily separation." Mr. Norris apparently believes that the ROC is jealous of Alberta, and that if Ottawa passes lets say a carbon tax to combat Global Warming, Alberta should "take steps to secede".

And apparently, Mr. Norris isn't the only one running for the Alberta Conservative Party leadership that holds such views. Calgary MLS Ted Morton is also ready to threaten separation if Alberta doesn't recieve "the kind of respect and deference Quebec has received".

In other words, two would-be leaders of the richest province in Canada are willing to threaten secession if Alberta doesn't get more federal handouts.

Two comments:

First a minor point: I know of hardly any Canadians outside of Alberta that are "jealous" or "envious" of Alberta. In fact, in Toronto, most people don't really care what goes on North of Steeles. What happens in the outer suburbs is entirely off the radar screen.

Secondly, I'd like to know if is there anyone on the Right of the political spectrum, like newly minted PM Stephen Harper for example, who is willing to brand these two pricks as they traitors that they are.

Because as an Ontarion I have always been urged by my Western brothers to take a hard line against Quebec Seperatists, but I wonder if I have been held to a double standard? Now suddenly it's Western Conservatives that are ready to split up the country. They weren't conquered and don't have "humiliation" issues, but if Ottawa raises gas taxes a penny to save the seals and the Inuit, they're ready to bolt!

These people are a revolting disgrace, and it is incumbent upon our new government (which despite its Western roots is supposed to govern for all of Canada) to denounce them!

I'd hate to see tanks around the Saddledome as much as anyone, but maybe that's what it will take to save the country from the likes of Mark Norris and Ted Morton.

Full story is in Licia Corbella's Calgary Sun column, "Norris Ready to Play Hardball", at:

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Mixed Feelings

From this morning's Globe:

Senator's comments bring unease to Liberals

Ottawa -- The federal Liberals are distancing themselves from a senator's harsh criticism of the United States in a letter defending the Canadian seal hunt.

Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette replied recently to a letter from a U.S. family calling the hunt "horrible" and "inhumane."

Ms. Hervieux-Payette responded that what she found horrible is "the daily massacre of innocent people in Iraq, the execution of prisoners -- mainly blacks -- in American prisons, the massive sale of handguns to Americans, the destabilization of the entire world by the American government's aggressive foreign policy, etc." : Senator's comments bring unease to Liberals

Bit torn about this incident. My general attitude to bashing Americans is expressed by the old Russian proverb that says if you meet a Bulgarian in the street, hit them. They'll know why. (Replace "Bulgarian" with "American" here, obviously. Bulgarians haven't invaded any third-world countries recently).

But on the other hand, the seal hunt is essentially a blood-bath designed to provide soft fur gloves and boots to women with too much money. Furthermore, launching a consumer boycott against the hunt (which is what the American family are suggesting they are prepared to do) is a perfectly legitimate vehicle for expressing opposition to it.

So I am conflicted.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

And the Issue Is?

[An] Ipsos-Reid survey published Thursday found Canadians between 40 and 64 years old dedicate an average of just 15 minutes a day to sex and romance.

But, the protagonists of the 1960s sexual revolution said they spent about four or five hours per day watching television or surfing the Internet, more than 30 hours per week in total.

BREITBART.COM - Canadian baby boomers prefer television over sex: poll

You know, if I was spending fifteen minutes a day on sex, that would mean I was having sex about 20 times per week. What problem exactly is being addressed here?

Holy Fucking Shit! Sense from the TO Sun!

TO Sun Editorial page evolves on the issue of a vote on the extension of Canada's Afghanistan Mission. They correctly note that our forces are committed for the next twelve months or so, and say:

"We believe the time for a full debate on this issue will come a year from now, when the present phase of our Kandahar mission ends and Canadians will effectively have to decide if we want to commit our soldiers over the long haul -- say, 10 years."

Excellent! Get Harper to explicitly agree today to a full debate and vote one year from now and he can close the book on this issue. Maybe it will help bump us his anemic poll numbers (37% would vote for the Tories today).

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

What They Really Meant

The difficulty with offering a critique of Andrew Coyne's Wednesday National Post column, "Harper's Mission Statement", is finding enough empirical content in it to actually make the effort worthwhile.

And of course it would be pointless to mention Coyne if his treatment of Prime Minister Harper's Afghanistan speech did not share certain properties in common with other "analyses" emanating from the Right of the Canadian political spectrum.

But indeed there does seem to be a common strategy at work in all of these rather gushy tributes, and indeed behind Harper's speech itself, as well as his decision to disallow any parliamentary debate/vote on extending Canada's Afghanistan mission beyond its current term. That strategy appears to be three-fold: quell rational discussion on the matter, turn the bullshit valves to 10, and leave them there.

But, for the sake of the average Canadian, who is afterall being asked to finance the Afghan Mission with money and the blood of their children, it is important to dig whatever facts, arguments, and assertions can be found underneath the verbiage.

So lets turn to Coyne's analysis. About the only overarching thesis that one can draw from it is that Canada "owes" something to somebody. Coyne writes:

The Afghanistan mission, [Harper] told the troops, is “about more than just defending Canada’s interest.” It is also “about demonstrating an international leadership role for our country. Not carping from the sidelines, but taking a stand on the big issues that matter.”


Taking a stand? Providing leadership? And doing so, not in easy ways that require no more of us than our own splendid example, but in hard ways that risk Canadian lives? We have not heard such talk from our leaders in a long while. It wasn’t quite “ask not what your country can do for you.” Nor, indeed, was he suggesting Canadians should ask what they can do for their country, but rather what Canada can do for the world, and in that moment he soared.

