Monday, May 31, 2010

They Painted It; Then They Ate It

Since Genyornis's extinction date has been traced to 40,000/50,000 years ago the painting probably dates to around that period, which would make in Australia's oldest known example of cave art. Since the beast's numbers declined very quickly after humans arrived in Australia, the most popular explanation for their demise is that they were hunted to death. Here's another picture:

About the same height as an ostrich, but twice as heavy, so about 500 to 700lbs.

Devinder Shory Update

He's the Tory MP for Calgary Northeast, and remember:

Devinder Shory has not been accused of fraud, but of negligence. He allegedly oversaw legal proceedings on five mortgages that, according to the documents, he should have known were being transferred to straw buyers.

New Zealand's Mystery Moose: A Canuck Connection?

So, for reasons that entirely escape me,

A group of North American moose (Alces alces), ten in number, were released in 1910 in New Zealand.

Last official encounter was in 1952, when some poor moose ate a bullet, but there have been alleged contacts ever since, including this one potential ( photographed above) back in March.
So, my Canadian brethren...because us Canucks know Moose like Bo Knows this a very young Canadian Moose gone Kiwi...or just a deer?
Note: most of those in the "young moose" camp point to the "horse like snout". To me (whose actually seen a few moose close up in my time), the big eyeball seems more persuasive evidence.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Oil Spill Sunday an otherwise fine article about the financial troubles of British Petroleum, this statement

BP has being very aggressive about addressing the latest catastrophe, spending as much as US$930-billion, including claims and federal costs, on the spill, according to an estimate from the company in Friday.

...proves to be on the high side by a factor of 1,000.

Meanwhile, if you want to know what the news will be 24 to 48 hours from now re the Great Gulf Oil Spill of 2010, read The Oil Drum (also good for Peak Oil stuff and material on how the energy sector and the environment interact, usually to the detriment of the latter). Seriously, "Top-Kill" failed on Thursday; the lamestream reported that on Saturday, even when BP was already readying LMRP on Friday. Mind you, they're mostly oil industry and engineering types writing and commenting over there, and they do nothing to dispel the stereotype of engineer as arrogant dick.

This guy has also been following events with a sharp eye. And that explosion noted the other day does indeed seem to have been an explosion type thingy rather than dirt kicked up the ROV (BP's submersible) moving around.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Boom! Part II

Video of explosion and possible rupture at BP's oil-spill cleanup site:

From here.

Note: Some specualtion as to whether what we're seeing here is the result of the robot camera backing away and panning up, with the debris falling from the camera itself. Possible, but towards the end of the vid you see the debris moving fairly decisively towards and past the camera lens (a bit like a tv space-ship moving through an asteroid field), which suggests its being propelled from the leak.

PS. The best explanation of why this may not be an explosion/rupture is here. And, oh, by the way, BP's 2nd attempt to plug the well has officially failed.

Oil Spill Update: BOOM?

It appears that British Petroleum's attempt to cap their oil spill has gone seriously lateral.

Their robot camera is looking studiously in another direction at the moment, but at about 9:10 AM the live feed was showing what looked like a cloud of flying stones. From the industry experts at The Oil Drum:

What the hell just happened?

Was watching - monitoring ROV turned camera away and then whoosh -- the chunky debris has me suspecting a sizable rupture in that kinked and perforated section of the riser.

And here's a low res screen shot from somebody's twitter account:

That's just one piece of debris. Watching an hour ago, there was lots more of it.

And here it is, courtesy youtube. Shit starts to happen around the one minute mark:

Update: or were they just trying to knock mud off the ROV (Robot vehicle?)?

Update to update: Nope. Something exploded. Frame by frame here.

Coalition Now? No!

Its time to throw some cold water on talk of an NDP/Liberal Coalition. Lets start with blogger Dan Arnold, expanding on pollster Frank Graves' claim that an NDP/LPoC merger would not be "perfectly efficient"--that is, not all NDP or LPoC supporters would migrate over to the new political entity:

I'd say "not perfectly efficient" is a gross understatement. When the Alliance and PCs merged, they managed to keep a whopping two-thirds of their 2000 vote (from 44.3% combined in 2000 to 29.6% in 2004)...this, despite being given the gift of Adscam. And remember, that was a reunion - this ain't. By Graves' own numbers, just 37% of Liberal voters list the NDP as their second choice, while 35% of NDP voters list the Liberals as their second choice.

Let's run a quick experiment on the 2008 vote totals. Let's say 80% of the Liberal vote decides to vote for the new Liberal Democrats and their catchy Red and Orange colour scheme, 10% votes Conservative, and 10% stay home and watch American Idol. For NDP voters, I doubt the transfer would be quite as fluid - after all, the new party would be led by a Liberal and if NDP voters really cared about stopping Harper or being in power, they'd just vote Liberal in the first place. So, maybe half of them go along with the deal, a quarter vote green, and a quarter stay home. In terms of popular vote, that would actually work out to a 73% vote transfer to the new party...above the Alliance-PC merger rate.

Another point: negotiating a merger would be a long, fraught process. A race for the new party's leadership would be required, and a convention, and etc. etc. Lots of money, lots of of time, and no reason for Harper not to drop the writ at an inconvenient moment. If you worry about preventing a CPoC majority more than you worry about the fact that after a mere four years on the outside, some Liberals are jonesing uncontrollably for a return to power, then this is a mess to be avoided. Remember, the Reform/Progressive Conservatives occurred in the shadow of a majority government; they had plenty of time to get their act together. Our new entity would not have this luxury.

Crafting an NDP/LPoC working arrangement should our next election give these parties the largest block of seats in the HOC would be something I could get behind. But why worry about it now? People talk about the recent partnering between the U.K.'s Cameron and Clegg; remember, however--this did not become a viable option until several weeks into that particular election campaign. None of the major U.K. parties were willing to assume and prepare for their own defeat in advance.

Finally, lets assume (and its a pretty good assumption given the current state of the polls) that our next parliament looks pretty much like this one. That is, a Tory minority, probably with a few less seats than they currently hold. What happens then?

Well, most likely Stephen Harper retires. Jack Layton too; he's been NDP head for a long time, and the party's support with him in that position has most likely peaked. He has also been fighting cancer. Most intriguingly, there have been rumors that, should Elizabeth May not win a seat in the House (and she won't, given that her opponent is Garry Lunn), she will step down as Green Party Leader. That leaves Michael Ignatieff as the last person standing (assuming Liberals don't panic and dump him, or he doesn't quit and retreat into academe) and the other parties in some turmoil. Green voters would be especially ripe for plucking because, lets face it, after Lizzy May they're back to a gang of aging hippies raising money by selling dream-catchers and holding salmon bakes.

