Monday, February 28, 2005

The 16th Edition of the Red Ensign Standard ... Welcome!

I was born in B.C., educated in Quebec, and living in Ottawa. Thus, I can claim to be a well-rounded Canadian.

I was raised as a social conservative, but working in Central Canada made me aware of other viewpoints, other opinions, other lives. I may not agree with diversity, but I accept it.

I know our history as a nation, as well as the geopolitical pressures we are under. I am well aware of the Canadian Dilemma: we know what we are not, but we know not what we are.

Nowhere is this dilemma more personified than in our current national government, under our current leadership. He, like his predecessor, is a manager rather than a leader, spouting empty platitudes about vision and believing it a substitute for the real thing.

There is such a thing as a Canadian vision. We had it, years ago in the era of St. Laurent and Diefenbaker and Pearson ...

... when our flag was not a Maple Leaf, but a Union Jack with a Coat of Arms.

When we looked on America as a senior partner and not a rabid elephant. When we could persuade the world that we could keep the peace, and they believed us.

In the past thirty years, we lost that vision, mired in little arguments about provincial power, spending money, and social rights. Politicians left and right caused the people to lose faith in them ... and thus the vision faded.

But it hasn't completed disappeared. I still have it. And so do others.

We believe that Canada can still play its role alongside the Americans in the affairs of the world, that we can again wield the middle power status which we are so famous for.

And thus, though under a Maple Leaf ... in our hearts we fly the Red Ensign.

… because a beaver’s tooth is just as necessary as an eagle’s talon.

UPDATE (01 Mar 2005): Welcome, Instapundit readers (and boy, are there a lot of you)! Be sure to check out the postings of all our Brigadiers!

This edition of the Standard covers the period from 15-28 February 2005. Brigadiers who have nothing posted during this period are listed in the last section, along with the date of their last post.

New Members:

Blog TitleBrigadier in ChargeIn This Edition …
Angry in the Great White North(joined 18 Feb 05)Angry_in_T_OThis week , our newest irate member dedicates his blog to the original angry Canadian, Gordon Sinclair, and posts that ageless spoken word piece by Sinc, "The Americans", first broadcast in 1973 but still relevant today. He also looks at the Federal budget, pointing out that the numbers for sharing the gasoline excise tax work only if there is absolutely no change in fossil fuel consumption for private vehicles over the next five years. So much for the One-Tonne Challenge, eh? He'd like someone to remind him what the $5 billion for Kyoto was supposed to accomplish.

Active Members:

Blog TitleBrigadier(s) in ChargeIn This Edition …
Abraca-Pocus!RueRue and her kids spent last week recovering from head colds. Although it’s February, she’s decided to start her Spring Cleaning. While doing that, she stands up to an internet bully for the second time, admits that Ebay’s marketing is aimed at her, and celebrates a company’s campaign aimed at changing the current, narrow definition of beauty.
Absinthe &
IthIth is getting new windows installed at her place; however, it’s taking a while. A co-worker irritates her, along with other aspects of her job. In the meantime, she’s found some suitable targets for feminist outrage.
All AgitProp, all
the Time...
PaulCJPaul gets somewhat cynical about Canada’s Flag celebrations. He also applauds The Economist for comparing the PM to Dagwood Bumstead’s boss.
AnthroblogogyDirtcrashrDirtcrashr predicts the demise of the Euroweenies and barely manages to keep himself from going postal over the usual scandals at the UN.
Argghhh!John, Dusty, CW4BillT

One of our busiest milblogs, John examines fourth-generation warfare, re-enactors, Mulligan Day (the Real Man’s day after Valentine’s), dealing with a loaded bayonet, landing an X-wing on an aircraft carrier, and new hand signals for Special Forces operations. (John also hosts a lot of photo-captioning contests, which are a lot of fun.)

Meanwhile, Dusty has some things to say on Easongate, the Summers debate, and the third gender in paperwork.

And it’s CW4BillT’s first post at the Castle. It’s unfortunate he had to do it in the middle of a blackout.

Babbling BrooksDamian BrooksDamian takes time off from renovating his basement to tease Canadian blogger (and NCR Blog Mafia diva) Shannon Davis over her obsession with hamsters. He shows the five words that he despises about the federal Grits, finds an argument for fiscal conservatism from the Left, and points out the obvious misdirections of the 2005 federal budget.
bluetory.caChrisChris thought he had some blog vacation time coming this period, but that was before Prime Minister Dithers started wailing about missile defences.
Bound by GravityAndrewAndrew’s Quick Hits are always good to check out. He also apologizes to Dana of Canadian Comment (see below) for helping to elect Dalton McGuinty, lashes out at Queen’s University’s bureaucracy and the way it handles body donations for science, and takes the leftist blogger The Gracchi to task for his views on opponents of same-sex marriage. He also finds a potential weakness in Stephen Harper’s office by noting its response to his letter on trans-fats.
BumfOnlineHuckHuck mourns the cancellation of the NHL 2004-05 season, explains why he prefers history to political science as a subject of study, and shows how women’s curling is a good sport to blog on if you have a hangover.
canadian commentBob & Dana

Dana has reorganized this blog, making it easier to read. Dana also celebrates the demise of modern liberalism and fisks a Europe-US comparison by pro-European Justin Webb.