This was not that fatuous invitation to self-love, “the world needs more Canada.” It was: Canada owes more to the world -- more than we have been giving it. And yet it was equally clear that this was as much for Canada’s sake as the world’s.

The notion that Canada is somehow "indebted" to the world, and "owes" the world something--specifically owes them a military presence in Afghanistan--is an interesting one. But what did we do to acquire this debt, and who exactly is this "world" that we owe it to?

To say that Coyne's piece is short on specifics is insulting to short specifics, but if one were to look back on Canada's recent history, and Stephen Harper's own recorded musings on that history, it would seem that when the latter refers to "carping from the sidelines", he is talking about Canada's refusal to join in the American led invasion of Iraq. For example, in a speech to the Friends of America Rally, on April 4th, Harper explicitly thanked the U.S. for not "standing on the sidelines", and instead sending the tanks into Baghdad.

So this is the message then: the "world" is the U.S., and Canada "owes" the U.S. for not participating in the Iraq invasion. Furthermore, "assuming a leadership role", "stepping up", and so forth, can be interpreted to mean sending Canadian troops into the Taliban-rich areas around Kandahar, for a term that will not be decided by the Canadian People, in repayment of that debt.

It's easy why you would want to slather over this thesis with patriotic rhetoric.

Rooted in Realism

Probably the most convincing argument for continuing in Afghanistan comes from Jeffrey Simpson's Globe column this morning, "Our Afghan mission must be rooted in realism".

The danger, of course, is that to sell intervention, democratic governments frequently resort to peddling fanciful outcomes, since these come dripping with what people back home want to hear: words and concepts such as "democracy" and "free elections" and "women's rights" and other Western notions, whose adaptation to other cultures is often less than easy.

If the desired outcome in Afghanistan -- the outcome that determines the exit strategy -- is a variant of what Western societies want for themselves, then there is no exit strategy because those changes will not happen, ever.

If the outcome, by contrast, is a series of Afghan regional satrapies with varying degrees of fidelity to a weak central government -- all united, however, in a determination not to allow the Taliban to run the show, then perhaps that more modest outcome could provide a plausible exit strategy. But, of course, that exit strategy is not one people want to hear about in media reports about our brave, freedom-loving and undoubtedly dedicated soldiers.

Note the lack of bullshit, fake appeals to patriotism, and bad poetry ala the Stephen Harper speech.

As usual, you can go to the Globe site: : Our Afghan mission must be rooted in realism

...sign in and maybe have your personal information sold to direct marketers, or you can
run "Simpson", "Afghanistan", "Realism" through Google and slip past the sign-in page.

You See, This Kind of Thing is Going to Be a Problem

From the Star:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Canadian troops fatally shot a man in a taxi that came too close to their patrol in southern Afghanistan, the Canadian military said Wednesday. - Canadian troops kill Afghan taxi driver

I have no doubt that what our guys did was well within their rules of engagement, and that making these rules less strict might lead to a loss of Canadian lives.

However, there is also no getting around the fact here that Canadian soldiers have taken the life of an Afghan who was not a suicide bomber, who was innocent of anything but some bad driving on the part of his cabbie. The man has a family, and one of them might now decide that revenge is in order.

This is how you create Jihadis. This is how Quagmire's get started.

Monday, March 13, 2006

How BigCityLib Lost His Religion

BigCityLib is one of the roughly 20 per cent of Canadians who tell Stats Canada they have "no religious affiliation". Tonight's post is about how I got that way.

The short answer is: I blame Nuns.

The long answer is, my Dad got posted to Edmonton when I was about four or five, and I wound up in a pre-school facility run by Nuns. I don't remember much about the place other than that it was in the basement of an old church with a big tower you could see ten blocks away, when mom or one of the other army moms was driving us there in the morning. I don't remember much about the nuns either, other than that they looked like the ones in "The Flying Nun".

And I don't remember any of them ever being outright bad to me, although their Head Mistress wore thick, black framed glasses and seemed a bit stricter than the rest.

What I do remember about the place was that they had great Lego.

They had five big buckets of the stuff stacked in a closet, the buckets big white plastic things that might have once held seed or soil. And they had all the pieces, the big flat-bed pieces that combined with the big circular ones to make Lego vehicles of different shapes and sizes.

I admit I have never had the eye/hand coordination to build a fancy Lego fire-truck or anything complicated like that. I would get out the biggest flat piece I could find, stick wheels on the bottom of it, and build some kind of ungainly castle-like thingy on top, with pieces sticking out all over the place in no logical order. Then I would roll it into a wall as hard as I could and watch it blow up into a hundred pieces.

The Nuns let us play with their Lego after lunch, in the last hour or so before our parents would come around to pick us up.

And I don't remember the details of it , but one afternoon, rushing out when I saw my mom's car pull up outside the church, I left the pre-school with a grand total of three lego blocks in my back pants pocket. Two of them where those tiny little two turreted bricks, the other was a three by two.

Now, I am a Liberal and I'm proud to say that in my later years I've learned how to triangulate with respect to the strict and literal Truth, but on that day I swear I was not trying to steal. It just happened that I walked out with maybe a dime's worth of Lego in my pockets.

And the next morning something flukey happened; I was forced to miss pre-school. The problem was that Mom had bought a box of Captain Crunch cereal for the first time. I don't know if they even still make the stuff, but if they don't, Captain Crunch was one of the first wave of totally nutritionally useless cereals that got introduced in the late sixties. It was 100% sugar, and I found I loved the stuff.