In short, for the Liberal Party of Canada, patience may bring opportunity. Panic inevitably precedes a rout.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Top-Kill" Has Failed

BP is moving along to "Junkshots" and other more desperate measures. They're saying this at The Oil Drum, and NYT has picked it up here. If its true, and junkshot fails (very likely at this point) then every couple of days = one Exxon Valdez, for the next 90 days, until they drill a relief well, if they get the relief well right the first time.

They're talking about deliberately torching the Louisiana Coastline to burn off oil that's washed ashore. Can't find the link right now, but they are.

Planning to go South this year? B.C. is a nice alternative.

And The Heads Exploded Far And Wide

Richard Warman has launched his own website to, as he puts it, "counter some of the nonsense out there". Suck on that.

Wise Words From Bourque

Especially the last bit:

Two months ago, the Tory government told Canadians that security costs for the two summits would be less than $200-million. In just eight weeks, those projections have nearly quintupled. The Harper government should be shame faced over either the sudden escalation of costs or their initial less-than-forthcoming estimates. And they might want to think twice before criticizing cost overruns by the previous Liberal government, such as the $1-billion gun registry.

Blogs & Twitters & The MSM

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, like the Nieman Journalism Lab, is engaged in a number of very cool projects trying to understand the various interactions between new and old media. Their latest research attempts to ascertain:

What types of news stories do consumers share and discuss the most? What issues do they have less interest in? What is the interplay of the various new media platforms? And how do their agendas compare with that of the mainstream press?

On the question of Interplay, the news is rather bad for bloggers out there hoping to crash the news cycle: media tend to home in on stories that get much less attention in the mainstream press. And there is little evidence, at least at this point, of the traditional press then picking up on those stories in response. Across the entire year studied, just one particular story or event – the controversy over emails relating to global research that came to be known as “Climate-gate” – became a major item in the blogosphere and then, a week later, gaining more traction in traditional media.

Well, the article only considers one mechanism by which a blog story might get "picked up" in the MSM: there is a frenzy of activity over an issue in the blogosphere--a "blog burst", to use the lingo; MSM reporters look around and see a bunch of outraged or faux outraged bloggers all writing on the same topic, and they think: "Hmm! If it interests them, it must be interesting to a broader population!"

I think more often, though, a story might appear on a single blog, or a small group of blogs, and then be seized upon by an MSM outlet not for its raw prominence, but because whatever reporter stumbled over the piece thought it had intrinsic news interest. Since the resultant MSM piece would not typically acknowledge the earlier one or two blog postings, a connection between the two realms would not be noticed by the Pew Research project's methodology.

Like this story, perhaps.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ancient Kalamari

Nectocaris pteryx, one of Stephen Jay Gould's "weird wonders" from the Burgess Shale may have found a home in the Family Tree O' Life:

Long thought perhaps a shrimp ancestor, a newly-found fossil reveals the creature was instead an ancestral cephalopod, albeit with two-tentacles instead of eight seen in modern octopi. The find, "extends the cephalopods' fossil record by over 30 million years, and indicates that primitive cephalopods lacked a mineralized shell, were hyperbenthic (seabed-dwelling), and were presumably carnivorous," says the study.

The giveaway? A funnel under its eyes, used to jet around like modern cephalopods.

Note that, with only two tentacles, Nectocaris would not have been a favorite of Pre-Cambrian Sushi joints.

PS: more info and a few more pictures here.

McCoy Spots A Squish

Two, Actually: recent Harper Senate Appointees Nancy Greene Rain (I think that's how she's concatenated her name) and Don Plett, musing about how an elected Senate might not be such a good thing, with Mr. Plett throwing in an additional aside suggesting he's against Senate term-limits.

This last bit is, of course, absolute heresy. Plett is a Harper appointee, and as Stockwell Day wrote back in September:

To deal with the problem of it being a life-long position the Prime Minister takes an innovative approach. Whomever the Prime Minister appoints must vow to step down after 8 years, no exceptions, no excuses. So each person he recently appointed, along with the ones he appointed earlier, will be done in 8 years.

But Plett isn't the only dissident among Harper Senate appointments. Senator Jacques Demers has not only said that he will ignore any vow to step down after eight years (presumably he and Plett had their fingers crossed when Harper made them swear), he's unwilling to vote for portions of the Tory's "tough on crime" agenda. Claude Nolin has signalled that he will back private Member's bill C-232.

Which is actually fine by me. As HOC politics becomes increasingly tawdry, perhaps the Senate really is ascending towards its intended role as home of the sober 2nd thought.

PS. And another interesting post from my favorite Senator (because she said something nice to me once at a BBQ and I pledged myself to her for all infinity) suggesting that the public appetite for retooling the upper house is greatly exaggerated.

The Armageddon Factor: Dennis Gruending Weighs In

Probably the best response to the charge that Marci MacDonald is "demonizing" Christians:

One might ask, and some of McDonald’s critics have, what is wrong in having a group of people motivated by conservative religious principles engaging in public life? The answer is that there is nothing wrong with it, but it is also completely legitimate for a journalist to cover that phenomenon, as McDonald has done. If religious faith were simply a matter of personal piety or private devotion, it would demand far less scrutiny. But faith is inherently social, and, yes, political. Ultimately, the question to be answered is where these people want to move our nation. I believe that they want a leaner and meaner state where individuals and religiously based organizations take back much of the responsibility for education, adoptions, social welfare and many other services, and do it on their own terms. On these and other policies, whether it is their response to global warming, to crime, or to our government’s policy toward Israel, the religious right can be judged both on what it says and what it does.

Dennis Gruending is, of course, this guy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


CIDA's Advice

As the Globe piece notes, CIDA's advice was to fund safe abortion services in countries where abortion was legal. That should put paid to the nonsense folks like Father Raymond J. de Souza have been spouting:

In many African countries, for example, for Canada to fund abortions would be breaking the local laws. To flout local laws and undermine local customs was once called paternalism. It’s an odd turn for Canada’s abortion extremists to be paternalistic, but such is the strangeness of this controversy.