Bob suggests sending Jean Chrétien to the Middle East to help foster peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and notes that our current PM apparently has a new advisor.

ChrisCamChrisChris entertains with a fictional story on corporate waste … or is it fictional?
DoxologyRebeccaRebecca celebrates her mother’s 70th birthday, complete with photos. She also has a beautiful photo essay on her day trip to Westminster Abbey (no, not that one; there’s one in Mission, British Columbia that must be seen to be believed).

Darcey predicts another financial scandal from the Auditor-General’s February report on foundations. He celebrates the music of R.L. Burnside, is critical of the attempt to make Inuktitut the official language of Nunavut Territory, and wonders about the quality of First Nations leadership in Canada, while continuing to keep an eye on the misadventures of Judy Sgro.

ESR Musings...Steve & Antle

Steve becomes wistful about his career choices when he hears of a new Roman palace being found. He also looks at new tapes of George W. Bush and wonders what all the fuss is about.

Antle has fun looking at how immigration reform affected the state elections in Arizona, and wonders if new DNC chairman Howard Dean can really bring in the dough for the Dems.

The Freeway To SerfdomJay JardineJay promises the NHL he’ll be back for them, once they get their act together. In the meantime, he’ll just laugh at the B.C. Teachers’ Federation for complaining about teacher excellence awards, and marvel at the B.C. government for busting old ladies who play bingo without a license. (Or maybe he’ll just take up golf.)
Gen X at 40Alan McLeodAlan questions whether the upcoming Tory free vote on same-sex marriage will be truly free. As an avid hockey follower, he has several posts on the NHL strike, but noteworthy is his recommendation of Steve Somers as the go-to guy for following the machinations of the League and the NHLPA. He’s also hoping for more money for a CBC Radio station in Kingston, and sees the virtues of having a day off in February.
Hammer into AnvilJamesJames chides the Martin government for complaining about losing the vote to split the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. He also has trouble understanding scientists, especially when they give him a hard time.
John The MadJohn the MadJohn passes along a joke from his 6-year-old son Brendan. (It’s a cute joke.) He also looks at Liberal mismanagement of the residential schools issue, puts on a Boy Scout leader uniform, and worries about creeping anti-Catholicism in the news media.
Just Between Us GirlsGlenda EdenGlenda blasts blogger Pierre Bourque for calling Conservative MP Rona Ambrose an “uppity hottie,” and defends Ambrose for criticizing Liberal childcare policy as being designed by “old white guys.”
The Last AmazonKateland_62

Kate marvels at the ability of her son to make money, attributing it to his height. She’s also disgusted with a poll that suggests that Canadians don’t want the Americans to promote democracy.

Kate’s beat as a Brigadier covers the Middle East. For example, she notes the machinations of the Palestinian Authority, the juggling of the Canadian Islamic Congress, and the near-extinction of Arab Christians in Egypt.

The London FogLisa, Mapmaster, Mike

Lisa complains about London, Ontario’s parking problem. She also begins a take-down of the so-called “Greatest Canadians,” beginning with a vicious quote from Tommy Douglas and continuing with the proto-racist views of Famous Five member Emily Murphy.

Mapmaster asks, “Whither Raskolnikov?” He’s also smacking his head about the doublespeak in corporate accounting by the City of London, and why he’s forced to tolerate it.

Mike is appalled by this portrait of a “Canadian.” He’s also not happy about this Mark Steyn piece on Paul Desmarais.

The MeatriarchyThe MeatriarchThe Meatriarch has an eye on Chris Rock’s Oscar gig, as well as the Divas of the House of Commons (photos included). He cheers on Rick Mercer for supporting more defence spending, grooves on the Fox series Millenium, and takes in a Raptors game.
Minority of OneKeithKeith is off to India, but not before he lambastes the Ontario government for refusing to pay for drugs to treat Fabry’s disease, and flips the bird to Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson (but he’s calmed down since then).
The MongerThe MongerAfter sticking his tongue in a blender (thanks to David Suzuki), the Monger manages to say plenty about the NHL strike and cancellation of the 2004-05 season (although now, instead of watching hockey, he can now help his wife with the housework).
MusingJason HayesJason gets a comment from the infamous pseudo-blogger Libertarian Girl, notes the dangers of bringing politics into science, advises the liberal media to surrender now, and has fun with the Karl Rove conspiracy theory.
Musings of a Canadian SlackerDr_FunkThe good doctor has a bit to say about the expansion of the Royal Ontario Museum, a truism about Academia and Members of Parliament in the military.
myrickChris MyrickHaving moved to a new URL (, Chris celebrates the best beer bars in Singapore with the first of 3 posts, in which he describes the Belgian-style brasseries available in town. He also reviews a comic-book history of Singapore.
Updates from Seoul
Nathan BaumanNathan waxes poetic on the movie Chariots of Fire, a DVD of which was recently given to him. He also posts an open letter and petition concerning bad media coverage of foreign teacher misbehaviour in South Korea, and photoblogs a couple of recent parties with his students. And he's written a letter to the Wall Street Journal in response to a column of theirs celebrating hockey brawls in the AHL.
North Western WindsCurtCurt examines the thought of philosopher Thomas Merton on freedom, extols the virtues of the blogger known as Blimpish, and explores the genetic aspects of homosexuality via an interview with biologist Greg Cochran. And while at NWW, you may want to look at the link entries Curt has collected under the “Links!” web posts.
Occam's CarbuncleAlanAlan scores a point to Stephen Harper in the same-sex marriage debate, and tries to figure out why he’s not more popular than the PM in the opinion polls. He also fisks the anticipated 2005 federal budget.
The Phantom
VWOh, wait – that’s me! I examine the art of Conservative poetry, fisk the Prime Minister’s attempt to make a Kerryism, pay tribute to Doctor Gonzo, and review Hugh Hewitt’s Blog.