In fact, I loved the stuff so much that it pissed mom off. When I asked for a third bowl, she said "Oh why don't you just eat the whole box, then?"

And I did. Though my enthusiasm eventually waned, I figured that mom would lose respect for me if I couldn't finish what I had started, and I ground through the stuff until there was no more to eat.

So I barfed for an hour and mom called me in sick to the Nuns. I felt genuinely bad for another hour, and then faked it for an hour after that. I spent the afternoon running around our PMQ.

Next day I was fine, and back in pre-school, wearing the same pair of pants I had worn two days previous. The Nuns had us go through the morning routine, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. But then about an hour before lunch-time they sat us all down in a semi-circle and told us they had a "guest" who had come to talk with us for a bit.

And damned if a cop didn't walk into the place.

The Nuns told us all that they had asked Officer whatever to address the group concerning the seventh commandment (or whatever): Thou shalt not steal.

Because a number of lego bricks had gone missing, and the only possible culprits were the kids in this room. Apparently, after we kids went home at night some poor Nun got the job of counting Lego, and had discovered the absence of the three pieces that I was even right now carrying in my back pocket!

But it got weirder, because the Head Mistress pointed to me specifically, addressed me by name, and said that the only kid in the room beyond suspicion was your own BigCityLib, because I had been sick the day before and couldn't possibly have stolen anything. Apparently, they hadn't done their Lego survey until yesterday evening.

So the cop did his little speech and around lunchtime took off in his cruiser. I don't remember much about him, either, other than that he was very tall and walked stiffly upright.

But, you can see the dilemma lain upon me. If I had told the truth, told the Nuns that the Lego was in my back pocket, a couple of things could have happened.

They could have figured that, despite my protestations, I had stolen the Lego blocks, and the policeman (I thought) might take me away. Or, they might believe my story, and then the Nun who counted the Lego might get in trouble, because she had obviously been lax. Or, they might believe my story, and all the Nuns might get in trouble, because that meant the police officer had been called to the church for no reason.

What I am saying is: Nuns made me lie, or at least stay silent, and pitch the Lego blocks in a garbage can miles across town from that old church.

And this all made me think that, as much as they said they did, maybe the Nuns didn't have a direct line to God. And then I thought, maybe there is no God. He sure hadn't stepped in to help me out. Maybe the Nuns were dressing like this and praying and doing all these things for absolutely no reason. Maybe they were gesturing in a great darkness.

And after I figured that out, its been smooth sailing for me ever since.

You Won't See it Here

So, what's this all about, you ask?

Sheaf Board of Directors accepts Editor's resignation

Written by Board of Directors

Tuesday, 07 March 2006

We, the Sheaf Publishing Society Board of Directors, have voted to accept Will Robbins' letter of resignation. While the Board is of the view that the "Capitalist Piglet" comic is not consistent with the Sheaf's objectives (as outlined in its constitution) nor its previous editorial policy, we wish to make clear that our acceptance of his resignation was based primarily on his failure to carry out his duties diligently.

Well, The Sheaf is The University of Sakatchewan's Student Newspaper. In their March 2nd edition they published a cartoon entitled "Captitalist Piglet" which depicted a bearded young fellow in a robe, presumably Jesus, fellatiating a pig in a business suit. The strip's authors claimed to be making a point concerning the Cartoon Jihad. This point is unclear from the strip itself, but I assume it is something to the effect that speech offensive to Christians is also free speech and, by parity of reasoning, anyone (presumably on the political Right) who defended, for example, Ezra Levant's publication of the Dutch cartoons defaming Muhammad, ought to leap to the barricades for "Capitalist Piglet"as well. Perhaps not surprisingly, this did not occur. In fact, a bit of a fury got kicked up via talk radio and the Net, and editor Will Robbin's apparently found himself with the short end of the stick.

Ah well.

I suppose that I should be linking to the offending cartoon, and maybe even defending the premise behind it, but it is, quite frankly, such a piece of witless crap that I can't be bothered. Jesus is the scruffy sixties hippy version, and Capitalist Piglet himself is decked out in a monocle and bowtie.

This cartoon would have been cliché 40 years ago. You won't see it here.

Now I suppose one could argue that the fact that the cartoon is shitty is part of the point: even witless offensive crap must be protected. But it doesn't measure up as humor, or satire, or even pure pictorial invective. It reminds me of 19th century German fencing clubs where, before fighting with your opponent, it was necessary to insult them. However, most of the people who hung out at these clubs were too stupid to think of a good put down, so you were allowed to address your fencing partner with the rote phrase (in German obviously) "I insult you!".

Of course Ezra Levant deserves a lot of the blame in Canada for setting off this whole spiral of Stupidity. The original Muhammad cartoons that he insisted on printing were similarly witless. Now we have an anti-Christian cartoon done in response, and Ezra has suggested that he will print the results of Iranian sponsored contest soliciting cartoons making fun of the Holocaust.

So at the end of the day some of the least creative minds on the planet will have had a turn insulting three major religions. Way to go Ezra!

Anyone really needing to see it can find the cartoon via a quick google search for "Capitalist Piglet!" The full story at the Sheaf can be found below:

The Sheaf - University of Saskatchewan Student Newspaper - Home

As for the artists behind "Capitalist Piglet", I hope you are majoring in Anthropology or Business or something along those lines. You seem to have very little artistic talent.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Go Dixie Chicks!

In the run-up and aftermath of the Iraq War, America's political right engaged in any number of loathsome, thuggish acts in order to suppress dissent. Particularly disgusting was the way in which they went after anti-war artists like The Dixie Chicks, burning albums and slinging the word "traitor" around with wild abandon. And all for telling the truth: Bush really is an embarrassment to the nation; the Iraq War really is illegal, immoral, and a disaster.

