Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Kofi Krisped

One nice thing about blogs is that they can link you to the stuff that generates news stories. Organizations always like to publicize their reports, and once it's on the Net, anyone can look at it.

Take, for example, the UN independent inquiry that's looking into the "Oil for Food" scandal. Today it released its report, causing a flurry of news stories. (You can find the complete interim report here.)

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan suggested that the report cleared him of any wrongdoing. And if you read this CBC News report, you might take that for granted. But look at what the report actually says (on page 78 of the document, which corresponds to page 81 of the PDF file):

The Committee finds: Weighing all of the evidence presented in this Report and the credibility of the witnesses, that the evidence is not reasonably sufficient to show that the Secretary-General knew that Cotecna had submitted a bid on the humanitarian inspection contract in 1998.

"The evidence is not reasonably sufficient." That's a far cry from exoneration, which is what Mr. Annan would have the world believe.

Then there's this paragraph:

The Committee finds: In light of the Sunday Telegraph article and the complaint of a conflict of interest because of Kojo Annan's employment, as well as the published information concerning the alleged illicit payments to the Bhutto family, the inquiry initiated by the Secretary-General was inadequate, and the Secretary-General should have referred the matter to an appropriate United Nations department (Office of Internal Oversight Services and/or Office of Legal Affairs) for a thorough and independent investigation.

In other words, Annan's internal inquiry botched its task so badly that there was no way it could have avoided the stench of whitewash.

Annan has said he won't resign, and he's got a point on his favor: this is an interim report only. The inquiry is still investigating, with the final report due in the fall. It'll probably take the final report to convince Annan of how bad things at the UN have really gotten.

You know, we may want to consider making Judge Gomery the next Ambassador to the UN. He'd fit right in ...

The 18th Edition of the Red Ensign Standard ...

... may be found here.

The Standard's getting bigger and better all the time ...

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Wit and Witticism of Canadian MPs, Part 4

I probably should not have been surprised to receive a letter from a constituent in which he called me a “thief and a liar.”

Unaware of having stolen anything or lied, I asked him to explain what he meant. He wrote back to say that “thief” and “liar” are just synonyms for “politician.”

I think he had me confused with a Liberal.

-- Conservative MP Randy Kamp, in his parliamentary statement of 24 March


Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, CPC): Mr. Speaker, in hockey, players get two minutes for charging. Jean Lafleur was charging the sponsorship program like crazy and got $12 million.

There is never a ref around when we need one.

However last night the Tory Tornados House of Commons hockey team administered a little hockey justice on behalf of taxpayers everywhere.

We opened a big can of whup ass on the Liberal sponsorships outscoring them 5 to 2.

The rivalries in hockey are tough but seldom do they end in the crushing body checks and sharp elbows we saw last night. Last night was a war between two determined teams of highly skilled athletes played out before 15 cheering fans at the Bell Sensplex.

The victorious Tories were led by our fearless first line centre, young Ben Harper with his three assists, who captured the hearts of all the fans when he led the team around the arena with the trophy.

Could this be a sign of things to come, Mr. Speaker?

Perhaps a sign for the next election, when we will be led by Ben's father, this man right here, to victory.

The Speaker: I hesitate to list the number of rules broken on that one ...

Personally, I counted two. I'll have to get a copy of Beauchesne's to find any more.

Same-Sex Marriage: The MPs' Roundup, Part Two

Yesterday the House of Commons continued debating Bill C-38, the Civil Marriage Act. Once again, I've summarized the statements of MPs who spoke on the Act, and I've included links to their Parliamentary web page (which includes their e-mail addresses) so folks can weigh in to them directly.


Mr. Mark Holland (Ajax—Pickering, Lib.): Pro. He's a big believer in equality; he's talked with younger gays and lesbians in his riding, and believes it's unfair that they don't have the right to marry because someone else thinks it's a bad idea. His aunt is lesbian, and he doesn't understand how giving her the right to marry harms his own family. He doesn't support civil unions because the term doesn't carry the same weight as "marriage" does.

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North, NDP): Pro. She's been married for 34 years and regards her relationship as an asset, of the type that shouldn't be denied to gays and lesbians. As a member of the United Church of Canada, she regards SSM as representative of the Christian ideal of inclusive love. She remembers hearing the same arguments as a member of the Manitoba legislature in 1987, when sexual orientation was included in provincial human rights legislation.

Hon. Gurbax Malhi (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, Lib.): Con. He thinks it's a myth that the SSM debate is divided among generational lines; he's received several letters from constituents aged 10-20 supporting his stand. He argues that differences in society don't constitute inequality; a woman isn't discriminated against just because she's not allowed in the men's washroom. He points out that many religious organizations favor the traditional definition of marriage because such a union needs the contributions of both sexes.

Mr. Dean Allison (Niagara West—Glanbrook, CPC): Con. He's following the wishes of his constituents, having received thousands of letters from them. He suggests that the Liberal government is bringing this bill forward to distract Canadians from its other problems. He says the people who oppose changing the definition are Canadian and have Canadian values such as democracy, who deserve to have their voices heard in Parliament, and scolds the Prime Minister for suggesting otherwise.