Of all the ideas floating around re the various policies for a suitable G-8 Maternal Health Initiative, absolutely none involves forcing a country where abortion is currently illegal to provide abortions. And, you know, I read people like Andrew Coyne grousing about how we can't even have a debate in Canada these days over the issue. Well, there's been one on-going for the last couple of months, and if you want to know why the pro-life side has basically got its ass kicked (see here for how polls on the topic have changed), you can point to folks like Mr. De Souza and the kind of ridiculous arguments they've been making. I mean seriously. The guy's a priest; he's not allowed to bullshit, whether its in Jesus' name or otherwise.

Your Daily Nazi: Marc Morano Finds New Allies!

It's the gang from Stormfront, helpfully pointing out which of the climate scientists behind the "great global warming hoax" are Jews. (If you click through, please remember that it is a Neo-Nazi hate site)

Meanwhile, Marc still hasn't renounced the use of violence.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tories On Facebook

The latest in a long series of Tory on-line political correction mechanisms has finally been reported upon in the MSM here:

Under the pilot program the Harper government paid a media company $75,000 to monitor and respond to online postings about the east coast seal hunt.

And I reported upon it on May 12th here. My post includes links to the gov.'s original RFP, so you can see all the details of the dirty deal that were not reported upon in the MSM.

Another Group Of 7 Painting So, Yeah, That Means MORE Trees And Rocks

Apparently, Landscape with snow was once considered bogus. But no, it wasn't a case where the artist tried to palm-off multiple pictures of the same damn tree.

And note how this painting runs the whole gamut of Group of 7 concerns, featuring rocks, a tree, AND snow. Artist Tom Thomson must have really been stoked, as he went ahead with it even after running out of red and green pigment, which he probably blew on this painting.

Heffel Fine Art Auction House is hoping that Landscape fetches +$1,000,000 at auction, but I think the lack of reds and greens will mean they get docked a few bucks.

Missiles Over Manitoba?


...looks very much like this:

When the rocket motor spun out of control, it likely created the heavenly spiral of white light near where the missile was launched from a submarine in the White Sea.

The bow-shaped path taken by the object looks to me like an object re-entering at a too shallow angle and deflecting off the atmosphere back towards space.

Such things can happen.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

More On Dr. Arthur Robinson

...GOP candidate for Republican Congressional Nomination in Oregon District 4. Some of the stuff I've covered here (and thanks for the link LGF), but some new stuff as well.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Speaks Volumes

The Curious Mr. Robinson

In the last day or so, there has been much ink spilled in the U.S. media over one Rand Paul. Son of Ron Paul, Rand is now GOP candidate for the state of Kentucky's open Senate seat in the upcoming mid-term elections, having ousted the "establishment" candidate in this week's Republican Primaries. On the very heels of his victory, however, Mr. Paul suddenly found himself on the wrong end of some tough questions about whether private businesses should be allowed to discriminate against blacks.

Hey presto, he went from a rising star within the "tea party" movement, and therefore within the GOP, to a ball & chain in less than 48 hours.

Now, presumably, the MSM will go looking for other unexploded bombs in the GOP's "tea party" insurgency.

Which brings us to Arthur Robinson, winner of the Republican Congressional Nomination in Oregon District 4. Arthur Robinson is a climate change skeptic. In fact, he is one of the people behind The Oregon Petition , a petition opposing the Kyoto Protocol and similar efforts to mitigate climate change. I've written about Mr. Robinson, his petition, and the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, which Mr. Robinson founded back in 1980, here.

As part of his work at the Institute, Mr. Robinson has, since 1993, served as editor of the Access To Energy newsletter. Happily, the institute has archived this publication back to 1973. Lets troll through some of the back issues, and see what we find, shall we?

Given the recent BP spill off Louisiana, I thought it would be interesting to learn Mr. Robinson's views on off-shore drilling. These were not hard to discover:

As for oil spills in the open and deep ocean, they amount to far less than natural seeps and river runoff, and any unbiased oceanographer will confirm that they are a boon to marine life, inflicting damage mainly on the oil and shipping companies. For crude oil is a natural, organic, biodegradable product of the earth's ancient plant and animal life, and it is this type of hydrocarbon that marine life in the open and deep ocean is starved for.

In fact, in the same edition of the newsletter Mr. Robinson argues that the "mostly barren" oceans are just crying out for any kind of human waste, nuclear waste included. He gives this article the jaunty title: OCEAN DUMPING? YES!

There are several pieces in older versions of the newsletter decrying "reprehensible" attacks on Aids=HIV Denialist Peter Duesberg . In fact, Robinson has sponsored a Duesberg lecture through the DDP (Doctors for Disaster Preparedness), a group affiliated with the Oregon Institute. These articles tend to suggest that Mr. Robinson himself thinks aids is caused by homosexuality itself rather than the HIV virus. Here's a brief note of his regarding "The Longevity of Homosexuals Before and After the AIDS Epidemic":

Cameron, et al report research results showing that the median age at death for homosexual men dying of AIDS is 39 years and that for homosexual men who do not die of AIDS is 42. By comparison, the value for heterosexual married men is 75. This is evidence in support of the hypothesis that AIDS may be little more than a general classification of deaths resulting from exposure to homosexual behavior.

And the aids denialism gets a bit more explicit here, in which Robinson discusses the AIDS epidemic's role in government attempts at "social engineering".

In addition to editing Access To Energy, Robinson is an energetic promoter of home-schooling, and has written extensively on the topic here. Some of his ideas are quite unique. For example, he prefers home-schoolers be taught geography , history, and government largely from books which were written in the 1950's and earlier, before it became popular to teach overt racism under the rubric of "multiculturalism."

This is just a sample from Mr. Robinson's extensive writings on the Oregon Institute website and elsewhere. I've barely touched on his AGW skepticism, or the many, many articles he's written on Hormesis (which is the the idea that a little bit of radiation is actually good for you).

Hopefully, though, it is enough to give a taste of the man's philosophy

On Controlling The Discourse

Over at my Christian right article in The Mark, Christine suggests that the failure to pass anti-abortion legislation does not necessarily constitute a defeat for Canadian SoCons:

Voice-giving is a powerful thing, and the Christian right have it. I have to disagree with you that having private member bills put together and lost somehow reduces the power of social conversavitism and religion in Canadian society. Whether a bill passes or not, that kind of attention and positioning in authoritative dialogue is meaningful to cultural identity and impacts individuals relate to one another, change or confirm their values and make sense of the world around them. The passage of a bill as some concrete victory or loss is only part an event around which ways of thinking are suggested, questioned or naturalized in our society.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Grassroots Guergis?