But the Chicks are back and raising hell on their new album, which includes the tune "Not Ready to Make Nice", co-written with Dan Wilson of Semisonic.

The story is here:


And the link to the official Dixie chicks is here, if anyone wants to pre-order the album or offer an apology.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Making Women Homeless "More Canadian", says Peter MacKay

Man, you can't make this stuff up! In the name of making the Conservative government's foreign policy "more Canadian", the new Conservative government helped the U.S. veto a U.N. resolution calling on Israel to allow all Palestinian refugee women and children to return to their homes:

"As a sign of this position, Canada voted yesterday against a resolution condemning Israel for its treatment of Palestinian women. Last year, when the Liberals were in office, Canada abstained from the same resolution."

Foreign policy to be more Canadian: MacKay

These guys will never cease to abase themselves, will crawl through any amount of muck and slime, to serve as George W's political blow boys. But they should be ashamed of themselves dragging Canada's good name though the dirt with them.

Tory MP Goes Over the Top!

Wow! I don't even have to smear the Tories. The bare truth is astonishing enough! Now one of their Calgary backbenchers has accused ethics commisioner Bernard Shapiro of causing his brother in law's death:

"Speaking to CTV News on Thursday, Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai (pictured left) blamed Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro for triggering the Feb. 24 suicide of his estranged brother-in-law in India, Aman Anand."

I'm gonna start commenting on American rightest politics for awhile. Criticizing Stephen Harper's bunch is like clubbing baby seals, or beating up your sister. Too damned easy!

Full Story is here: Opposition demands apology from Tory MP Obhrai

BigCityLib, lookin' good and feelin' Liberal.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Layton Reads My Blog!

Obviously... because he has within the past twenty-four hours adopted exactly my position on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan. He wants : "... a decision that would affect further engagements and commitments by Canada down the road."

In other words, he wants a decision now promising a date for a future vote placing parameters on Canada's on-going mission in Afghanistan. Perfectly reasonable. Who could possibly be against such a thing?

The full story is here: : Layton urges debate on future military role

PS. Jack, if you are still listening, lose the gay little mustache.

Belinda Speaks

New Democrats requested Friday that an ethics investigation into David Emerson's jump to the Conservative cabinet just days after being elected as a Liberal should be expanded to include Belinda Stronach's Tory-Liberal leap of last May. The full story is here: - NDP wants Stronach switch also probed

This is a wonderful opportunity for the Libs if they play it right. The party, and Belinda herself, should step forward and say they will cooperate with the ethics investigation to the fullest extent, and then see if Stephen Harper wants to maintain his his role as Angry White Man.

In fact, in my mind I see Belinda Stronach (pictured above left at her hottest) addressing the national media on this issue. She steps up to the microphone:

"Ladies and gentlemen, let me make clear right now that I want Bernard Shapiro to investigate me, thoroughly, Bernie baby, over my old, party hopping days.

You know where to find me, Bernie. Come make me tell you the truth. And Stephen, baby, and Petey, sweet baby, why don't you come get some too? I'll tell all if you will.

Because I'm not afraid. Because it isn't about ethics and crossing the floor and C-251, is it fellas? It's about me! You want my naked ass on a platter!

Because I was your rich city girl, wasn't I? I was your blonde armpiece, there to show the world that you'd made it Big in Ottawa. You paraded me around so people would think you were the leader of the Free World, and I was supposed to smile and keep my mouth shut the whole time.

But, d'you know what, Stevey Baby, your friends are all pigs. Dirty old white men, and all they wanted to do was fondle me, drool over me, and tell me about their weird theories: that when babies die Jesus cries, that man walked with the dinosaurs, that the metric system has just gotta be repealed. I got so sick of it all.

And Petey, you just weren't tough enough to keep the weirdos away from me. I pled with you over and over again, but you just kept telling that boys will be boys, and to keep my mouth shut.
Well, Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay, those days are over. You just weren't Man enough for Belinda Stronach.

So now I've found a new gang to run with. The fellas are kooky and sexy and funny, tough and yet vulnerable, and the women can all take care of themselves. They're a bit easy with the money, sure, but they're good at heart and rule this country with the gentle hand of a man who knows his horse.

Anyway, sweety-pies, the game is this. Lets naked with the truth together and explore our ethical parts. Lets see if Stevey's cave man friends in the red-neck media can keep it in their pants for the next couple of weeks. Let's see if Michael Coren doesn't sound as bitchy as Cujo, talking about my hair and my ass and what a barby doll I am. Lets see if anyone at the whole of Sun Media can lay off the blonde jokes, or the prostitution jokes.

I bet at the end of the day I'll come out of this looking better than you fellas."

Belinda exits. Later, Stephen Harper appears with his eyes bugging out, calls her a lesbian, and insinuates that anyone who has ever criticized him is perhaps a lesbian as well.

And after that some guy that looks like the 20th hijacker (pictured left) shows up claiming, what?, it's hard to say through the accent, but maybe that Belinda or someone personally bombed his village back in the old country.

And the whole Tory disaster unfolds into another day. Can a government forfeit if they realize they're not ready for prime time?

Salutin on Afghanistan

Just a quick heads up re. Rick Salutin's column on Afghanistan in the Globe today. It is entitled "Trust the Public on Afghanistan", and defends the skepticism of the Canadian people when it comes to our Afghan mission, as expressed through several recent polls.