Hon. Marlene Jennings (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Canada—U.S.), Lib.): Pro. A black woman, she's been married to a white man for 31 years, so she understands the pain of discrimination. She's not speaking to MPs who've pretty much made up their minds, but to Canadians who are on the fence on this issue. She points out the bill amends the definition of civil marriage, not religious marriage, and is a reflection of growing acceptance of gays and lesbians in Canadian society.

Mr. Vic Toews (Provencher, CPC): Con. He says that traditional marriage has a social purpose not present in other relationships, and that to remove the idea of heterosexuality will affect those who are shaped by the institution. He blasts the Liberal government for breaking promises on SSM, saying the Supreme Court of Canada never declared the traditional definition of marriage to be unconstitutional as the government claims. His party plans to bring forward amendments to strength religious protections in the bill, since provincial human rights commissions cannot be trusted to protect religion.

Mr. John Cannis (Scarborough Centre, Lib.): Con. He chides the preceding two Tory MPs for attacking the government, but admits that 94% of his constituents who wrote him want to keep the traditional definition of marriage. He points out the ramifications of changing the definition, including the need to harmonize provincial adoption laws. He points out that attacking the government is pointless because under the free vote for backbenchers, the Liberals don't have enough to pass the legislation.

Mr. Russ Hiebert (South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, CPC): Con. He says the Liberals don't have a mandate to proceed with this legislation, accusing them of having a hidden agenda by funding court challenges to provincial definitions of marriage. He says the bill threatens the rights of parents to have their children educated as they see fit, because advocates will try to force same-sex issues onto the public school curriculum. He calls the bill neither constitutionally required nor publicly desired.

Mr. Bernard Patry (Pierrefonds—Dollard, Lib.): Pro. He sees his support as part of an MP's duty to improve the quality of life for people in Canadian society, and to promote tolerance. As a doctor, he's seen the effect of prejudice and discrimination on the health and well-being of his patients; while this bill won't solve all of society's problems, it's a significant step towards improving the well-being of one group of citizens.

Mr. Brian Pallister (Portage—Lisgar, CPC): Con. He points out that there are important differences between same-sex and opposite-sex unions, and to ignore those differences would be to act in confusion. He doesn't buy the government's commitment to protecting religious freedoms since it has a history of equating religion with intolerance and acting accordingly. He defends the idea of civil unions by denying that "different but equal" is discrimination.

Mr. Brent St. Denis (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, Lib.): Pro. He supports it because recent court rulings made the issue a matter of respecting rights. The bill is necessary to prevent the balkanization of provincial marriage laws as a result of provincial court judgements. He also draws a distinction between civil and religious marriage, and states that marriage is an institution that belongs to all of society, and it shouldn't be tied down by tradition.

Mrs. Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, CPC): Con. Her stance is based on protecting religious freedoms and the freedom to speak without fearing persecution. She blasts the Prime Minister for forcing cabinet members to support the bill. She also considers the bill a diversion away from Liberal government mismanagement.

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP): Pro. The former leader of the New Democrats reminds her colleagues that SSM support is part of the NDP platform. She doesn't believe that changing the definition would weaken the institution and that Canadians would be better off if more people could embrace the marital tradition and be able to live in a marital relationship.

Mr. Francis Scarpaleggia (Lac-Saint-Louis, Lib.): Con. He believes traditional marriage has features that make it a unique designation. Speaking in terms of political liberal philosophy (i.e. the state being subservient to individual will), he things C-38 oversteps the bounds of the marriage issue by taking away the role of marriage in bridging the generation and gender gaps. He proposes a 2-step civil registry option: a civil licensing ceremony followed by a public ritual that could be performed by religious officials.

Mr. Bob Mills (Red Deer, CPC): Con. His constituents feel that there are more important issues to deal with than SSM. He doesn't believe that this government can guarantee protection of religious freedoms with C-38; for example, it won't protect marriage commissioners who refuse to perform marriages because of their beliefs. It also doesn't protect religions who have other requirements for marriage vows besides civil ones.

Hon. Sarmite Bulte (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Lib.): Pro. She suggests that Canadian society has evolved considerably since the written definition of marriage first appeared in 1866. She equates the SSM debate to those of 1918, giving women the right to vote. She believes that amending the definition would be a reflection of Canadian values of fairness, equality and non-discrimination.

Mr. Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead, CPC): Con. He chides the government for allowing the courts to drive this issue. He defends traditional marriage as a vital, integrated force in society, but it is not a human right. He feels that redefining marriage would threaten freedom of religion, which is itself a Charter right, and points to examples where the SSM issue has had a negative impact on religious matters. He finally urges the Prime Minister to allow cabinet members to have a free vote on the issue.

Hon. Paul DeVillers (Simcoe North, Lib.): Pro. He considers SSM and equality and minority rights issue, and he's explained that to his constituents. He has stronger faith in the ability of C-38 to protect religion, pointing out that no one has ever compelled the Catholic Church in Canada to ordain women despite their having equal rights under the Charter. He's skeptical about using the "notwithstanding" clause of the Charter to set aside civil marriage, since that could set a precedent that threatens minority language rights.