Nicholas Russon
Nick salutes a new website that lists restaurants in Ontario that allow patrons to bring their own wine. He also looks at the wines of Prince Edward County, as well as the Vikings trade of Randy Moss. And he has photos of the 2nd annual Blogger Bash in Toronto. (Also check out Nick’s collection of quotations at his new website:
Raging KrautRayRay commemorates Flag Day with newsreel footage of the Red Ensign being hauled down and replaced by the Maple Leaf. He’s also in a discussion with Bound by Gravity’s Andrew about the federal budget.
Ravishing LightPaul DentonPaul is horrified – or make that mildly concerned -- by Loonatics, Warner Bros.’ new take on Bugs Bunny & Co. (as if Baby Looney Tunes wasn’t bad enough). Meanwhile he looks at the B-movie Shock Treatment, gets a cell phone, and has nice words for U.S. Ambassador Paul Celluci.
Rempelia PrimePeter RempelPeter cheers on Stephen Harper’s opening salvo in the debate on federal same-sex marriage legislation. He pontificates on the empty meaning of the Maple Leaf, and chastises Alberta premier Ralph Klein for signing an agreement with the feds that bound the province to national standards on spending.
Stephen TaylorStephen TaylorStephen gets to attend a National Flag commemoration with Prime Minister Paul Martin. (The post features a very nice photo!) He also predicts a major political alignment based the decline of trade union donations to the NDP.
Striving Against
ChrisSince hosting the last edition of the Standard, Chris has found a perfectly apt photo on the sponsorship scandal, celebrated Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s comments on same-sex marriage, and comes down hard on the idea of “mommy madness."
Taylor & CompanyChris TaylorChris fixes the throughput on his wireless LAN just in time for a cardiac scare. While recuperating, he muses on the do’s and don’t’s for admittance to the hospital emergency room. (He also has photos of the Toronto Blogger Bash, complete with captions.)
The Tiger in
Ben S.Before leaving Nepal, Ben spends a final night with his extended family. He spends the next few days in the city of Doha, in Qatar, where he writes some reflections on his trip so far.
TipperographyBrenda TipperTipper’s been trying to get some iPod mini battery service and, although impressed with the efficiency of the Apple service operation, has found its effectiveness decidedly lacking. The iPod problems have even been a welcome distraction for an ex-pat Canadian who prefers to ignore what's been going on back home. She also has a personal perspective on how to indulge in French pastry and red wine and still lose weight. She ruminates on the difference between libertarians and conservatives, blasts Jimmy Carter, reviews the movie House of Flying Daggers and complains about Monday.
TrudeaupiaKevin JaegerKevin finds the official flag for his blog, welcomes MSM columnist John Robson to the blogosphere, and explains to the Quebec government why they have trouble recruiting physicians.
West Coast ChaosTemujinTemujin celebrates his rise in the blogranks, offers a left-handed welcome to the newest Brigadier (see above), and officially creates his own public testimonials page.He wonders about the trends in Christian evangelism worldwide, and congratulates former KORN guitarist Brian Welch.

Inactive for This Edition:

Blog TitleBrigadier in ChargeDate of Last Post
CandepunditCandepundit24 Sep 2004
The Green BaronThomas Forsyth2 Feb 2005
Hypothesis.caServer inactive (checked 21 Feb 2005)
RightjabRight Jab24 Jan 2005
Shiny Happy GulagJay Random11 Feb 2005
Skeet Skeet SkeetBen Bach6 Feb 2005

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Another Glance at the Budget

Well, I wasn't able to get to it last night, but I've had another look at Finance Canada's budget page. They've added a multimedia page to the site, which is a pretty good design to navigate through.

One thing that strikes me is that the majority of the spending they're planning is in the future; what they're planning for 2005 is a bit modest compared with 3 or 4 years down the road. (Yes, it's a cheat.) They must really be hopeful that Canada's economy will grow enough to sustain the new spending.

The Conservatives have already said they're not going to bring down the government over this budget, and I'd say it's a good strategy. If Paul Martin has one virtue, it is that he is not Joe Clark (i.e., he won't act like a bull all the time). He is also not facing an opposition chafing at the bit as Clark was, and as much as it pains me to say it, I am not convinced that the Tories are currently organized enough to form a credible government.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Wouldn't You Love to Take This Course?