Many good points in the article. One that Rick brings up is, of course, public opinion vs. elite media opinion concerning the Iraq invasion. While the Canadian public, as poll after poll indicated, was opposed, it seems that the vast majority of columnists and editorial writers at Canada's major (and minor) newspapers were ready to go over the top with George W.

And look how well that turned out.

Article is here: : Trust the public on Afghanistan

But as always, a google search with "Salutin" and "Afghanistan" in it gets you to the full story while dodging the Globe's firewall.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Consumption Tax Cut Bad!

Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty set some priorities today:

The federal finance minister says Ottawa won't be able to address all its election promises in its first budget. But...the Conservatives will slash the GST by one per cent "immediately."

Let's get a couple of things clear. Imposing the GST initially was a terrible idea and the Mulroney's Conservatives paid for it dearly. But cutting it, by one per cent, is another terrible idea, especially if it results in income tax hikes on certain groups of Canadians.

Because, to put it bluntly, that penny per dollar will be long gone before it gets to Joe or Jane Canada. Everybody along the chain from manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer is going to use the opportunity to hike fees, knowing that this hike will be concealed and cancelled by the cut.

Generally speaking, cuts to consumption taxes never make it to the consumer. And of course the Harper government knows this. They are eliminating income tax breaks for poor Canadians and sending the cash freed up to Corporate Canada. Robin Hood in reverse, but by more devious means.

Sneaky, but what will the Average Canadian say when taxes are cut and they notice no difference?

The story is here:

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

BigCityLib Becomes an Activist

My first taste of political activism came in 1996, during the first term of the Conservative government of Mike Harris. If you remember them, they took over in 1995 when the Province of Ontario was running a ten-billion dollar per year deficit. In 2003, when Mike Harris' successor Ernie Eves (pictured left ) got turfed from office--after 37 secondary teacher strikes, 14 primary teacher strikes, 3 provincial employee strikes, a half dozen environmental disasters (Walkerton, a couple of tire fires and, if I recall correctly, a plague of aphids)--the deficit stood at about seven billion per year.

Those were dark times indeed.

I was just a young Lib back then, more interested in Art and Literature than fooling around in the political arena. But during late 1995 and 1996, the Harris government reached a decision to amalgamate the various municipalities that made up Metro Toronto into one huge "Megacity". A number of fairly effective grass-roots groups had sprung up around town to protest the plan, in particular Citizens for Local Democracy (C4LD), which was led by ex-Toronto mayor John Sewell. Sitting around my computer one night in '96, feeling pissed off at the government but not knowing how to channel my frustration, I found the C4LD website, and was galvinized into action.

Now, in 1996 the American elections were in full swing just to the South of us. Clinton was taking on old Bob Dole. This was the first election in which the Internet played a central role. For example, a couple of Dole campaign staffers (a man and wife team) were caught posting messages and nude pictures to a "swingers group" on Usenet. These were forced to resign from the campaign, and Dole spent a couple of days being severely embarrassed.

And so I got thinking. My job at the time involved alot of working with search engines and doing research via the Internet. It occurred to me that a lot of Harris' new MPPs were from small towns outside of Toronto where there were (at the time) no functioning ISPs. Given the standard learning curve for new Internet users, I figured that a lot of these guys had probably spent their first six months in office downloading porn and masturbating over their computers.

(Nothing against small towns; I am talking about an experience that was almost universal for men of that era. The vast waves of middle-age white males that migrated onto the Net in the mid-90s did so for the free Filth. Guys who had never owned a PC before, who could barely type with two fingers, bought one at around this time, in search the great on-line Pornucopia. In fact, for most men of the time, the first "bad" experience on-line was when they accidentally set a picture of a naked blonde chick getting whipped by a gorilla as their background image. I knew one guy did that the first day he owned his computer. He unplugged it in panic, and left it turned it off for a week while he figured out what the procedure for resetting your background was. He told his wife the new PC had caught "a virus", and she had to leave the machine turned off or she might catch it too.

Actually, things have changed radically since then. Kids today know so much more about computers, and they get at the porn so early that by the time they're 12 or 13 its all passe to them. But in case this is still useful knowledge, here's how you remove a dirty picture from your desktop.

Go to Control Panel on your Start Menu, and open it. Go to display, and open it. Go to Desktop and look for the files given as possible background files. Change that file to something you can show the kids without them thinking dad's a pervert)

So anyway, I had this image in my mind of a couple hundred Tory's (fifty, puffy, male and white) lounging around Queen's Park with their dicks in their hands. And I thought: maybe one of these guys is a real sick fucker, but has never had a chance to express it before. Maybe this hypothetical Tory wants to bang midgets, for example, and maybe he's using his government Internet account to arrange rendevous with midgets all around the city.

And I thought: its up to me to expose this guy and help bring down the government, just like whoever caught those two campaign workers screwed things up for Bob Dole.

So, I systematically began harvesting names and emails from campaign, party, and government websites, and began running them those search engines, SpyKing, and other online surveillance tools. It took me the better part of the week, and I came up with exactly one "hit".

It turned out that one of Mike Harris' 905 area code back-benchers, who shall remain nameless (because I forget his name) had been posting messages to a Usenet group devoted to Hair Restoratives. In particular, he had been asking about how Xaonal--how effective it was, what the side effects were. Bingo! I'd found an MPP with a dirty little secret! He was going bald! Not quite what I had been looking for, but what the hell.

I surfed to the Government of Ontario website to confirm my suspicions. There was a bio with picture posted for every Tory MPP, and sure enough, my boy had a little recession of his own going on up top.