Mr. Randy Kamp (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission, CPC): Con. He doesn't consider SSM to be a fundamental human right, based on the UN Covenant and Declaration of Human Rights. He suggests that if marriage is inherently a heterosexual union, then it is not discriminatory to exclude same-sex couples from it. He also believes there will be unintended consequences from changing the definition of marriage.

Hon. Tony Ianno (Minister of State (Families and Caregivers), Lib.): Pro. He thinks the resolution of SSM will have a big impact on the role of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canadian life. The Charter exists to protect the weakest in our society; extending rights to them does not take away rights from anyone else. He also fears that using the "notwithstanding" clause to preserve marriage would set a dangerous precedent with regard to minority rights under the Charter.

Mr. Tony Martin (Sault Ste. Marie, NDP): Pro. (His comments came after Statements by Members and Oral Question Period.) He considers civil SSM an issue of justice. As a practicing Catholic, he loves and respects his church to feel confident about telling its leadership when it's wrong. He's aware that a lot of constituents in his riding are opposed to C-38, but he believes it's a step forward in a continuing evolution of society. He doesn't like the Conservative idea of same-sex civil union because it's devoid of the tradition and symbolism that make marriage a memorable institution.


So for 24 March, ths score would be Con 11, Pro 10.
Total so far this week: Con 19, Pro 14.

The House adjourned yesterday and resumes sitting on Monday, 4th April. So this isn't over yet by a long shot.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Introducing ... the Ken Epp Award! (for Rhetorical Silliness)

Ken Epp is the Conservative MP for Edmonton--Sherwood Park. Yesterday in Parliament he made a statement that ... well, it's not exactly malicious, but it is somewhat symptomatic of a disease that affects politicians in general, some more than others.

It's pretty much a given that 87 percent of all politicians' speech has no real meaning. Phrases like "bold new direction" or "unprecedented in our history" or "the people of Canada are united in this" have been robbed of their impact, through rhetorical inflation and overuse. Now couple that with an outlook of deliberately blinkered optimism, and you'll get something like this (fisked for your viewing pleasure):

Mr. Speaker, six minutes ago it was exactly 100,000 hours since I was first elected as a member of Parliament. What are my thoughts after 4,167 days?

For the record, Mr. Epp was elected to Parliament in 1993, when the first Chrétien government came to power, so he's held the seat for around 12 years. Which presumably means he should know better: stating his time in office in terms of hours is a bad idea. It gives the impression that Mr. Epp spends his time counting minutes -- something that is only done when the counter (usually a prisoner, a pupil in detention, or a white-collar waiting for the weekend on a Friday)wants to leave. Is being an MP that bad?

It has been an extraordinary privilege to serve the people of Elk Island, and now Edmonton—Sherwood Park. It has been exciting to progress from the Reform Party, to the Canadian Alliance and now to the new exciting Conservative Party of Canada.

No, I promise you; I don't think he's being ironic here. Still, it does seem somewhat oxymoronic to see "exciting" and "Conservative" paired together like that.

While this corrupt, tired Liberal government is missing the mark with respect to leadership of this wonderful country, I and my party are ready to govern with vision and insight. We are ready to offer Canadians a responsible, trustworthy government, an end to mismanagement, a new respect-based relationship with our American neighbours, a justice system that does a better job of protecting law-abiding citizens, effective democracy and much more. I can hardly wait until the electorate gives us the green light at the next election.

Cheerleading. Backbench MPs do that a lot. The thing is, the above paragraph could have been said at any point during this parliamentary term (yes, there's the excuse of the Conservative convention this past weekend). It could have been said last year, or in the term before the last election, or even after the first four years of the Chrétien administration. That's why it's effectively meaningless.

I anticipate with great excitement what the next six million minutes will bring.

That goes back to his "100,000 hours" statement. One gets the impression that Mr. Epp wants to warm his backbench seat for another 12 years, at which point he'd be 78 years old. (This assumes that he continues to win all elections held in that period.)

For a contrast, check out Liberal backbench MP Susan Kadis' statement that same day, also on the Tories. Note that she makes it topical by relating it to the policy convention. There's a bit of cheerleading in the end, of course, but on the whole this is more effective as rhetoric than Mr. Epp's oration.

I'm not trying to be mean-spirited. It's just that Mr. Epp's statement is such a stunning example of rhetorical silliness that it merits naming an award after him. The purpose of this award would be to highlight examples of silly or inane speeches by MPs, with the aim of improving their speechmaking abilities.

Here' are the eligibility requirements:

1. The nominee must be a Canadian elected official. Officials from provincial, territorial and municipal jurisdictions are eligible.

2. The nominated statement or oration must appear on the Web in an official capacity. This includes online Hansard plus speeches from the nominee's official website. A link must be provided.

