Saturday, July 30, 2005

The 27th Edition of the Red Ensign Standard ...

... may be found here. Note that permalinks on the High Places blogsite aren't working, so this link will take you to the main page.

UPDATE (08h10 1 Aug 2005): The permalinked edition can be found here. (Hat tip: Andrew.)

Friday, July 29, 2005

Grewal's Got Guts (Though We're Not Sure About Brains)

Lest we think that The Garish Ms. Parish is the only MP making the national news this week, let's turn our attention to Surrey MP Gurmant "Your Conversation May Be Taped for Quality Control Purposes" Grewal.

This morning in the Globe and Mail, Grewal was quoted from a released statement saying that his taping of the PM's chief of staff was against Stephen Harper's orders:

"When I told Mr. Harper that I had an opportunity to meet with and tape the Prime Minister, Mr. Harper told me to end the taping process," Mr. Grewal said in the statement.

According to the dates of conversations on his own website, Mr. Grewal met with and taped a conversation with Tim Murphy, Mr. Martin's chief of staff, the next day.

In his clarification yesterday, Mr. Grewal said he informed Mr. Harper of what he was doing, but that "no approval was sought or given."

Asked yesterday if Mr. Grewal had broken the rules set down by the leader, a spokesman for Mr. Harper said that would be up to the party's MPs to decide.

"That's a decision that he and the caucus will have to make -- what to do," William Stairs said. "I can't speak for him."

Well, at least Grewal's managed to protect his leader to a certain degree; apparently Harper's not the type to try and mount a Nixonian sting operation on the PM. (Unfortunately, this doesn't excuse him from trying to turn the Grewal tapes into a Liberal scandal, and botching the execution.)

Assuming responsibility for this takes guts, which apparently Grewal feels is a virtue. When interviewed by the Surrey Leader earlier this week (hat tip: Neale News), he felt he could win re-election on account of his guts:

"I am going to run," he told The Leader in an interview Monday. "After the positive resolution of these issues I am sure my constituents will appreciate my guts and courage. They will appreciate my honesty and integrity. And they will reward me for my hard work."

On the integrity scale, I suppose Gurmant rates somewhat higher than The Garish One, who tends to speak with the abandon of an Independent with no responsibilities. Since "guts" is an aspect of character, Grewal should be commended for it.

His brains, on the other hand ...

Health Care : We're Not Getting Our Money's Worth ...

... at least not according to the Fraser Institute. They released their newest study on health care yesterday. (The press release can be found here, and the full report is here -- you'll need a PDF reader like Adobe to read it.)

Now, Ujjal Dosanjh may wish to dismiss the report as being from a right-wing think tank, but the fact is this is going to be potent ammunition for the Tories when Parliament resumes in September. (I predict at least two dozen private members' statements citing this study.)

Quoting from the press release:

The study compares Canada to other OECD countries that guarantee access to health care regardless of ability to pay. Twelve indicators of access to health care and outcomes from the health care process are examined including access to physicians, access to high-tech medical equipment, and key health outcomes.

Many of the countries examined produce superior outcomes in health care and at a lower cost than Canada. Other industrialized countries with universal access programs, such as Sweden, Japan, and Australia, allow user fees, some form of private insurance, and private hospitals that compete for patient demand. These three countries consistently outperform Canada on health outcomes but spend less.

In other words, getting the private sector involved will lower the overall cost of universal care. The proof is in the examples of other countries with government-sponsored care, that allow some form of private participation (user fees, private insurance, etc.).

There are of course, other problems mentioned. Currently we have a doctor shortage compared with other nations. And the doctors we do have don't have as much access to new medical technologies as do those in other countries. The Fraser study doesn't explicitly blame the bureaucratic nature of our current healthcare system -- but then again, it doesn't have to.

People who want healthcare to be on the public agenda should download this report. Then, watch out for the fireworks in September.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

That Taste In Your Mouth Ain't Grit, It's A Garish Foot

Well, it doesn't look like The Garish Ms. Parrish will be returning to the Liberal caucus any time soon, if this Ottawa Citizen story is anything to go by:

Ms. Parrish is furious that Canadians and their politicians have not been consulted about what she calls the new role Canadian soldiers are being asked to carry out in Afghanistan, a role that includes killing, which is not the traditional job of peacekeeping.

"We're sending in armed troops to kill people (in Afghanistan). This is a drastic change in direction. I don't think anybody has consulted with the Canadian public. The first time Canadian soldiers come back in body bags, you just wait for the outcry," said Ms. Parrish, who was elected as a Liberal in 1993 but has been sitting in the backbenches as an independent MP since last year.