From CBC News:

HALIFAX - Students at Nova Scotia Community College are now able to earn an academic credit for cradling a glass of beer.

The Labatt Beer Institute, which officially opened in Halifax's Brewery Market complex on Wednesday, will train students on everything from the history of beer to matching beer choices with different foods, to how to pour it properly.

"What I would have thought, in my day, is that there was very little about beer that the students didn't know," joked Nova Scotia Premier John Hamm.

In fact, the new offering is a serious course designed to help students taking the hospitality and culinary arts program.

Students will learn about beer in a pub setting with 16 brews on tap.

The College, by the way, has a press release on the new Institute here.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Preparing to Discuss the 2005 Federal Budget

The federal Budget for 2005 was released yesterday. The official budget documents can be found at Finance Canada, here.

The good news: a lot of problem areas (like the military) are getting a major cash infusion.

The bad news: it's the Paul Martin Liberals who are in charge of spending this loot.

I haven't really had a chance to look at the budget documents yet (sidetracked with other projects), but I'll get a better look and have some comments tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Hugh Hewitt's Blog: A Trade Paperback in a Hardcover Jacket

Yesterday a package from Amazon arrived. Its contents were a couple of Penguin James Bonds (I happen to like Ian Fleming's stuff), but more importantly, Blog by Hugh Hewitt. Word of mouth on this book was pretty good, so I thought I'd pick up a copy. I went through it last night and part of this morning.

My opinion? Yes, it's a must-have book on the growth and power of the blogosphere, but I'd be lying if I said there were no flaws.

The title of this post pretty much sums up the problem. Some subjects are pretty much born for the trade paperback format -- Tom Clancy's Guided Tour series, for example. Whether it's submarines, aircraft carriers, the U.S. Marine SOC or Special Forces units, Clancy (and his collaborator John Gresham) write up a brief history, interview key people, and detail some of the major features of the topic at hand, and envisage future scenarios. That doesn't work in hardcover because it's the type of book that becomes out-of-date extremely rapidly, and hardcovers imply permanence.

Blog is pretty much in the same situation. Yes, the price is cheap -- comparable to current trade paperbacks -- but portions of the book are already out of date.

However, that's just a question of format. We'll have to go through the whole thing.

Hugh is, of course, an opinionated guy. And in chapter 1, as he chronicles the impact of blogging on Trent Lott, the New York Times, John Kerry, and Dan Rather, we learn his opinions of CNN, the New York Times' Paul Krugman (he calls him "unbalanced and frothing" even though Krugman quotes a blogger approvingly), the mainstream media and Barbra Streisand. (To his credit, he does try to be fair to the blogsites Atrios and DailyKos.)

Chapters 2 and 3 are not so much about blogs as they are about revolutions in information: the effect of the printing press on the Protestant Reformation and the invention and spread of the alphabet through to the development of the Internet (no, Al Gore isn't mentioned here). Hugh's argument is that the blogosphere will have a similar impact on society. I'm not so sure, but it's his argument, after all.

Chapters 4 and 5 document the decline in readership (and viewership) of the Mainstream Media and the corresponding rise of alternative media (talk radio, cable news, and of course the blogs). Hugh seems a bit apocalyptic in his view of the MSM, which is perhaps why some of them are dismissive of this book. But at the same time he outlines in plain language some of the reasons why mainstream journalism is in a crisis of confidence, and why the blogosphere aggravates it.

Chapter 6 examines the motivations of bloggers and profiles some of the more popular ones. These are drawn mainly from the political and Judeo-Christian blogs, probably because they're the ones Hugh's most familiar with. This probably would have been a good place to profile some of the non-American blogs such as Iraq the Model, as well as blogs from international hot-spots. (Perhaps he'll do that in the paperback edition.)

Chapter 7 describes strategies for dealing with the blogosphere, intended for businesses that could be potential targets. For the most part it's common sense, but this is one chapter that can and should be longer, particularly in outlining policies on employee blogging.

Chapters 8 and 9 deal with starting and maintaining blogs for business, from leaders to managers to subordinates, as well as the use of blogs for gathering corporate intelligence. And Chapter 12 lists typical examples of blogs that types of people could start.

There are nice concrete suggestions here, but the chapters could have benefitted from real-world examples. For instance, Hugh could interview TV producer Rhett Reese, who maintained a showblog while his series Joe Schmo 2 was airing on Spike TV.

And yet these latter chapters are perhaps the most important contributions Hugh makes to the blog literature, because they attempt to show how the blogosphere can be mined and exploited for better corporate behavior.

My recommendation? If you don't know much about blogs but want to use the Net to help your business, you should buy this edition. If you're already a blogger, you might want to wait for the paperback.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson, R.I.P.

Before there was Michael Moore, there was Hunter Stockton Thompson.

When I was in college, I flirted with the idea of journalism as a career. Part of my reasons for that was the writing of Hunter Thompson. He hit his peak period during Richard Nixon's second term, and his writing was and is pretty much unforgettable.

If you read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, there's a chapter in which Thompson reminisces about his life in the 1960's, the era of Free Love, Acid and Berkeley, and how the movement essentially self-destructed. It's powerful stuff, blunt and unforgiving in its judgment.