I was energized now. I sent my research off to their C4LD leadership council (MPPs picture included), and fired off the same information to reporters at all the local dailies.

But here is the funny thing. Nothing really came of it. There were no stories in the Globe, and nothing even in the TO Sun. I can only assume that these papers harbored a pro-Tory bias, or that losing your hair is no longer the scandal it once was.

In any case, that was my first taste of political activism. I've been raising hell ever since.

From the Big City, BigCityLib saying goodbye for now.

Gee on Afghanistan

Marcus Gee, in his Globe&Mail column this morning, "Afghanistan not just a U.S. Fight", concludes (after a long and not particularly relevant history lesson):

The latest threat is from terrorism and Islamic extremism. Afghanistan was its home base before 9/11 and could be again if the Taliban make a comeback, as they are trying to do. As General Rick Hillier, Chief of the defense Staff, puts it, "we're on a target list." The Taliban and al-Qaeda have set down new roots in Afghanistan, and they will send their arrows of violence around the world. There's no reason to think Canada would be exempt. Better to meet the threat in Afghanistan than in Vancouver or Toronto.

This is no American errand. Though the United States started the ball rolling by invading Afghanistan and toppling the Taliban after 9/11, and though they still run the show in the south, Canada is one of 35 countries with troops there. The international forces are led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, fully mandated by the United Nations and welcomed by the democratically elected Afghan government. So, while Canadian forces are defending freedom and helping a downtrodden nation, they are doing it in co-operation with other countries under a multilateral umbrella. You can't get much more Canadian than that.

This is all very wonderful, but I would rather if Gee attempted an appeal to my native Canadian intelligence rather my do-gooder Canadian values.

Specifically, what I want to know is, how long are Canadian forces supposed to be involved in this uplifting adventure? Now, in order to frame an answer to this question, we have to ask and answer another question. Are allied forces in Afghanistan doing anything that might lead to something worthy of the term "victory"? Are they, for example, securing the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, or even better, chasing Taliban/Al Qaeda supporters back over the border and into the tribal areas of Pakistan?

Well, no, that is impossible for both political (the Pakistanis, our supposed allies in the War against Terror, would go ape) and geographic (mountains, tons of mountains) reasons.

So when will Taliban/Al Qaeda insurgents quit using the Afghanistan/Pakistan border as a pathway to the Afghan Jihad?

This is where you begin to understand the reasoning behind General Hillier's claim that Canada may be in Afghanistan for a decade. And of course, his calculations involve an insurgency that can be endlessly replenished with arms, money, and bodies, throwing in the towel after a decade for reasons not involving military defeat. Which seems highly unlikely to me.

It all sounds kind of endless and therefore pointless, doesn't it?

So why can't Canada debate, on the Political level, and perhaps make more specific, the parameters of Canadian involvement? To argue, as Harper has done, that this will somehow adversely affect the moral of the troops, is rubbish and a sign of political cowardice to boot. I am sure they are too busy dodging axes and bullets to be worried about some parliamentary debate. And if Parliament were to decide, for example, that the Mission was to end after a certain specified period, why our troops might even learn to like that outcome.

Let there be no mistake; the Paul Martin's Liberal government handed their successors a political stink-bomb with this issue. But that's politics and it is up to the Tories to deal with the hot potato in their lap in an open and competent manner. Welcome to Ottawa.

Marcus Gee's original article can be found at: : Afghanistan is not just a U.S. fight

But it's easier just to Google "Gee" and "Afghanistan" and slide in behind the Globe fire-wall.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Canadian Tories Hide Behind the Troops!

It's like deja vu all over again as Canada's governing Tory party cop a move from the Bush play-book.

Here's the situation. Canadian troops have been serving in Afghanistan since 2003, serving as an adjunct to Operation Enduring Freedom. The Canadian government sent them there, basically, as a means of making up with the Bush administration over our opting out of the Iraq invasion. Since December of 2005, however, our forces have taken over control of the area around Kandahar, and have suffered a number of casualties in the time since including one diplomat killed via car bomb, and one soldier injured in an axe attack. Naturally, the Canadian public, who hadn't really been paying attention to the issue, are now expressing concern.

A poll taken in December ( makes clear two things. One is that the majority of the country is opposed to the mission as it is currently constituted. The second is that a vast majority of the country (73%) would like to see parliament debate the matter, especially when it comes to extending the mission around Kandahar when Canadian obligations expire in (if I am calculating correctly) December of 2006.

How has the new Tory Government responded to these concerns?

Well, by stiff-arming the majority of Canadian people. Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, speaking yesterday, shot down the idea of a parliamentary debate. His reasoning had a familiar ring to it:

We do not want to jeopardize or in any way have a psychological or a real impact on the troops who are in Afghanistan...I don't believe we can undermine our commitment to the forces, to our men and women there.

So even debating the policy of the current government, offering criticim of the direction it has taken, is too dangerous because it might adversely impact the troops. Sound familiar?

So how long are we supposed to keep our mouths shut, Mr. MacKay? Canada's top general is hinting that we might be stuck in Afghanistan for a decade. Are Canadians really expected to grin and bear it for ten years while our forces are slowly ground down in what has become (no matter what it started life as) a small scale quagmire (in the same sense that Iraq is a large scale quagmire?)?

Quit hiding behind the troops! If you are so sure of your arguments, bring them to the HOC and let them carry the day.

Full story can be found here:

CBC News: Commons vote could undermine Afghan mission: MacKay

Monday, March 06, 2006

Whither withdrawal?