The federal Conservatives were polling vigorously a couple of weeks ago over Guergis and various scenarios, including what would happen if she ran as an “independent conservative.”

One Conservative said her grassroots support had dried up as innumerable candidates wanted her job.

But that may have all changed this week as Simcoe — Grey members of the executive were rumoured to be resigning in significant numbers over the federal actions.

Just rumours, but we'll have to watch where this goes. Why not run as an IndyCon? Its not like she owes the CPoC anything.

Keith Martin Strikes Again

In his new post on our government's alleged G8 Maternal Health initiative, Mr. Martin makes one very salient but under-appreciated point:

Time is running out for mothers and children in the developing world. Less than six weeks remain before the G8 Summit begins in Ontario, and the Canadian government has yet to articulate any plan to reduce maternal and childhood mortality and morbidity, a key objective for the summit announced by Prime Minister Harper a few months ago.

We're getting close, in other words, and despite all the debate Harper's plan-to-have-a plan has generated, it remains in fact a nothing-burger. And it isn't out of the question that what will be eventually revealed to the G-8 will be so minimal as to extend little beyond the initial press release. I wouldn't be at all surprised if that wasn't the final result: a press conference and we're outta there and the whole episode is forgotten.

Martin is less cynical. He goes on to to outline a plan, which I too have been talking up (because it seems similar to what the government might have in mind), in which

Harper [would] propose a "framework" for action on Maternal Health, with this framework being divided into discreet little pots (as it were) named names like "training health care workers", "contraception" "safe abortions", "micro nutrients", and so forth. G-8 countries will be invited to drop money into one or more of these pots, with Canada assiduously avoiding the one marked "abortions".

Its interesting to note that, under Martin's hypothetical plan, its France (inventors of the "french safe") that get stuck with funding abortion.

Anyway, the third link is to last week's Christian Right piece as it appears in The Mark, where the publication's added credibility makes it seem twice as true.

Tories On Dope

Most of the Harper gov's tough on crime agenda is so trivial that it's difficult to oppose. Whatever you might think of the legal principles at stake, who really cares if Clifford Robert Oslen loses his pension? As long a nobody is under the impression that any psychopaths out there are going to stop eating nuns because they might lose their CP benefits, why not let such legislation pass? The number of people it would effect is in the low dozens. It just isn't worth a fight.

Or at least, as I understand it, that has been the logic of the LPoC (Liberal Party of Canada) brain trust for the past year or so.

Bill S-10--previously known as C-15--is different, however: mandatory jail-time for small scale drug offenses like growing a half dozen marijuana plants is not only bad law, its ambitious enough to do real harm to society. Just from a regional perspective, such a law would entirely denude British Columbia's Salt Spring and other Gulf Islands of their colonies of retired hippies.

So it is encouraging to see the Liberal Party reconsidering their support for the reincarnation of C-15 that has now been introduced in the Senate, even if its the bill's cost rather than its inherent stupidity that's driving the rethink.

As for the Conservatives, at the party level this, like much of their anti-crime legislation, is driven by pure cynicism: the need to shovel boob-bait to the bubbas in their political base. The grass-roots support, though, is a little harder to explain. It isn't as though there aren't a ton of potheads among Tory supporters. In fact, back in the day, its the young conservatives that would buy absolutely any bag full of dirt you wanted to sell them. You could cut the hashish with vaseline twice and they'd still come back for more; you could string them along for weeks by telling them that yes it was supposed to smell like Oregano, that the two plants were actually related in the biological sense.

But then they'd get high and do a little reading and the weed would serve as a gateway drug to Ayn Rand. I found I couldn't live with myself when that happened.

In any case, I am firmly in the "legalize and tax it" camp when it comes to fighting the drug wars. But if the Harper government really wanted to get tough without getting crazy, they could look at some of the changes made to C-15 when it reached the upper house first time around. Surely between 6 and 200 plants (the Senate figure) there is a number that would make life more difficult on dealers but wouldn't send Grandma Wiccan from Hornby Island to prison.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Another Pro-Accountability MP,

that journalists seem to have missed, is NDP MP for Burnaby-New Westminster Peter Julian, who has stated that:

...given the level of public skepticism.... the auditor-general should be invited to perform the proposed audit.

"I think this is one time when the public would probably agree with duplication and a secondary audit just to confirm how rigorous the financial accounting is with the House of Commons," he said.

Meanwhile, Iggy edges--clumsily--towards doing the right thing. If its any help, Iggy, The Onion Ring would want you too.

A Flowering Of Democracy?

Interesting, this: a Progressive Conservative Senator, in a Conservative plurality Senate, gets a bit shirty with a Conservative Government:

“Opposition MPs voting together can stop this abuse [ie omnibus budget Bill C-9],” Mr. Murray said. “Non-government supporters in the Senate should be able to round up enough votes to do so if the opposition parties in the Commons, again, fail in their duty.”

And this: Bill C-232, an NDP-sponsored private Members bill, makes it through the HOC and to the Senate where several Conservative Senators seem ready to break ranks and allow the measure to pass. So does Bill C-311, although far too late to do any good, and I suspect that one will die in the upper house, but whatever...

And this: MPs from both the Grits and NDP break with their party's over the auditing of MP expenses.

And this: Stephen Harper is unable to stop Rob Bruinooge from introducing a go-nowhere non-abortion abortion private members Bill that will nevertheless be debated and which the Tory leadership has promised to flee as though running from a skunk.

Is something changing in Ottawa? Are we finally, through some combination of exhaustion in the PMO and the Tory's slow slide in the polls, getting the kind of minority government we should have got four years ago?

Yea for Democracy?

African Canadian Legal Clinic Asks To Intervene In Warman V. Lemire

The African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC) has applied for intervenor status in the judicial review of Warman v. Lemire. The full text of their written representations are here. Not too many surprises: they want to keep S.13, as it is "an invaluable and necessary tool in the legal system's anti-Black hate toolkit", albeit with "substantive and procedural modifications". It sounds like they want to remove S.54.1,the penalty provision, but also add a few clauses here and there:
Paragraph 44 in particular is sure to make a Speechy scream.

It is interesting, too, to read the ACLC's account of their need to make a case apart from the CHRC:

Finally, the representation refers a number of times to an affidavit by ACLC head Margaret Parsons. That can be found here.
Update: White supremacist Mark Lemire calls the ACLC "grievance hustlers".

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Conservatives Employ Psychic Chick!