If you look at Thompson's work for Rolling Stone magazine during that era, you'll realize: this guy was blogging long before blogging was invented. Although he did the occasional interview, he relied on the nightly newscasts and newspapers to fuel his stories, the same resources most of us bloggers use today.

He also combined fact and fiction in his stories, blended so smoothly that it's no surprise that famous people were nervous around him. He once suggested that presidential candidate Ed Muskie, the Howard Dean of his era, was on a drug called Ibogaine when Muskie had a public display of temper. Readers believed it. (You know what the MSM is really afraid of? That a blogger with Thompson's writing skills will emerge and target them directly.)

Thompson called his style "Gonzo journalism," the type of writing where the author becomes part of the story. And here's where he holds the edge over Michael Moore: Thompson was not ashamed of his involvement. While Moore has a habit of downplaying his role in his films, Thompson had no qualms about getting involved with both barrels. He ran for political office (sheriff of Aspen County, Colorado), which gave him an edge in his political coverage because he could sympathize with candidates for high office, having been one himself.

Cartoonist Garry Trudeau immortalized him in his Doonesbury comic strip as Uncle Duke (for which Thompson threatened to rip Trudeau's lungs out), and he's been played on screen by Bill Murray and Johnny Depp. Depp's portrayal was probably the one he liked best, but one gets the feeling from his public comments that he was never satisfied with anyone else's attempts to describe him: they get the surface, but not what's beneath.

It was announced yesterday that Thompson had died, an apparent suicide. I'm saddened but not surprised. His era passed on during the Reagan/Bush years, when it became obvious to him that readers were more enamored of his literary style than the ideas that it held. He was known to be a fan of Hemingway, and to be honest I think he liked the idea of going out on his own terms.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Paul Martin Makes a Kerryism -- Sort Of

You know, Paul Martin's life would be a lot easier if he would admit to people that he occasionally trips over his tongue.

I don't mean changing policy; that's a whole other debate. I mean speaking before he thinks, and refusing to admit that he wasn't thinking when he was speaking. People do this sort of thing all the time, and it's not a sign of weakness to admit it. But the Liberals seem to think otherwise.

Take, for example, a comment he made on the Syrian situation:

Martin, answering a reporter's question, appeared to say that Syria was in Lebanon to keep the peace:

"It's clear that if the Syrians are in Lebanon, it's because peace has to be maintained and there has certainly been a failure," he said in French after a cabinet meeting.

The matter comes at a sensitive time, following Monday's assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Hariri was killed in a huge bomb explosion in Beirut and many are pointing an accusing finger at Syria.

The implication of Martin's statement is that the Syrians are peacekeepers (i.e. UN blue berets) in Lebanon. That's a bit like saying the Iraqis were peacekeepers in Kuwait.

Now to be fair, Martin's reputation is based on domestic economics, not foreign affairs. And answering reporters' questions on the fly is always an iffy situation at best.

But the true extent of this gaffe is this exchange in the House of Commons (fisked for those who don't follow Canadian federal politics):

Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, today, the Prime Minister stated, and I quote, “It is clear that if the Syrians are in Lebanon it is because it is necessary to keep the peace”. This is an irresponsible and damaging statement.
How will the Prime Minister explain this new position?

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is extremely important, particularly when it comes to foreign affairs, not to take remarks out of context. I clearly stated that Canada has supported the UN resolution and that Syria should withdraw from Lebanon.

[Okay. How many of us can remember, word for word, what we said 45 minutes ago? Apparently Paul Martin can't.]

Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, that is not what the Prime Minister said today.
The Prime Minister said that Syria was in Lebanon to keep the peace. Canada has supported UN Security Council resolution 1559, calling for Syria to withdraw from Lebanon. This is a shocking and irresponsible statement.
Given that the very presence of the Syrian army in Lebanon is an illegal threat to peace, how could the Prime Minister commit such a gaff so out of step with international opinion?

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, that was precisely my point. It was a terrible explosion that took the life of the former prime minister, a man I knew. We all extend condolences to his family, and to the Lebanese.
Within the context of saying that this is certainly not the way one keeps the peace, the Syrians should retire and should withdraw from Lebanon. We support the United Nations resolution. Let there be no doubt about it. Let the hon. member not try to create confusion.

Hon. Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister said this, and I will repeat it in English, “It is clear that if the Syrians are in Lebanon, it is because it is necessary to keep the peace”. That is what the Prime Minister has said at the very time when our allies and the international community are focused on a possible Syrian role in the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri.
Will the Prime Minister absolutely, unequivocally withdraw that statement and apologize for making it in the first place?

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have said in French and I have said in English that the Syrians should withdraw from Lebanon. I have now said it three times. How many more times need I say it? I think it is a strange way to try to keep the peace, by allowing this kind of explosion to take place. The Syrians should withdraw from Lebanon.
Does the hon. member now understand the position of the Government of Canada?

[Martin's first error: implied denial. He can't even admit whether or not he made such a statement.]