Ron Brownstein writes in his Saturday L.A. Times column:

At the same time, the war's changing nature undermines the argument from many on the left that the U.S. presence is primarily fueling the violence. That seems increasingly untenable at a point when U.S. troops look like the only thing preventing Iraqis from tearing each other apart.

In this murky and volatile period, the analysts who look most prescient are those, like Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who have insisted that the U.S. use its leverage in Iraq to pressure all sides to reach political accommodations. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has grown more forthright in sending that message too.

Bush now faces a paradox. As Iraq pulls apart, its need grows for American troops to serve as buffers and brokers. But as the sectarian violence rises, so will the pressure inside the U.S. to withdraw. However reluctantly, most Americans have not yet entirely abandoned the hope of building the Arab world's first functioning democracy. But they will probably show much less patience for watching American soldiers die in the next Lebanon.

As Iraq Conflict Changes, Has Bush Kept Up? - Los Angeles Times

Well, maybe, but it isn't like U.S. troops actually did anything to stop the violence (unless they were secretly sprinkling magic dust). They were, quite explicitly, ordered to stay in their barracks while the fighting raged (See the excellent on this).

The only difference between being there and letting the Iraqis "tear each other apart", and leaving and letting the Iraqis "tear each other apart", is that in the second case U.S. troops don't get caught in the cross-fire.

No, this is another war-mongering guy's attempt to salvage a situation where the war he mongered for has turned to shit in his hands.


Endless Arsenal of Empty Threats

According to the Saturday's 's Washington Post, the Bush Administration will issue some statements, give some deadlines, and raise the pressure on Iran oh so gradually, culminating in "tangible and painful consequences" (says UN Ambassador John Bolton), if that nation decides to proceed with its uranium enrichment project.

All I can say is: get ready for the Iranian bomb. The Bush administration has already thrown in the towel on this one. The only matter really at issue is the mechanism by which blame is shifted to Europe and the U.N.

The bottom line is that neither the U.S. nor Israel can launch airstrikes on Iranian military facilities without losing the Shia in Southern Iraq. By losing the Shia in Iraq I don't mean losing the "battle for hearts and minds", I mean U.S. Forces suddenly being surrounded and outnumbered 100 to 1 by a bunch of crazed, gun-wielding lunatics who WANT YOU OUT OF THEIR FUCKING COUNTRY NOW! And when I say surrounded, I mean having all the supply lines and lines of retreat leading out of this desert shithole blocked.

Oh, there will be threats and endless diplomatic Blow-vating, but this story is told.

And you know what? In a year everybody will have become used to a nuclear Iran, just as they became used to a nuclear India, a nuclear Pakistan, and a nuclear North Korea.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Oscar '06: No Boobs in Sight

Other a few redemptive moments when Dolly Parton appeared, last nights Oscars consisted of a parade of women who couldn't work up decent cleavage with tissue and silly-putty. Different colored dresses hung over identical swizzle-sticks. The Liberal agenda was very ill served this evening.

Oh Now Isn't that F@#k!#g Wonderful!

I am informed by my wife that Mariah Carey is a SINGER! And a quick search through Google turns up an old R.S. cover, "The Best Rack in Rock!" So I guess that confirms it. Maybe I mixed her up with Jenna Jameson.

Now what do I have to look forward to at the Oscars tonight?

Canada in Asscrackistan

Well, as told here in the Toronto Star - Ambush in Afghanistan

one of our boys took an axe to the head today from a young Afghani, "less than 20 years old", who would up eating about 14 rounds in response.

Canada, and most Canadians, supported the U.S. expedition into Afghanistan back in 2002. However, events of the past few years and last few months especially have given many of us second thoughts.

I suppose you could argue that since we've agreed to a Canadian presence in the country, we're stuck. But I think one of the legitimate complaints Canucks can make is that while we are now being asked to take casualties, we have had little say in shaping the military/strategic direction of the mission. And as it has spiralled slowly down the same toilet as Iraq, our armed forces have been taken along for the ride.

And now that Canada (as well as several other U.S. allies) have taken responsibility for the Taliban hotbeds around Kandahar, we are hearing talk of U.S. troop "draw downs" and "pullouts" (and have been since Xmas). What I fear is that the Bush administration, which seems to have tailored its military policy in the area around domestic political considerations, will want to have something concrete to show the American people in time for November's mid-terms. This probably won't be possible in Iraq, and so the temptation to short-change the Afghan mission may be overwhelming. And as U.S. troops come out, Canadian troops, as well as troops from the other allied nations, will be left holding the bag and catching the bullets.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Oscar, Straight White Boys, and Straw Shaped Women

With the Oscars coming up tonight, I thought I would take a brief look at a few issues surrounding the big ceremony. Specifically, why doesn't anybody watch it anymore? Why has one of the historically most effective means of promoting the Liberal agenda been mis-firing so badly lately? Everybody in my family used to stay up for the thing. Now, the only reason I'm tuning in is that my wife wants us to spend some "quality time" together. She has promised to watch two episodes of the Trailer Park Boys and the first half of Alien Vs. Predator with me at a later date if I can hang in for a couple of hours, or at least until Reese Witherspoon takes home her best actress award.

Now, I am not one of those who would argue that the Progressivist agenda per se has become a turn off. In fact, I think people yearn to embrace something that takes them beyond themselves and connects them to a vision of the Greater Good. And Liberalism is obviously that thing. I just think that the denizens of Hollywood need to employ a few more carrots with their sticks as they attempt to get "our" message out. Specifically, I think that they ought to at least attempt an appeal to the Straight White Boy (SWB for short)segment of the population. SWBS are the key to the advancement of any political program, any social movement, and yet it seems to me that tonight I will be the only non-gay white male within 200 hundred miles of a televesion broadcasting the Oscar ceremonies. In fact, my neighbor is planning to watch re-runs of Jerry Springer (esp. the one with The Moron and The Truckstop Hoe.) just as to make sure he doesn't accidentally catch even one single moment of coverage.