"If this thing gets any deeper in (Afghanistan) and we get a couple of dead Canadians back, I'll vote to bring the government down the first opportunity I got."

"Anne McLellan's not helping," added Ms. Parrish. "Every time I have the TV on there's a comment from her (that) 'we're not safe, we could be next.' What are we doing taunting people?"

Sigh. I suppose the one major difference between The Garish One and British MP George Galloway is that at least people can believe that Galloway was paid to be stupid.

Shall we fisk this latest statement? Yes, let's:

"We're sending in armed troops to kill people (in Afghanistan)."

Not quite. We're sending in armed troops to assist Afghanistan in its transition to a stable, representative regime. If that means insurgents are going to have to bite the bullet, well, that's tough on them -- but killing people is a collateral duty, not a primary one.

"This is a drastic change in direction. I don't think anybody has consulted with the Canadian public."

Nothing drastic about it. That's what peacekeepers are supposed to do. They've been in this current campaign for nearly four years now.

And this is just another stage in a military campaign. To consult the public -- as in seeking approval from the House of Commons -- is micromanagement, second guessing a trained soldier, inviting more tongue-lashing from people who are ignorant about military operations and only interested in partisan points.

"The first time Canadian soldiers come back in body bags, you just wait for the outcry."

Outcry? Wolf cry, more likely. There's been enough publicity about the Afghan campaign for people to know it ain't a walk in the park.

We are sending soldiers into harm's way. Getting killed in theater is a risk. So is crossing a highway; we don't close a road just because someone got run over. But if we're to be serious about the peacekeeping tradition that The Garish One is on record as supporting, then the Afghan project needs to go forward, not stopped because of a bloody nose.

There is one aspect of this story that can cause people like me to laugh out loud:

Ms. Parrish, who was booted out of the Liberal caucus last year after she criticized the government of U.S. President George W. Bush as "bastards" and "idiots," also said she is interested in returning to the Liberal fold, but only if she receives a personal invitation from the prime minister that has no strings attached.

Yeah, right. After threatening to bring down the government over an foreign policy issue? Tony Volpe, the House leader, may be machiavellian, but he's not that desperate for numbers.

On the other hand, let the Garish One keep talking. Whoever the Conservative candidate in Mississauga is, he or she has gotta be rubbing hands in glee ...

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Guess Who Just Became A Senior Citizen?


On July 27, 1940, the cartoon A Wild Hare was released, directed by animation legend Tex Avery and featuring Elmer Fudd and that wascally wabbit, Bugs Bunny.

This Oscar-winning Marine Corps vet now gets to collect Social Security benefits, while keeping active in his second childhood with Baby Looney Tunes and collecting royal checks from Space Jam and Back in Action.

Happy birthday, Bugs.

We Might Have a Problem Keeping Hans Island

Our defence minister, Bill Graham, seems pretty confident about Canada's ability to keep that soccer-field known as Hans Island (tiny bit between Ellsmere Island and Greenland):

Hans Island (courtesy of The Globe and Mail)

On Tuesday the defence minister continued to portray his visit as an innocent drop-in because he happened to be in the neighbourhood.

Graham was touring Arctic posts, including Iqaluit, Pond Inlet and Alert, as part of the government's increased emphasis on northern sovereignty. He travelled by helicopter to Hans Island last Wednesday, just days after a Canadian Rangers patrol flew in, planted a Canadian flag and erected an Inukshuk, the traditional stone marker of the Inuit.

"They had helicopters available - quite often when you're in Alert, you don't," Graham told reporters in Edmonton, where he met with about 110 soldiers before they left for a reconstruction mission in Afghanistan.

"We'll talk to the Danish people about their position, but our position has always been clear: It's Canada, and I went there just as I would have gone anywhere else in the Arctic."

This is one of those funny stories that journalists and government officials like to pull during summer (there's a reason why journalists call the summer months "the silly season"). No doubt there's a lot of Danes who are chuckling over this as well.

But I wonder if Mr. Graham would keep his smile after seeing this report:

An Arctic military exercise crippled by bad weather last spring exposed weaknesses in the ability of the Canadian Forces to operate in the North, says an internal report.

The report into the exercise on Ellef Ringnes Island said air crews had neither the equipment nor the experience they needed, and also underlined the inadequacy of arctic military air support.

"Squadron members don't have a lot of experience nor the proper equipment to be deployed to the field for any length of time, especially in the severe winter conditions that were prevalent," says the report released Tuesday to The Canadian Press.

Last April, the Forces staged an exercise on the northern island's Isachsen Peninsula, about 2,800 kilometres north of Edmonton and only 150 kilometres from the magnetic North Pole.