Mr. Stockwell Day (Okanagan—Coquihalla, CPC): Mr. Speaker, "la Syrie est là pour garder la paix."
That is what the Prime Minister said a little more than moments ago. Does he have any idea what he has done to Canadian credibility by standing here, just not that many moments ago, and saying that Syria is in Lebanon to keep the peace when every responsible thinking person and country in the world has said that it is not there to keep the peace? It is a threat.
Will he please retract that statement?

[At this point, the Minister of Foreign Affairs attempts to save Martin's backside.]

Hon. Pierre Pettigrew (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, last week, with great clarity, I expressed to both the Government of Lebanon and the Government of Syria, Canada's foreign policy, which the Prime Minister fully supports, as he just has done here in this House. Canada supports resolution 1559 calling for Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon.

Mr. Stockwell Day (Okanagan—Coquihalla, CPC): Mr. Speaker, today we are not questioning what the Minister of Foreign Affairs said last week. As a matter of fact, I listened to what he said and he was more or less on track.
It is the Prime Minister who has jumped the rails on this, who has taken the government right off track. Today, he stood in this building and said, “la Syrie est là pour garder la paix”. What did he mean by that? Syria is there to keep the peace is what he said, when even the United Nations has said that Syria has to get out of Lebanon. It is threatening the peace in the Middle East. Today, the Prime Minister said that it is there to keep the peace.
Please explain it or retract it.

At this point, the Minister replies, but the Opposition isn't interested in him:

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was very clear. The problem is not with him, it is with the Prime Minister.

[Translation: No Minister, we're not after the Government; we're after Paul Martin.]

I heard the Prime Minister's comments earlier. He stated his position both in French and in English. I should point out that he was just as confused in English as he was in French.
I would like the Prime Minister to explain to me what he meant when he said that the Syrians were there to keep the peace? What did he mean when he said that on television, less than a half hour ago?

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I said that the Syrians claim to be there to keep the peace. This is a strange way to do so, considering that a bomb took the life of a former prime minister in a terrible explosion. This is what I said.
I will say it again: Canada's position and my position are that we supported the UN resolution. The Syrians should withdraw from Lebanon. It is obvious they are not able to keep the peace. They should withdraw. This is what I said and I am repeating it.

[Martin's second error: the paraphrase after the fact. The problem with this strategy is all too clear:]

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is repeating something he did not say. That is not what he said. I listened to him. He is the person who spoke on television earlier. And he was not talking to Gérard D. Laflaque, because this was during the news. He said very clearly that the Syrians were there to keep the peace. He did not say that the Syrians claimed they were there for that purpose. He is the one who said it.
I want the Prime Minister to explain something to me. How can he want the Syrians to withdraw if they are there to keep the peace? Let us hear his explanation about this confusion.

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member does not want to understand, that is his problem. What I said is that the Syrians say they are there to keep the peace. We saw that there can be no peace with an explosion such the one that occurred. That is what I said. The Syrians should withdraw. This is quite clear.

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, what is clear is that the Prime Minister is trying to correct the gaffe that he just made. This is what he is trying to do. He should at least have the decency to tell us that he made a mistake when speaking. It would not be the first time. But he should at least tell us that. He should tell us this is not what he meant. He said “the Syrians are there to keep the peace”. He did not say that the Syrians were there because they were claiming to want to keep the peace. He said “They are there”. I listened to the Prime Minister. Let him replay the tape. Perhaps he will understand himself, perhaps he will finally understand himself.
Will he retract and say that he misspoke? Let us hear him say that.

[At this point the Minister of Foreign Affairs attempts to jump in again. He probably shouldn't have bothered:]

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Foreign Affairs expresses that position very well. I understand his problem at this time: he has to try to redeem the Prime Minister, who got it all wrong. And that is what he has done.
If the Prime Minister has the slightest idea what his position is all about, would he tell us he made a mistake and that was not what he meant to say. Such things can happen, but let him at least have the decency to admit that he has misrepresented Canada's position and that was not what he wanted to say. Perhaps that would restore some of his credibility. Otherwise, he will just keep on making one gaffe after another.

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if I was misunderstood, then I was misunderstood. But I said, and say again: “If the Syrians are there to keep the peace, it is a strange way to try to keep the peace.” That is Canada's position, was my position yesterday, and is today as well.

[Martin's third error: blaming the listener. "My statement was clear, you misunderstood me."]

Hon. Bill Blaikie (Elmwood—Transcona, NDP): Mr. Speaker, we just want to say to the Minister of Foreign Affairs that we support the kinds of things he was saying in the Middle East. We just wish his Prime Minister was supporting the kinds of things he was saying in the Middle East, instead of saying dumb things, then being even dumber and not retracting them. Instead of digging himself deeper, why does he not just get up and say that he misspoke and withdraw it?

The Speaker: I did not hear all that the hon. member for Elmwood--Transcona said but I think one of the words sounded out of order to me if I heard it right. The hon. member is an experienced member. If he said something out of order, he will want to retract it.

Hon. Bill Blaikie: Mr. Speaker, anything I said I have heard said before and I never heard it ruled out of order. Some of the things the Prime Minister said about Syria should be ruled out of order and he should get up and retract those things.

[Just to be clear: According to parliamentary rules, you're not allowed to personally insult a member. You can say that a member said "dumb things," but you cannot say he's "being even dumber." Even if he is.]