3. The statement must show a use of rhetoric that strikes people as being silly or inane, with an explanation as to why. Because rhetoric is meant to be said out loud, errors in transcription (i.e. spelling) don't count. (However, if the error results in a completely different meaning than was actually said, it qualifies for the Speech, Shoots and Leaves Award.)
Also, partisan reasoning won't be considered a good explanation.

That's pretty much it. An eventual winner will be announced at the end of the year. Hopefully, there won't be too many nominees, but with this lot, you never know ...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Mark Holland, Oppressor of Free Speech

Never heard of Mark Holland? He's a newbie Liberal backbencher from the riding of Ajax-Pickering. Yesterday he used his member's time to make the following speech:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a matter of great concern to me and, I would say, to all members of the House.

Flyers have been mailed out across Canada to a variety of different members' ridings stating that members are against families or are trying to destroy marriage. Even though I think that position is intolerant, I do respect the opinion. However, what I do not respect is tens of thousands of dollars being spent anonymously with absolutely no way to contact this organization.

My office has been contacted by hundreds of residents who are extremely upset. Maybe this is acceptable to the opposition but I would like to know who is behind it. We do not know who is behind it. Is there foreign money? Is there a political party behind it? These are the questions we have to ask.

To have anonymous money being spent in this way from a post office in a 7-Eleven in Toronto is absolutely unacceptable. Canadians deserve--

At this point he ran out of time, but I think you get the gist.

Mr. Holland is complaining about junk mail. Not hate mail -- junk mail, the type you toss into the recycle bin after one glance. An everyday annoyance, certainly. Among the issues of the day that Mr. Holland could have chosen to comment on -- SSM, the sponsorship scandal, La Francophonie, the upcoming three-leader summit, etc. -- he decides to wax eloquent about junk mail. One suspects that, if Mr. Holland stays in the House, his spot on the backbench will always be warm.

But what moves Mr. Holland's speech into the realm of utter fatuity is his last statement:

To have anonymous money being spent in this way from a post office in a 7-Eleven in Toronto is absolutely unacceptable.

This pretty much ranks right up there with CNN executive Jonathan Klein's rant about bloggers and pyjamas. Mr. Holland's sneering implication is that the authors of those flyers are amateurs with no right to do what they did. It does not seem to occur to him that amateurs, like professionals, have a right to express their opinions, no matter how annoying their methods.

Unacceptable? Not only is this acceptable, it's damn well guaranteed, courtesy of that pesky little section 2(b) in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Ah, well. I suppose we should be generous and chalk this one up to Mr. Holland's inexperience. Here's hoping his riding gives him better things to make a speech about.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Same-Sex Marriage: The MPs' Roundup, Part One

Parliament resumed sitting yesterday, and the morning was taken up with the second reading of Bill C-38, the same-sex marriage bill. You can find the whole debate here, but for the sake of the public record I've summarized the comments of those MPs who spoke on the bill. (I've also included links to MP's websites, which feature their e-mail addresses if you want to comment on their remarks.)


Mrs. Rose-Marie Ur (Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, Lib.): Con. She voted for the traditional definition of marriage in 1999 and 2003, and she's following the wishes of her constituents. She blames the courts for this bill, pointing out that sexual orientation isn't in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that redefining marriage would have negative consequences.

Mr. Garry Breitkreuz (Yorkton—Melville, CPC): Con. He suggests that Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan is breaking a 1999 promise not to change the definition of marriage. Quoting from several of his constituents' letters, he says they see the issue as one of social policy, not rights.

Hon. John McCallum (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.): Pro. (Note that cabinet ministers are required to support this legislation.) He believes that society should always seek to expand the rights of members so long as the rights of others aren't reduced. He equates SSM to women's voting rights and doesn't see how the idea of gay marriage diminishes the idea of straight marriage. He states that Canadians cannot protect the tradtional idea of marriage and
protect minority rights at the same time.

Mr. Réal Ménard (Hochelaga, BQ): Pro. He sees SSM as a matter of citizenship: gay couples see the virtues of marriage (fidelity, mutual commitment and support) in the same way as straight couples. He states that the bill doesn't open the door to polygamy or polyandry because multiple-partner marriages diminish the Charter-guaranteed right of gender equality.

Hon. John McKay (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.): Con. (Parliamentary secretaries aren't Cabinet ministers and therefore can vote freely.) He calls the bill's title (officially, "an Act respecting certain aspects of legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes" or the Civil Marriage Act) sugar-coating, he finds the preamble dubious without the force of law, he thinks the portions that protect religious officials are worthless and insulting (likening religous officials to bigots), and suggests that consequential amendments to other Canadian laws will cause a domino effect. He tries to link the introduction of same-sex civil unions (in the Netherlands, Denmark and Quebec) with a decline in the number of straight civil marriages in those jurisdictions.

Mr. Mark Warawa (Langley, CPC): Con. His constituents don't want the traditional marriage to be changed. He suggests that the Liberals are afraid of a total free vote on the bill. He doesn't see SSM as a fundamental human right, citing a decision from the UN Human Rights Commission. He sees civil unions as being equal to traditional marriage. He believes the bill is an attack on religious rights.