Remember Michelle Muntean? Stephen Harper's psychic primper? Turns out she's off the public payroll and getting her cheques straight from the CPoC. Holy Fuck! Maybe its not Iggy dragging the party down; maybe they put a spell on us!

Bill C-232: The Pro Side

A very interesting read from Lawyer's Weekly re Bill C-232, which provides that in the future, judges of the Supreme Court of Canada must understand English and French without the assistance of an interpreter. My favorite bit is on the accuracy of translations:

So let’s have a closer look at the accuracy of the interpretation at Supreme Court hearings. I argued a case last month in the Supreme Court. When I said, in French, “The Gosset case affirmed the principle of full compensation of the injury”, the interpreter translated “Gosset says that there has to be comprehensive damage”. When I wanted to contrast the civil law and the common law, which adopt different positions on the compensation of grief, I said, in French, that “at common law grief is not compensable”. The interpreter omitted to translate “at common law”, making it sound as if the statement related to the civil law, thus inserting a contradiction in the English version of my argument. Other examples of errors are the translation of “droit commun” (which means general law) by “common law” (a totally different concept), saying that one’s rights were not breached without specifying that I was talking about “Charter rights”, which makes my argument incomprehensible, or saying that the second paragraph of article 1610 of the Civil Code was not applicable when I said that it was.

Overall, the interpretation was good, but inconsistencies, incomplete statements and, indeed, errors such as these necessarily affect the force and the logic of the oral arguments presented. A legal argument is like a chain: if one piece breaks, the whole thing falls apart. Legal language is highly technical and cannot suffer from imprecision.

Yet, I was lucky, as all the members of my seven-judge bench understood French and did not rely on the interpretation provided. Michel Doucet, who argued Charlebois v. St. John (City) in 2005 before a full bench that included Justice Major, was not so lucky. He was shocked when he listened to the English version of his argument on CPAC. The interpreter distorted the meaning of several sentences, omitted a reference to a section of the Charter, and totally omitted to translate a sentence.

Lawyers who appear before the Supreme Court finely hone their arguments and rehearse several times. Each sentence is carefully crafted, especially as time is short. It is not too much to ask that judges understand all the subtlety and the nuance of what is being said, in the language in which it is said.

By the way, if C-232 is considered "well-intentioned", and most people seem to feel that it is, why not ask to Senate to slap a delayed implementation date on it--say 8 years down the road (undergrad degree plus 4 years law school)--so that the current crop of unilinguals get a chance to serve but the next generation of lawyers with SC ambitions can train up to the level required?

Love That Culture War

Its put a spring in Iggy's step, and an edge to his speechifying.

Monday, May 17, 2010

American Teabaggers Running Out Of The Tea Of Fury?

RealClearPolitics maintains a poll of polls for such things as the POTUS' approval ratings, Congressional job approval and, above, the Generic Congressional Vote. Bottom-line: for the first time in 2010 the Dems are ahead. Albeit slightly, and albeit generic congressional polls tend to underestimate (it is said) GOP support. But a far better result than Republicans up 3.2%, which was the story a month ago. I'd guess on this basis that the GOP makes gains in both houses this November, but manages to capture control of neither.

On Alfred Apps

Several Liberal bloggers have been bashing Liberal Party Prez Alfred Apps for expressing sympathy towards Helena Guergis after weeks of the party's calling for her resignation. So, lets do a poll, shall we:

I've sort of been swinging back and forth between the two alternatives, my logic for answer number 2 being that consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, and voters are too uninterested to work through all the flip-floppery necessary to spot the hypocrisy.

I would point out that NDP MP Pat Martin has also managed to turn on a dime on this issue and is now protesting the poor lady's maltreatment. So there is much hypocrisy to go around.

May It Go On Forever

OTTAWA — Canadians do not yet know everything there is to know about the actions of former Conservative cabinet minister Helena Guergis and her husband Rahim Jaffer, says a Conservative MP.

“I can assure you that there is far more to come out,” Shelly Glover, parliamentary secretary for official languages told CTV’s Question Period Sunday. “This isn’t finished.”

And may the "A-word" be uttered daily on the floor of the HOC. Because why? Because this.

PS. I'd laugh nervously if I'd said something this ridiculous too. Harper did not act quickly over the serial screw-ups of Ms. Guergis. He tried to pull a Chretien--that is, hang on to his errant minister until a quiet moment when the press wasn't looking, and dump her then. But I've seen Jean Chretien on TV and, Mr. Harper, you are no Jean Chretien.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Alberta Doesn't Need Affirmative Action To Get Judges On Supreme Court

This gal says they've plenty of bilingual judges. Plenty! So enough belly-aching. Any law students out West with Supreme Court ambitions: take extra French classes and lay off the keg parties.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

In Which We All Sing Kumbaya

Be us left, be us right, be us far right, be us Andrew Lawton, we can surely all get behind the notion that Canadian MP expenses should be made public. Here's a Facebook site where we can all meet up and bitch, and maybe think of some ways by which to force the issue on a recalcitrant HOC, for the Auditor-General seems to need a little populist muscle behind her.
PS. Why is it that for the second time in one week, its the separatists showing the way? And, on a related issue, why don't they make hot chicks like Mitsou in The ROC anymore?
And PPS. If the reason our MPs don't want their expenses audited is because they don't want folks to know how often they're getting sued by ex-employees, well, that isn't a good reason.

Pablo Rodriguez: I Was Unable To Blow To The Officer's Satisfaction

Cue the cheap gags now. Luckily, the universe remains in balance. And Pablo (left) has far better hair. Far better. Really extraordinary hair.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Do Surface Stations Located Near Airports Give Corrupt Temperature Readings?

AGW Denialists like Anthony Watts are always complaining about how the Urban Heat Island Effect screws up measurements from weather stations located near airports by injecting non-climatic sources of warming into their temperature records. For example here. Now the lads from Clear Climate Code, who have been attempting to reproduce software used by climate scientists in a more user-friendly programming language, have found a means of comparing airport to non-airport sites so as to see whether or not the concerns of people like Mr. Watts are justified. Their answer?

Money For Missionaries

A couple of days ago I asked who Gilles Duceppe might referring to when he accused the Tories of giving money to a group of bible translators . Well, the good Dr. Dawg did some sniffing around and came up with the following:

Wycliffe Bible Translators slurped up a hefty $495,600 of your money and mine.