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are talking about a very important aspect of Canadian foreign policy, one in which the government has been very clear and one in which I have been very clear.
If in speaking ironically about the fact that the Syrian's believe that they are there to maintain the peace and explosions of that kind occur, then that is not maintaining the peace.

[Martin's fourth error: claiming to be ironic. He's not David Letterman or even a Rick Mercer.]

Hon. Bill Blaikie (Elmwood—Transcona, NDP): Mr. Speaker, there have been a number of occasions on which the Prime Minister sent the Minister of Foreign Affairs in various incarnations outside to explain himself and to retract what he had to say, most of the time when he was saying the right thing.
Why does the Prime Minister not apply a little of his own discipline to himself, do what he often asks the Minister of Foreign Affairs to do when he says things that are contrary to government policy, and retract what he had to say about Syria being in Lebanon to keep the peace?

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have explained the Canadian government's position today. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has explained it on a number of occasions. I really do not believe that on an important issue like this the opposition should play politics. If I was misunderstood, then I was misunderstood, and that is unfortunate, but I have now clarified it unequivocally.

Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC): No, Mr. Speaker, he was not misunderstood. He misspoke. What we are seeing here is a Prime Minister who is incapable of acknowledging an error and apologizing and retracting.

Now, looking at all of this, one question comes to mind: would it really have destroyed Paul Martin to admit that he goofed up? This is the type of pride that ends up costing much more than it's worth. It's why the Canadian government winds up paying more money for the wrong type of helicopter.

This kind of misstatement isn't a Bushism. The Man Beneath Us can, at least, think on the fly, it's just that his mouth doesn't always click into gear. What we have here could be considered a Kerryism; taking a long time to explain something that was probably an error in the first place.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Wit and Witticism of Canadian MPs, Part 3

Sometimes, our elected representatives like to write poetry. Nothing so profound as Ode to a Grecian Formula Urn, mind you, but we can give points for trying. Take for example, the latest opus of Mr. Brian Pallister, the honourable Member of Parliament for Portage-Lisgar:

We watched as Judge Gomery said not a peep,
While Jean deftly juggled his balls in his hand,
The former PM showed the meaning of cheap,
A petty and tacky, inelegant man.

Then came the new guy: once Treasury Board Chair,
The question, “That money, now where did it go?”
“I saw nothing, heard nothing, I wasn't there.”
And one never asks if they don't want to know.

Golf Amateurs do it, but Pros never try,
The Liberal game is improving your lie.

Jean meddled with BDC loans, we know why,
Sacked the president; he would have followed the rules,
But now the Shawinigan Street Fighter guy
Claims that ad scam was “hands-off” and takes us for fools.

The PM a detail man when things go well,
Micro-managed his way to the top of this town,
But when leadership's needed, he hides in a shell,
Knowing you cannot prove what is not written down.

Golf Amateurs do it, the Pros never try,
The Liberal game is improving your lie.

Note to Mr. Pallister: don't give up the day job just yet.

The 15th Edition of the Red Ensign Standard ...

... may be found here.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Rover Lives!

First it was Mickey Kaus, then it was Jonah Goldberg over at the NRO Corner, drawing everyone's attention to this article from the Telegraph:

A large black ball, originally designed by Swedish scientists for use on Mars, could be the latest weapon in the war against burglars.

The device, developed at the University of Uppsala, acts as a high-tech security guard capable of detecting an intruder thanks to either radar or infra-red sensors. Once alerted, it can summon help, sound an alarm or pursue the intruders, taking pictures.

It is capable of travelling at 20mph, somewhat faster than a human being. Even worse for intruders, the robot ball can still give chase over mud, snow and water.

The ball relies on an internal pendulum to control its motion which, when shifted, changes the centre of gravity and starts it rolling.

Those of you who are familiar with the ITC series The Prisoner will of course be reminded of Rover, the mysterious man-sized bubble capable of tracking and chasing its prey all around the Village. The only thing this Swedish "Rover" doesn't do is capture and asphyxiate, for which potential burglars (and future prisoners) should be grateful.

Something tells me Patrick McGoohan won't be visiting Uppsala anytime soon ...

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Half-Masting for a Sailor

Tonight, I will be working at HMCS Carleton, Ottawa' s Naval Reserve division. And tonight, during divisional announcements, I expect that our flag will be at half-mast.

We have lost another man in the service of his country. Yesterday, the search was called off for LS Robert Leblanc, who was serving a deployment onboard the frigate HMCS Montreal when he apparently fell overboard during the night.

The odds of survival at sea are extremely bad in the Baltic at this time of year. It's not that the seas are rough, it's that they are extremely cold. Just above freezing, according to the news reports.

This was a freak accident. It could have happened to anyone on board the Montreal, or the other ships sailing in her company.

It's a tough reminder. Life at sea is dangerous. Yet for the members of Canada's Navy, it's an accepted risk of everyday life.