Mr. Mario Silva (Davenport, Lib.): Pro. He finds the bill defines a new frontier of equality and respect for Canadians. He says the debate isn't about religion or tradition, but about the basis of civil society and the need of everyone to be free and equal. He wonders who would deny to gay couples the right to express love and commitment to each other, and suggests that thousands of civil-union licenses would have to be rescinded if the bill fails.

Mrs. Carol Skelton (Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, CPC): Con. She personally supports the traditional definition of marriage and thinks equality under the law is possible without having to change it. 90 percent of her constituents want her to vote against the bill, but she promises to support existing civil unions in her riding.

Hon. Dan McTeague (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Con. He doesn't believe the institution of marriage is a claimed right, and doesn't think the authors of the Constitution and Charter intended such a right. He reminds the House that there are more pressing problems than SSM, such as poverty, housing and Aboriginal needs. He considers this bill to be bad legislation.

Mr. Werner Schmidt (Kelowna—Lake Country, CPC): Con -- maybe. He doesn't openly declare his voting intentions, but he mentions that he's seeking the wisdom of God, which suggests it's likely to be "con." He does ask a lot of questions with regard to the implications of SSM.

Ms. Françoise Boivin (Gatineau, Lib.): Pro. She suggests that past rulings from provincial and territorial courts preclude the idea of keeping the traditional definition of marriage while creating same-sex unions. She says the courts found the traditional definition of marriage to be unconstitutional and that the only way to save it would be to use the Constitution's notwithstanding clause, a prospect she finds troubling.

Mr. John Williams (Edmonton—St. Albert, CPC): Con. He finds the definition of marriage to be unique among the social relationships available to members of society. He doesn't consider marriage to be an inalienable human right, but a commitment of choice. He argues that there is no legal requirement to enact this bill. He suggests that, based on the Supreme Court's opinion, the government cannot commit to freedom of religion with this bill, because secular rights trump religious rights when it comes to the Charter.


So for 21 March, the score is 8-4 for the Cons, which seems about right. So far as I can tell, no one has said anything genuinely stupid (although McCallum makes an analogy from Chinese history that comes pretty close), but we'll see.

If anyone is interested in seeing summaries of MP remarks in previous debates on C-38, please let me know.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Deroy Murdock Blames Canada

National Review's Deroy Murdock has a pretty big summary on terrorist activity in Canada.

What can America do about all this? Pressing the Canadians to tighten up may require constant engagement. Amplifying the calls of Canada's Tories for stricter immigration and easier deportation would help. For starters, President Bush should broach border security when he meets his North American counterparts in Mexico on March 23.

The warm U.S.-Canadian relationship, illustrated by our 3,145-mile unprotected boundary, cooled somewhat when Ottawa recently refused to help Washington develop defenses against incoming nuclear-tipped missiles. But that modest dispute will pale beside the northward-flowing rancor that will erupt if a terrorist attack kills innocent Americans, and U.S. officials discover that the butchers slipped past complacent Canadians.

One thing I think Mr. Murdock gets wrong: he seems to blame Canada's less vigilant anti-terrorism activities on ideology. I think it's more a matter of competence -- the trials of Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri would have ended quite differently if the RCMP and CSIS had handled things better.

Nonethless, Mr. Murdock's assemblage of stories does seem pretty damning -- even though he reports near the end that Canada's policies are getting stronger. It's worth a read.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Congratulations, Mr. Harper

Well, you made it. The Conservative Party of Canada has completed its first post-election convention, and they gave you a pretty hefty vote of confidence.

True, you've ditched a few Reform Party platforms, but fortunately for you they're not exactly hot-button issues at the moment. And vowing to leave the abortion law "as is" may irritate a few social conservatives, but even they know that a lot of work has to be done at the "hearts and minds" stage before Canada moves on abortion.

"Hearts and minds." That's the real key to social change in Canada. And unlike the Liberals who are charging ahead willy-nilly (too scared of the interest groups), you're listening to the polls the right way on same-sex marriage. Too many people in the West don't like the idea of full-blown SSM, and it's time for PC Tories in the Quebec-Windsor Corridor to wise up and accommodate them. (For now, anyway.)

So, Stevie lad, I'm convinced. You might make a halfway decent PM.

But I'm not sending in my CPC membership cheque just yet.

Remember those questions I asked yesterday? I'm still waiting for answers. How you go about answering them is your business, but they still need to be answered.

And not just you, lad, but your colleagues in Parliament as well. Who are your fellow Tories? Canadians might name Peter McKay and Belinda Stronach, and maybe Stockwell Day and Elsie Wayne, but that's pretty much it. You need stars, Stephen. Yes, there's a risk of them becoming leadership rivals and backstabbers, but you need strong performers in Parliament who can become strong performers in Cabinet. That means they need room to make a name for themselves. You should be secure enough to give them that room.