An opportunity for recruitment and advancement is surely being missed here. But what, concretely speaking, should Oscar be doing to bring the SWB back into the fold?

Well, having watched a bit of the Golden Globes this year, and studied on-line photos from it and some of the other awards shows, one definite issue is the quality of the actresses in the lead and supporting roles. Generally speaking, they are "alright", but certainly not "hot". And the award shows do nothing to flatter them. One thing I've noticed again and again and again is how flat-chested they all seem to be. Two quick examples:

Here, it very much looks as though Hilary Swank has had her breasts bound. Furthermore, take a look at Reese Witherspoon in this shot:

Now, Reese is actually pretty Hot, the very flower of Southern Womandom, as a matter of fact, but in this picture it looks like you could play shuffleboard on her chest. Furthermore, having seen Legally Blonde, I can say for sure that Reese has "got 'em". For example, check out:

Much better, right? I can only hypothesize that the groping hands of Political Correctness have been attempting to mold Reese into Oscar's preferred "tubular" form. You know, something that won't scare 'em too much out in the Heartland.

At this moment, my only hope is that Mariah Carey shows up, and that the camera goes to her

early and often. (It looks from the photo here that she's a "tippler" as well. How hot is that?)

Now I am not (at this point at least) advocating full-frontal nudity on Oscar night. But I am saying that any war needs its elite guard, and in the Cultural Wars, that means Straight White Boys. But if you want your army to fight, you have to feed them.

So feed me, Oscar! Feed me!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Life in the Army: the Childhood of BigCityLib

In which BigCityLib takes a break from smiting Conservatives, and reminisces about the forces that made him what he is today.

My brother and I were army brats.

My dad served in the Canadian Forces from the early Fifties, through when my brother and I were born in the Sixties, up until about 1974 or 1975. When we were growing up we were never faced with the prospect of Dad going off to an actual war, unless you count Cypress, where he served a couple of times as a peacekeeper.

(Actually, you can't count Cypress as an real war. The only injury in my Dad's unit (PPCLI) came when one of his buddies slammed a locker door on his hand and took off the tip of his pinky. Cypress was Greeks vs. Turks, neither side of which has won a war in 500 years, and apparently they liked to knock off any serious fighting before lunchtime. Dad says that if a couple of peacekeepers came up and asked them to stop, for example, digging a trench, they would do it gladly enough, and head home to suck back some Ouzo. Dad says that the only trouble he ever ran into was when one of his officers had to point his rifle at a Turk. The Turk backed down, but the officer then pulled the bolt open to demonstrate that there had been no shell in the chamber, that he had been bluffing. The Turk complained to his own commanding officer, and our guy was sent home by the U.N. for showing disrespect to the locals. Apparently Turks don't mind having a gun pointed at their head, as long as its loaded. It's a manliness thing.

Not that my dad didn't see action, but that was back in Korea. He doesn't ever, ever talk about that, except very occasionally when he is drunk with his old buddies.

Apparently his unit was patrolling up somewhere in the mountains of Korea, and it was late at night, and Dad was on watch. He heard whispering in foreign tongues coming from behind the Canadian line, informed his Lieutenant, and they figured that the North Koreans had snuck around behind and were setting up for an ambush. So they woke up the rest of the guys and got the Canadian line, machine gun and everything, turned around and facing ass backwards.

So when the Chinamen came over the top they got slaughtered. Our boys were using bolt action rifles, so they didn't get sawed into big splatty pieces like you see on tv nowadays. Mostly they just dropped, as though they had tripped on stones.

Dad keeps a little square of paper in a ceramic jar with korean symbols on the lid. It's a cutout from an old army daily, and says that the whole North Korean unit, 29 men, was destroyed. Dad's old PPCLI buddies used to argue about who had shot who, although there was only guy who could 100% for certain connect his rifle to a specific dead Chinese. Anyway, dad always stayed out of those arguments, thinking they were a bit tasteless. Later, he took up hunting, but gave up after a few tries, saying that he always felt sorry for the animals.)

In any case, my brother and I never had to worry too much about dad getting his brains shot out overseas. We did have to worry about having our butts hauled back and forth across the country every six months as Dad got posted here there and everywhere. If I remember correctly, it was Vancouver, to Victoria, to Vancouver, to Edmonton, to Calgary, to Base Borden outside of Stayner Ontario, to Oromocto, New Brunswick, and then back to Victoria, at which point Dad said to hell with this and retired from the service. I was just finishing grade five at the time.

Though Dad was in the forces 25 years, he never recommended it as a career choice for myself or my brother. In fact, it was the kind of thing he said he'd worked all his life so we could avoid doing. Not that I was particularly tempted.

But of course you are the sum of your history, and my beliefs and values have been shaped by having lived in an army family. One thing I have found is that Veterans have lived lives far less trivial than the run of the mill, and it makes them tolerant in all sorts of non-obvious ways. For example, if you've spent a lot of time being shot at,then the issue of whether two guys want to get tutti-fruity together in the privacy of their own home seems like very small potatoes. And though the current war in Iraq has been a strategic and political disaster, the one good thing to come out of it for America will be a crop of men and women who have found at least a little more Wisdom than is usually the case.

BigCityLib, Rockin' the Net.