LS Leblanc's family has the condolences of not just myself, but every man and woman in Maritime Command.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Wit and Witticism of Canadian MPs, Part 2

Mr. Dave MacKenzie (Oxford, CPC): Mr. Speaker, only days after his appointment as Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Rick Hillier terminated the current defence policy review which was described as boring, dry and dreadful. The minister has delayed the release of the review several times in the House. Now we learn that we are going to start over again from scratch.

The Minister of National Defence now fully supports the overhaul of defence blueprint and wants it to be filled with fresh ideas. Can the minister explain his 180 degree turnaround?

Hon. Bill Graham (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I can certainly agree with the part of the premise that says that a lot of the stuff that I write is boring, dry and not very interesting, but that is a personal problem ...

Note to all politicians: It's always a good idea to tell a joke against yourself. If George Bush can get away with it, why not you?


Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

The Speaker: Order, please. I thought we had said that there was too much bafflegab. The hon. minister has the floor and he is giving an answer to the question that was asked.

Hon. Bill Graham: Mr. Speaker, surely hon. members have to recognize the difference between boring and superior bafflegab.

Oh, there's a difference, is there?

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Wit and Witticism of Canadian MPs, Part 1

As part of the workday for the Canadian House of Commons, time is alloted for individual members to make a statement. The statement can be on any subject whatsoever; the criteria is that they have to be brief.

Most statements are by backbenchers, who otherwise don't have an opportunity to distinguish themselves. They use the time to note activities of important constituents, or to announce events in their ridings, and so on. As written up in Hansard the next day, the statements can be pretty prosaic.

Occasionally, though, you can hit paydirt:

Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I have been looking back over the issues that have arisen in this Parliament and I have detected an interesting trend: special favours for strippers; taxpayer subsidized tattoos for convicts; and decriminalization of marijuana.

Suddenly it has become all so clear.
The federal Liberals are the Trailer Park Boys of Ottawa. This explains a lot.

Our trade minister has not had much luck dealing with the U.S. on softwood lumber or beef, but a couple of years ago his department managed one significant success. It managed to enforce an anti-dumping ruling on the importation of American bingo cards. No doubt the good old boys back in the trailer park got good and cranked up about that one.

And to think most Canadians believe that Bubbles, Ricky, Julian and the rest of the gang reside in the Sunnyvale Trailer Park in Nova Scotia when they are really alive and well here in Ottawa sitting on the government side of the House.

I must remember to look at Hansard more often.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Beaver Ain't As Strong As He Used To Be

Some folks might remember a news story last week about a report saying Canada's international role was shrinking.

The full text of the report (an interim report; the final version's due this summer) can be found here. It's published by the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, a Toronto-based think tank.

A couple of trends do emerge:

-- I never thought I'd say this, but Brian Mulroney comes out of this one looking pretty good. Friendships with Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush, and good personal relations with the British and the French, enabled the Big Chin to strut the world stage. (He certainly had nothing to strut about at home.) Triumphs mentioned include South Africa, NAFTA and the environment (!).

The report also, by omission if nothing else, confirms the "non-persona" of Joe Clark, who was external affairs minister during much of the Mulroney era.

-- The other person to come out smelling like a rose is Lloyd Axworthy of the early Chrétien era. He gets credit for Canada's work on landmines and the International Criminal Court. The report also seems to imply that Canada went downhill in the world after Axworthy left.

-- The report is yet another cry for increase defence spending: we can't do much in the world because we don't have enough troops, we don't have the right equipment, and we're too cheap to do anything else.

Given that getting our defence spending to a proper level is going to involve (a) a steep price tag and (b) extremely critical thinking about what we want our armed forces to do, the Liberals would probably file this away in an archive somewhere. They would be well-advised not to.

On Discussing the Civil Marriage Act

The Civil Marriage Act, or Bill C-38, was introduced in the House of Commons this morning. Since this is probably going to be discussed quite a bit, the Dept. of Justice was thoughtful enough to post a link here.

The site links to the full text of the bill (and which has a printable version here). It also has backgrounds and a FAQ page fully justifying the Martin government's position.

Some initial observations:

-- It's an awfully long preamble, laying out the federal case for the bill. The long-windedness makes the Martin government look like a truant pupil trying to explain why he wants a deadline extension on his homework.

-- The meat of the bill is essentially four paragraphs. Paragraph 2 defines marriage, Paragraph 3 is the "out" clause for churches and other groups, and paragraph 4 says a same-sex marriage can't be delegitimized. (The rest of the bill harmonizes federal laws to conform to the Act when it comes into force.)

-- Paragraphs 2 and 3 are the ones people are going to fight over. To the government's credit, paragraph 2 is simply worded enough that trying to shift it to a "traditional" definition is going to be a losing proposition. Paragraph 3, on the other hand, has a capacity for expansion. While churches may not be forced into performing a same-sex marriage ceremony, church-owned property is a different matter altogether.

-- Paragraph 4 won't be debated just in Parliament; it'll be debated by the provinces. Its implication is that a province (like Alberta) cannot deny marriage rights (such as property inheritance, income tax transfers, child custody, etc.) to a couple married in Quebec just because it's a same-sex union. The question the provinces have will be whether Ottawa can dictate to the provinces on something like that.

It's a bit to think about, but before we watch the fireworks go off, it won't hurt to look at the program. Check the site out.