And finally, lad, there's the policies. I'm not saying you have to abandon the entire Reform/CA platform to get elected. But you still need to identify the policies (and their principles) that you're going to stick with come hell, high water or opinion polls. The job now is to win the hearts and minds of all Canadians -- not just the West and the Corridor, but the Atlantic and the North as well. The Liberal-leaning mindset in those regions is going to be a tough one to dislodge, but fortunately you're up against Paul Martin, not Pierre Trudeau. So it's doable.

Okay, Stephen. Time to go back to work.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Bond Begins?

Generally speaking, I'm a big fan of 007, James Bond. I recently completed my collection of all 14 of Ian Fleming's 007 books, as published by Penguin, with the lurid cover artwork of Richey Fahey. (Apparently the Fahey covers are no longer in print; the Penguin Flemings are now published as part of their Modern Classics collection.)

As for the Bond movies, I tend to like the early ones, with Sean Connery and Roger Moore. (Whenever I read Fleming, I tend to hear Roger Moore's voice whenever Bond speaks. Must be a generational thing.)

So I look at the news about the latest Bond movie, Casino Royale, with mixed feelings.

Robert Wade also said that the new script, as it currently stands, will indeed be concerned with Bond’s formative years, exploring how 007 came to be, in Wade’s words, “hermetically sealed, emotionally”. Commenting on the torture scene, Wade said: “If it is done the right way, there are going to be a lot of crossed legs in the cinema.”

He also added: “At the moment it is a very faithful adaptation, updated. The book is the story of the incident that actually forges James Bond as a secret agent. There is a James Bond that everyone knows, but it would be nice just once to show how he got there.”

Well ... that's the good news. I found Die Another Day a little over-the-top in terms of the action sequences.

However, in a possible response to the rumours about a ‘Bond Begins’ approach that have hit the media in recent weeks, the two screen-writers also revealed that the ‘Casino’ adaptation departs from the novel, in that it will still have a setting in the present day – despite being a kind of prequel. Wade said: “That is our attempt at a sleight of hand. We can’t make it as a period piece.”

Well ... that's the bad news.

Reflecting on both the possibilities and the limitations of the Fleming novel, Wade further commented that the book “doesn’t have the global vista and it doesn’t have the level of action with which the cinematic Bonds have become synonymous with. We’ve opened it up but tried to keep the action fairly contained, and of realistic proportions. And everything that we’ve done that expands on the book is providing a modern context for what happens.”

Neal Purvis added: “We don’t want to hark back to the old Bond films, because everyone goes on about that. We want to do something new, faithful to the original sense.”

Okay ... here's why I think they're making a mistake.

First, there are always going to be action movies. The Bond movies have had plenty of action, but if you want to wow the critics, you're going to need to go into a new direction, and making the next Bond movie an action film is NOT a new direction.

For a Bond film, a new direction means a new attitude toward the filmmaking. That means you need drama. The movies with Timothy Dalton were a step in the right direction, and the current writers seem like they plan to follow it, but you never know what pressures producers will bring.

Second, as it stands, the movie may become another Sum of All Fears -- i.e. it fails because it ignore previous films in the franchise. People remember the series going all the way back to the 1960s with Sean Connery; there's no way moviegoers are going to forget that.

The thing is, Bond has always been a product of his time: the Cold War era of the 1950s to the 1980s. The era before political correctness, before AIDS and safe sex, before cigarettes and jet-setting and martinis became unfashionable. There is no shame in admitting that Bond's era is past; a historical film can celebrate and acknowledge it.

Not to mention that doing it as historic might bring Pierce Brosnan back ...

Tories: Do You Want My Vote or Not?

I live in the federal riding of Ottawa-Centre. The MP is "Honest Ed" Broadbent of the lefty New Democrats. In spite of that, most people, including myself, feel that Ed's an all right Joe and a lot more competent than the Senate-bound Mac Harb.

Which is why I voted for him.

I used to have a membership in the Reform Party of Canada, later the Canadian Alliance. And yet I voted for a socialist.

Why? Because I don't know the CPC candidate. All I got was some junk mail stuck to my apartment building door -- which, by the way, is not allowed according to the rules of the building -- and an ill-timed phone call from a volunteer speaking badly-accented English asking for my support. (To be fair, I got this from the Liberals too.)

Or to put it bluntly: in the last election, the Conservative Party of Canada was not ready for power, and it's not ready for power now.

This current convention in Montreal is a first step: a way for the public to gauge if the Tories are ready. Policies, strategies, statements of principle, etc. The press have been playing up a possible schism over convention delegate policies which strikes me as being a bit silly, but then that's the press for you.

Time will tell if the Tories can get their problems ironed out, but in the meantime I have a few questions to ask. These are the issues that matter to me when I vote; and the Tories' campaign platform will answer my questions:

1. Will you stop the chronic underfunding of the Canadian Forces, and re-work the DND infrastructure so that our soldiers, sailors and air people get the equipment they need when they need it?

2. Will you be friends with the United States -- no matter who they put in the White House? (George Bush may not be in power for the next election.)

3. Will you review and reform our public safety infrastructure so that the RCMP, CSIS, CSE, Immigration and Foreign Affairs can work together more smoothly to fight terrorism?