And CC has found the paperwork:And, put succinctly, Wycliffe Bible Translators are missionaries--I mean, they refer to themselves as missionaries in one or two places on their website. They're translating bibles to bring more people into the church. Here's Barbara Trudell, one of their translators, discussing how, in the African context, beginning a child's education in their mother tongue produces more readers of The Gospel (bolding is mine):

Learners who begin in their mother language have better cognitive development and are likely able to handle demanding subject matter. Trudell says their whole approach to education is with an eye cast toward the Gospel.

Once the translations are completed and available, churches can move forward in discipleship, while keeping the community's identity intact, much more quickly. "If the education system can produce readers of the Scripture," says Trudell, "that's a real boost for us in Bible translation because we have an automatic, ready-made audience."

Their financial statements are also pretty impressive. These guys are hardly hurting for cash.

Update: R.G. Harvie chimes in.

Dean Del Maestro Ready To Re-Open Abortion Debate

"Maybe the first step is to determine when this place believes that life begins," he said. "I'm prepared to put my case forward. ... I'm prepared to have that conversation. Is the other side?"

Come get some, fatboy.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tory MP James Moore Found This At His Desk Tuesday Morning marijuana activists stormed his constituency office , protesting the extradition of "Prince Of Pot" Marc Emery. I think her name is "Nicole". If so, I am mildly attracted. If, on the other hand, it is Marc Emery himself, then he may have trouble in prison.


On The Christian Right In Canada

Firstly, I should say that I haven't yet read Marci McDonald's The Armageddon Factor, but I have read the original Walrus article upon which it is based, and I've followed many of smartest writers on the intersection of Pulpit and Politics that Canada possesses. Furthermore, over the course of the years I myself have written frequently and extensively on many of the same people that appear in the pages of Ms. McDonald's book.

So, that said, when it comes to her main contention: that the Christian Right is "on the rise" in Canada, I have to conclude with Mr. Brian Lilley. It isn't, really:

While McDonald details the organizations that these two and others work with, she really fails to make the case that they are having an impact on government policy. There is an attempt to link the Universal Child Care Benefit which pays parents $100 per month for each child under six to the religious right by showing that social conservatives supported it. That's hardly a stellar case. She also attempts to show failures such as the Unborn Victims of Crime bill and an attempt to restrict government funding to some films, as victories for these socially conservative Christians.

Yet ask social conservatives what they have been given by this government and they are hard pressed to think of much since the cancellation of the court challenges program in 2006. Even the G8 maternal health initiative, controversial with some for not including abortion has not changed overall government policy, a point made clear by Margaret Biggs when the deputy minister at the Canadian International Development Agency testified before a Commons committee recently.

Yes, Charles McVety gets an inordinate amount of face-time with the current Prime Minister; and yes it is infuriating that whether or not the Toronto Pride celebration gets federal funding depends on bible-waving hill-folk like Saskatoon—Humboldt MP Bradley Trost. But Mr. Lilley is correct in noting that the quality of the Christian Right's "victories" has been very poor, consisting largely of private members' bills that failed or were never voted upon, and tiny sums shaved here and there from organizations that will survive the cuts, and whose funding can be restored at the stroke of a pen when Harper and his gang are finally sent packing.

Let's walk through a concrete example: take the Maternal Health initiative that the Conservative government intends to unveil at June's G-8 summit, and particularly the kerfuffle over their refusal to fund abortion in that initiative.

How big a victory is this for the Christian Right?

Well, as I've explained previously, the Canadian position on the face of it is simply not acceptable to our G-8 allies. Secretary of State Clinton's intervention back in March made that abundantly clear. But there is room for compromise, and the compromise that seems very likely to emerge in June is as follows: Harper will propose a "framework" for action on Maternal Health, with this framework being divided into discreet little pots (as it were) named names like "training health care workers", "contraception" "safe abortions", "micro nutrients", and so forth. G-8 countries will be invited to drop money into one or more of these pots, with Canada assiduously avoiding the one marked "abortions".

But here's the point: abortion will still get funded--it will still be one of items contained within the framework. In fact, you could probably argue that Canada will still fund it, at least indirectly, as who can say where a dollar originally placed within pot labelled "micro-nutrients" will finally wind up? The "victory" here is merely the construction of an elaborate artifice to cover over these two facts, to make the government's capitulation to the G-8 majority a little less obvious to its supporters within the Christian Right , or at least easier for them to swallow.

And that's the kind of victory you get in lieu of something more substantial that your "Christian Friendly" government is politically unable to give you. It is surely not a sign of increasing influence; if anything, it is a sign of the sharp constraints placed upon this government's ability to please its TheoCon supporters.

So I'm afraid I am not as worried as Ms. McDonald.

BCL On Coren Show

Can be seen here. Once again, Coren's makeup gal added an extra chin. Dan Arnold is impressively thin.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

And Your Tweets Shall Be Covered In The Blood Of Baby Seals

Noted by a reader, and found at the Merx: Canadian Public Tenders, which offers to hook up companies looking to do business with the Federal Government, with the Federal Government. It looks like the Harper Tories wanted to launch a pro-seal hunt Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter campaign ($50,001 - $100,000's worth) this year.

Social Media and Online Issues Management for the Seal Hunt

Organized opposition to the seal hunt has been increasing internationally since the Government of Canada announced a five-year management plan in 2006.

Well-organized anti-sealing groups are using digital communications to great advantage – effective use of search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, and leveraging Web 2.0 technologies and platforms to build communities of interest have dramatically increased their share of conversation and digital footprint. Tactics also include posting videos, images and other details (frequently incorrect or disingenuous) on platforms like YouTube and Flickr where sharing and viewership are maximized.

As a result, DFAIT would like to engage a firm to help meet described objectives attached herein.

DFAIT is Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.

Since the RFP was closed in January 2010, and the seal hunt--or what passed for a hunt this year--ended in April, it would be interesting to scroll through YouTube et al and try and figure out what vids and etc. were part of the government's astroturf campaign.

Duceppe In Flames

"Will it really help women to send preachers … to Africa or to have the Bible translated. What a huge help and so essential."


"How can the government explain that it is spending up to $800,000 on religious groups or sects - because that is what they are - while cutting funding for organizations that are helping women battle poverty on the ground?"

Any idea what particular group/s he's talking about? (the ones translating bibles, I mean)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Clash Of The Titans!

Did another bloggers panel on the Coren Show today. It will be on tonight at 6:00 PM and then again tomorrow at 12:30 PM. Today I was paired with the Calgary Grit--Dangerous Dan Arnold--and pitted against designated wing-nut Andrew Lawton and Derek Fildebrandt of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Michael Coren was, of course, our most cordial host.