4. Will you reform health care so that Canadians can get the care they need -- regardless of whether it's paid for by the public or private sectors?

5. Will you help our Native Peoples so that they can learn to look after themselves? Or join the mainstream Canadian society, if they so choose?

6. Will you help our farmers and fishermen so that they can keep Canada's food supply constant without having to go broke?

7. Can you reform the public service so that things like the sponsorship scandal don't happen again?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The 17th Edition of the Red Ensign Standard ...

... may be found here.

Rue's done a tremendous job here, breaking the mold of the Standard layout even further than what I would have dared.

I trust she's braced for the Instalanche ...

Monday, March 14, 2005

Defence Spending: Too Good to be True

Damian Brooks has been looking at a Canadian Press article which shows that that big budget increase for DND isn't quite as big as the Liberals would have you believe.

Damian, of course, would like to see some graphic representation of the CP figures, and so here we go:

(About creating the chart: the figures supplied by CP were plugged into Microsoft Excel and converted to a GIF chart. This was in turn converted to a JPG using Adobe Photoshop Elements and posted via hello/Picasa.)

Now, the area in red represents the actual dollar figures (in billions of Canadian dollars), while the green represents those figures converted to 2005 dollars. While the Liberals report a spending increase (and in some years they're not lying), in terms of real spending there's been a decrease, and a fairly significant one at that.

Yes, it's smoke and mirrors on the part of the Liberals. And I doubt they're going to become really serious about defence spending unless this upcoming defence review comes up with something really shocking to their system.


I did another of those tests at the OKCupid site: this one having to do with alcohol knowledge.

My results?

Congratulations! You're 109 proof, with specific scores in beer (20) , wine (100), and liquor (104).
Screw all that namby-pamby chick stuff, you're going straight for the bottle and a shot glass! It'll take more than a few shots of Wild Turkey or 99 Bananas before you start seeing pink elephants. You know how to handle your alcohol, and yourself at parties.
My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

You scored higher than 23% on proof
You scored higher than 84% on beer index
You scored higher than 94% on wine index
You scored higher than 95% on liquor index
Link: The Alcohol Knowledge Test written by hoppersplit on Ok Cupid

Something tells me I may want to cut back on the bar-hopping for a while. Either that, or pay more attention to the girls.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Pardon My English

I took this test (thanks to Ray at Raging Kraut):

English Genius
You scored 100% Beginner, 100% Intermediate, 93% Advanced, and 83% Expert!
You did so extremely well, even I can't find a word to describe your excellence! You have the uncommon intelligence necessary to understand things that most people don't. You have an extensive vocabulary, and you're not afraid to use it properly! Way to go!

Thank you so much for taking my test. I hope you enjoyed it!

For the complete Answer Key, visit my blog: http://shortredhead78.blogspot.com/.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

You scored higher than 62% on Beginner
You scored higher than 76% on Intermediate
You scored higher than 35% on Advanced
You scored higher than 84% on Expert
Link: The Commonly Confused Words Test written by shortredhead78 on Ok Cupid
About the comparatives: I think the percentages refer to the total population of people who answered questions in a particular section.

Anyway, I suppose reading a lot of popular fiction (P.G. Wodehouse, Ian Fleming, Raymond Chandler and Rex Stout) does affect one's English.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Maureen Dowd Gets One Right

I normally don't have much use for the New York Times' Maureen Dowd, but I'd have to classify her March 13th column among her better ones.

Here she addresses the Susan Estrich controversy. Estrich, you'll recall, is a syndicated opinion columnist who waged an unsuccessful campaign to get Los Angeles Times editor Michael Kinsley to hire more female opinion columnists of the left-wing persuasion for better diversity on the opinion page. Dowd speaks for a lot of the blogosphere when she calls Estrich's manoeuvre for what it is: "a crazed and nasty smear campaign ... trying to force him to run her humdrum syndicated column."

Some of Estrich's work can be found here. I'd have to admit, compared to Dowd's output it does tend to be pretty dull -- but then again, being a university professor can do that.

What makes Dowd's current column readable is that for once, she doesn't try to be cute about skewering a target. Trying to be cute -- things like using nicknames like "Rummy," pop culture metaphors, etc. -- may seem like a good idea to Dowd, but it also means she can't be taken seriously as an opinion columnist. Here, however, she is more serious than usual, outlining her problems as a woman pundit and pointing out the dearth of female opinion out there. (Caveat: because she cites no statistics, her statements are based on her own observations. Obviously she hasn't read Blog just yet when she talks about male bloggers predominating -- but then again, one wouldn't have expected her to read Michelle Malkin.)

Have a look. I assure you, it's a lot less annoying than usual.

Iowahawk Finishes the Inspector Dan Trilogy

If you want to read some nice parody, look no further than the infamous -- or shall we say notorious? -- blogger Iowahawk.

When the Rathergate scandal broke out, the Hawk did a riff on a Raymond Chandler mystery and came up with My Teleprompter is Deadly, featuring the hapless Inspector Dan, a "dick" who refuses to be blinded by the truth. David Burge, the writer behind Iowahawk, not only parodied Rather's public persona, but also skewered the bloggers who kept the pressure going on Rathergate -- Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs as a jazz informer, the folks at Powerline as menacing bullies, and the Instapundit as a sinister overlord over all he surveys.

These characters came back for the sequel, Farewell My Producer, which came out the day after then Boccardi-Thornburgh report. It's notable because Minnesota columnist Nick Coleman launched a personal attack on the Powerline boys, thus earning a place in the new parody as a fellow "dick" who tries to destroy the Powerline crew but trips himself up every which way.

When Rather made his final broadcast as CBS anchor on Wednesday, I knew the Hawk wouldn't be far behind. And sure enough, he didn't disappoint. Have a look at The Big Snooze and you'll see why lots of bloggers like him.

Friday, March 04, 2005

What Can Be Learned from Rochford Bridge?

In case you're wondering, Rochford Bridge is a hamlet in Alberta where, yesterday, four RCMP officers were killed while investigating a marijuana-growing operation (or "grow-op"). You can read coverage of it from CBC News, the Globe and Mail and CNews.

You'd have to go back to the 1885 Northwest Rebellion (which was a quasi-military operation) to find a multiple-fatality rate for Mounties.

Already, people are speculating as to how this incident will affect new effects to decriminalize marijuana possession. The National Liberal caucus is poised to debate an Alberta resolution to legalize pot:

Nick Taylor, a former senator and onetime leader of the Liberals in the province where the tragedy occurred, said the incident proves once again that prohibition, whether for alcohol, tobacco or marijuana, doesn't work.

"The way we've done it now is marijuana has become the exclusive prerogative of the criminal element because there's such fantastic profit in it," Taylor said in an interview. "I'm not saying that the four men would be alive if we had legalized marijuana, but I suspect they might be."

This comes under the heading of "Stupid Things Politicians Say." The shooter was known to have a history with police. Legal or not, the possibility and probability of extreme violence would still have been present.

Of course there will be an inquiry into this. If people are smart, it won't be the issue of legalizing pot that will come into question. The questions will be how the RCMP could have handled things better. For instance:

1. All of the victims were junior officers with under 5 years' experience. Should someone more senior have been assigned to supervise the investigation?

2. Did the officers receive training, resources and/or equipment to handle being in a potential gunfight? Things like Kevlar protection, for example?

3. Could backup have been made available faster?

Answering these questions (as well as a few others that other policemen could ask) is going to be very important for the RCMP. Because there's not all that much practical difference between a violent gunman trying to protect a grow-op and a terrorist sniper in an urban environment. Can today's Mounties look after their people if they become involved in a life-threatening situation?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Thoughts After Digging Out from Under the Instalanche

Hoo boy. I always heard about Glenn Reynolds' power, but I never realized its full impact until now.

I just looked at my SiteMeter numbers. Hosting the 16th Red Ensign Standard resulted in over 2500 site visits in one day. This is almost double what I've had in the entire existence of this blog (about 6 months' worth of posting). I guess that must be typical of what they call an "Instalanche" in the "long tail" of the blogosphere.

About putting the 16th edition together:

First, I opted for an HTML table format because I felt it would make the Standard easier to read. It also gave me greater flexibility in presenting everyone's blog entries because I didn't need to try to work in the blog titles in the presentation.

As it happens, Microsoft Word allows you to save documents as Web pages. I figured all I had to do was prepare the Standard in Word, save as a Web document, and copy/paste into Blogger's HTML mode. Right?


As it turns out, Microsoft Word has proprietary tags in HTML, including a few that Blogger doesn't recognize. And a lot of those tags consist of specified code definitions to achieve Word effects, including a few that highlighted so-called misspellings (i.e. words and names that Word doesn't recognize). I spent all of Sunday night and a good part of Monday morning deleting code and proprietary tags from the Standard, and adding more traditional (and therefore universally-recognized) HTML table tags. (Note to self: look for a good HTML reference book next time I go to Chapters.)

I don't know if future editions will keep the table format: every Brigadier who hosts the Standard has different ideas about layout and presentation.

Second, about blog entry selection. I really had only one criteria for outright exclusion: if a Brigadier hadn't written a blog entry during the period of the Standard, they were put in an "inactive" table and came in at the bottom.

Picking and choosing entries for inclusion: because the Standard's presentation has generally been as a collection of entries from Canadian blogs, I tried to select entries dealing with current Canadian issues. Of course that wasn't always possible, especially with our non-Canadian members, which is where I used my second criteria: original content. By that I mean original thoughts written by the Brigadier, as opposed to just linking and quoting. If you've read the Standard, I hope you've read some of the Brigadiers' entries; if you have, I'm sure you'll agree that we do have a lot of bright, erudite thinkers in our Brigade.

One other criterion: I'm always impressed by good photoblogging and often wish I could do more of it myself. Which is why stuff from Nathan and Rebecca were definite keepers for the Standard.

Conclusion: A lot of hard work, but definitely worth it. I don't know that I want to do it again, though.