Our conversation ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, with Dan and I responsible for most of the sublime bits, and Andrew almost single-handedly covering the ridiculous end of things.

I won't get a chance to see it tonight, as I'm off to see this guy. I felt pretty relaxed during the taping but don't know if that was a plus or not.

Less Gay Than Pride Parade?

While the Toronto Pride Parade has lost funding, Lethbridge's Whoop-Up Days has been green lighted to receive federal monies this year. Thus fuelling accusations of homophobia on the part of the Harper Tories. But how non-gay, really, is Whoop-Up Days? Here's a few images from Whoop-Ups past that I at least find very...suggestive. Handsome young men. Nice facial hair. And the two on the right seem quite affectionate. Raises questions, definitely.

Also, men in skirts:

And there's cowboys involved. And when there's cowboys involved, well...

And, holy fuck: Shriners! They've got Shriners.

They had tons of Shriners in Sodom and Gomorrah!

So I'm doubting whether the Tories are against the Pride March as such: it seems to me they just want to relocate it to Alberta.

Tory Senator Breaking Ranks On C-232

From the belly of Don Martin's anti Bill C-232 rant:

While the Conservatives may order their stable of senators to line up against the bill, they still might not have the numbers to scuttle it.

One of their own, Quebec Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, says he endorses the legislation and some of the Independents are waffling. Alberta Independent Elaine McCoy, thankfully, came out swinging against it.

And this piece from Lawyer's Weekly suggests that:

Other Conservative caucus members, particularly francophones who sympathize with the bill’s aim, could also abstain from what the government says is a free vote.

A close vote, then.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Toronto Sun Building Sold

This has been talked about for ages now, but finally details have emerged. First Gulf is these guys. The Sun staff has all been jammed onto a single floor, but one bit of good news is that they've finally been granted access to an extra set of bathrooms. Wait times have been significantly reduced. As for the "retail uses", I'm told these will include a paint ball emporium and a Halal butcher.

RCMP Won't Investigate BMO Mortgage Fraud

...because, apparently, its hard to prove a case based on a humungous pile of documents . Also, the idea that "For every bad borrower, there's a bad lender" seems to be operative:

But former RCMP officer and Toronto-based corporate crime consultant Chris] Mathers questioned whether public money should be spent to investigate an alleged fraud that he said the bank should have avoided by properly vetting mortgage applications. He blamed the banks for creating a climate in which mortgage fraud thrives.

"The banks are fighting tooth and nail with each other to get this kind of mortgage business," he said. "They are cutting corners and so because they cut corners, they become victims of fraud."

So Tory MP Devinder Shory dodges one bullet. There are still questions he needs to answer, however.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

More Problems For Devinder Shory

I haven't seen this statement

The problem for Shory is that it has now been revealed that he did in fact get served a Statement of Claim back in the summer of 2008, before he became and MP.

Senior Conservatives in Calgary are said to be upset because they did not know this at the time and it looks like he did not come clean and tell them during the vetting process.

...confirmed, but BMO has stated pretty clearly that Devinder Shory did know that he was named in the lawsuit back in September 2008. And that's how you would learn of such a thing, isn't it? being served with a statement of claim? But if so, that would make this statement...

...which is gone from his website but still on his facebook page...well, it would make it untrue.

Its worth noting that Shory's 2008 nomination run for the Calgary Northeast was quite bitterly contested, with accusations of impropriety on all sides. If word of the BMO suit had got out at the time, who knows what might have happened?

PS. It occurs to me that Shory's statement above is untrue whether or not he was served, as long as he learned of the suit last year and not through "media stories", which BMO indicates he did.

Rob Anders: How He Won

Well, the anti-Rob Anders rebellion has collapsed. His supporters have regained control of te Calgary West riding association executive:

Hundreds of voters packed the Bowness Sportsplex Saturday to choose a new executive, just three months after most elected members of the riding association, many of whom wanted to see Anders challenged for his candidacy in the next federal election, resigned after having many of their powers stripped.


After 450 votes were cast, 28 members of Anders’ slate were elected to the board versus only two members of those hoping for new representation.

The story refers to a flyer distributed by the Anders Camp. It can be seen here in its entirety. My favorite bit:

Registration begins at 1:00. Upon registration, you will be given a Slate with a picture of myself with Prime Minister Harper. Beneath this picture, will be a list of the 30 true Conservatives who are running for the Board of Directors. Make sure to vote for all 30 candidates.

And the speaker at the AGM was, you guessed it, Rob Anders' loyalist and partner in defamation Ezra Levant.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Grecian Implications: Cue The Coup?

From one of the eminent sociologists at Crooked Timber:

Just about every article in this morning’s Financial Times seems to include a paragraph or two about how governments need to “deliver” debt reduction, to satisfy the markets, investor expectations etc. They then typically note that said investors are anxious about whether democratic politicians can “deliver” the austerity measures that the markets “require”. So here’s the question: how long before the Economist, the Murdoch press and similar give up on democracy on the grounds of its incapacity to “deliver” firm government?


My guess is that we’ll be reading op-eds pretty soon that raise the spectre of “ungovernability” and espouse “temporary” authoritarian solutions. Maybe such columns are already being written? Feel free to provide examples in comments.

My guess is we won't, because Rush and Glen and Co. would never advocate sending the U.S. army into the old Confederacy, and that's what this kind of thing would imply if applied to mainland U.S.A. Of course, if its only Greece or Latvia we're talking about, then maybe. Folks tend to be less sensitive about some other citizenry getting a whiff of grapeshot in the name of financial stability.

As always with CT, the comments are very good, representing all facets of the American and International Left from its fairly reasonable to fairly foamy wings.

Oh My

If you ever liked Nickelback, you can stop now:
According to the Ottawa Citizen, our dear leader and his son were in attendance for some good, pro-family entertainment — y'know, songs about blowjobs and strippers — wholesome children-friendly stuff.

Nickelback is to rock what the Leafs are to hockey; they make tons of money even though they suck.


Friday, May 07, 2010

Ipsos Reid Farts Up Another Poll

..and its unchanged:

If an election were held tomorrow, The Tories would capture 35 per cent of the vote, giving them a six-point lead over the Liberals at 29 per cent. The NDP would garner 16 per cent of the vote and the Green party would receive nine per cent.

In Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois would snag 39 per cent of the vote, giving it a huge leg up on the Liberals at 23 per cent, the Conservatives at 19 per cent, the NDP at 13 per cent and the Green party at five per cent.

Mind you, its Canada's worst pollster, so who really cares? I just get feeling guilty if I don't post three things a day.

Should Have Seen It Coming

When Taylor blogs something you know its been fed to him from CPoC Central. Given that the date on the post is April 22nd, Mr. Lee and Co. should have seen this coming. I mean...and I know its easy for me to say...but he had two weeks to have the insufficiently clear material removed from the website. He didn't, and a promising line of attack re shady Tory lobbying practices is temporarily blunted. Bad Mr. Lee! BAD!

On Being Whipped

MP Glen Pearson on the gun registry vote:

In the rush to get to our caucus meeting on Wednesday, I rode in an elevator with two Conservative MPs from urban ridings, both complaining of being whipped to vote against the gun registry. It was hardly a moment of revelation, as we’ve known for months that Conservatives are divided on the issue. A few hours later, when in a particularly brutal QP John Baird upbraided the Liberal leader for whipping his team to vote for the registry, I watched a number of government members on the other side stare blankly, knowing that Baird and others had done exactly the same thing with them.

So we know where the two major parties are on the issue: they will in effect be treating C-391 as a government bill and instructing their MPs accordingly. What about the NDP? Whether the registry lives or dies now rests with them. Will they bring their folks into line to save it? After a few encouraging words back in April, Mr. Layton has gone silent. Let's see what's going on at the NDP website.

Ah yes! They're calling for Peace in The Mid-East. When it comes to advocating causes affecting the other side of the planet, these guys are always out in front.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Trashing Iggy For Promoting Michaëlle Jean Is Crap

This is good populist politics. This a load of crap, of the same kind that's been slung alot the past couple of days. Normal people like the GG, would love to see her term extended, and would therefore have no trouble with Iggy making that suggestion. If Harper is so eager to see her gone, then let him explain why. Iggy's made more than a few mistakes lately, but the reaction to this has been so over-the-top that I'm inclined to think Canadian pundits, led in this case by Andrew Coyne and his frothing at the mouth on Sunday, have gone a bit mad.

In this case, I think they can safely be ignored.

Damn Big Dam, Part II

Lots of coverage in the news about Canada's latest natural wonder--a beaver dam about 850 metres (2,800 feet) long on the southern edge of Wood Buffalo National Park.

Actually, the dam was discovered about two years ago by a Canadian scientist studying Google Earth images. At the time, researcher Jean Thie was kind enough to answer several questions I put to him in regards to the dam.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Conservative MP Devinder Shory In Deep Shit

...."implicated" in a "huge mortgage fraud". Being sued By BMO.


God Save The Hamidile!

Some inconsiderate hominid, some stinky monkey with enough filthy lucre to purchase--but not enough patience, intelligence, and yes manliness to understand the noble reptile that had fallen into their care--has dumped a pet crocodilian into a large pond near Barangas On The Beach outside of Hamilton, Ontario. Probably not long ago, either, since a creature that size (1 to 2 meters) could not survive even a mild Ontario winter and the weather's only recently warmed-up enough to enable a successful release.

In any case, the Hamidile is likely to be a representative of one of the species noted in this quote from the croc site.

Spectacled Caiman, Caiman crocodilus, has been most popular and helped in million dollars trade. Changes in the law in US and the increased availability of better alternative species, have reduced their demand.

Now Dwarf caimans are most popular because they are easily available and are in small size. African dwarf Crocodile is also becoming
popular. American Alligators are also widely available but it is very difficult to keep them as pets.

If you look at the picture--while its hard for a non-expert like me to guess the species--the strongly contrasting light and dark marks on the jaw suggest a juvenile.

(Although, given the probable length, even though its sub-adult it would still be big enough to eat your chihuahua if your chihuahua strayed too close to the pond's edge. But then...think about could buy a real dog.)

In any case, good luck to Bry Loyst, of the Indian River Reptile Zoo, who is trying to rescue this glorious and yet misunderstood creature.

And, just as an aside, while I've never eaten gator meat, I've supped on Alligator once or twice. Tastes like chicken, as most everything does when you really think about it. Not that this has relevance to the situation with our poor Hamidile. Yet. But what if no zoo will take him?

PS. This will probably be it for writing today.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

McCoy On Ruth

I suspect the Senator's colorful intervention yesterday really was intended as friendly advice rather than a threat, and the evolution of Liberal Status of Women Critic Anita Neville's response to this advice, from understanding to condemnation, tracks the LPoC's realization that they had come upon a politically exploitable moment. But whatever.

Senator Elaine McCoy has indentified the deeper significance in Ms. Ruth's outburst:

Senator Nancy Ruth (ON) has never in her life shied away from a fight. When women stormed the barricades in 1981 to insist on including gender equality in the new Charter of Rights and Freedoms, for example, she was right there. Ever since then, she's dedicated herself to supporting women, and even maintains a website called which helps keep the Charter success alive. Now, thirty years later, she's reduced to advocating silence for fear of escalating backlash against women's rights.

I've been hearing countless anecdotes of how this government is systematically quelling any activity that does not support its own point of view. Groups have been told to remove any reference to gender equality in their application for funding, for instance, and all advocacy funding has been eliminated. But so far, no collective and sustained public protest has emerged. In fact, it would seem to me that many non-governmental organizations have been following the senator's advice for several years now.

Oddly enough, Senator Nancy Ruth's impassioned plea to keep quiet may have the reverse effect. A member of yesterday's audience told me that one panelist responded to her by saying their silence over the past few years has only served to make matters worse. Could it be that this very public event will galvanize them into organizing a collective response? Let's hope so. At the very least, it gives us one more testimonial to the insidious way in which the Harper government is doing its level best to change the DNA of our nation.

As to Ruth's suggestion that Harper might make abortion an election issue, I doubt it. The whole point behind the Liberals' poking and prodding the government over this for the past couple of months has been to encourage just such an outcome. The result has been that the Tories rapidly distanced themselves from Rod Bruinooge's no-hope private member's bill, and their endless squirming over whether to include contraception and/or abortion in the G8 Maternal Health initiative. And the end-game of all this squirming (I suspect) will likely be that abortion is included in the final plan, but (as I've explained here) some means will be found by which the Canadian government's financial contribution to that portion of the plan can be disguised.

In any case, they've been playing defense on this issue for weeks now. It's definitely not something they'd want to campaign on.