However, Isachsen's notoriously bad weather - the cape scores 99 out of 100 on Environment Canada's climate severity index - altered plans from the start.

Visits to five nearby islands were downgraded to two in the face of winds powerful enough to rock the large trailers where the troops were staying. An airplane crash rescue exercise was cancelled.

The report says the bad weather was hardest for the crews of two Twin Otters from 440 Squadron, who were supporting 30 soldiers on the ground.

The report says such crews need heavier equipment such as tents and shelters for the aircraft. They also need larger heaters and generators.

The exercise was also hampered by the lack of portable radar or other instrument flying aids.

Squadron commander Lt.-Col. Paul Fleet acknowledged that 440 - the only military aircraft stationed in the Arctic - isn't set up to remain in the field.

"If you want to do this kind of thing in the future, we have to pursue more resources," he said.

Put this another way: if it came down to a fight in the North, our CF isn't exactly bristling with options. Landing troops via mass aircraft isn't going to be possible, not with the equipment the Forces currently have. Ditto landing them via sea; apart from the lack of suitable ports, the Navy doesn't really have icebreaking capability.

If the current government wants to be serious about Arctic sovereignty, then they'll need more than a token visit by a politician.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Movie Tag, Huh?

Hey, I'll admit it: I'm a sucker for a good movie. And since Angry tagged me in on this, here goes:

As a child: Herbie Rides Again

I saw this in the old Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver, before they turned it into a hall for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. As a kid I liked the idea of a car with a mind of its own. (And the fact that the car's make coincided with my own initials didn't hurt either.)

As a teenager: Raiders of the Lost Ark

I didn't get to see too many movies in my high school years, but this is a memorable one.

In university: Roxanne

This was actually my first "date" movie. Steve Martin as a modern-day Cyrano was pretty cool.

Recent years: The Kurosawa/Mifune Samurai Films

Seven Samurai. Throne of Blood. The Hidden Fortress. Yojimbo. Sanjuro. Masters of storytelling, all of them.

All-time favorite: Yojimbo / A Fistful of Dollars
The same story, really. I did a write-up about them here.

Now, who to tag in? Oh, I know:

The Raging Kraut
Babbling Brooks


The Return of the Garish Ms. Parrish?

When it comes to bad politicians, there are really two types: the incompetent and the stupid. Both types tend to set off Angry in T.O., but the latter gets him firing on all cylinders faster than the former.

Case in point: the pseudo-Independent M.P., Carolyn Parrish (who is apparently going to return to the Liberal caucus):

"I am having discussions with some members of the party, but a lot of my colleagues want me back," she said in an interview yesterday.

Well, I suppose every great organization needs a benchmark for greatness: someone they can point to and say, "I'm a better MP than that."

Either that, or it's the traditional Liberal sympathy towards poor dumb animals.

The outspoken member of Parliament for Mississauga, Ont., said she will make up her mind by the new year.

"My decision is going to have more to do with how comfortable I feel and how comfortable they feel with us rejoining forces," she said.

Somehow the idea of the garish Ms. Parrish as a "force" to be reckoned with seems somewhat oxymoronic -- with the emphasis on "moron" -- but perhaps we should give her the benefit of the doubt.

"I do not inspire tepid responses in people," the 59-year-old MP said, noting that people either love her or hate her.

"So, I would imagine there are some around the Prime Minister who would rather slash their wrists than see me back, and there are others who think it would be lots of fun to see me back."

Actually, this type of thing is a virtue for a certain class of celebrity, guaranteeing all sorts of news copy. Ms. Parrish is the type to say and do the outrageous, just to get media attention.

Lots of people are like that. Paris Hilton, for example. Or the typical WWE wrestler. The main difference being that they'd probably make better members of Parliament than the Member for Mississauga. (Yes, even Paris.) Plus they're more photogenic.

True to form, Ms. Parrish couldn't resist a little demonstration of her outspokenness in yesterday's interview, criticizing Canada's new Chief of the Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier, for some of his recent comments.

She called him "dangerous" and a "testosterone-filled general," and added that "somebody should put a clamp on his mouth."

Now, insults aren't normally the type of thing to set Angry off. But this statement would, and did:

"We are also not a country that is going to easily throw away 100 years of peacekeeping reputation and noble reputation in the world by a testosterone-filled general, and I think somebody should put a clamp on his mouth."

Here's the link to Angry's complete text. If you look at the whole thing, it's a doozy of a rant.

Now, I'm not going to say that Angry's wrong -- I have to agree that she can be ignorant at times -- I think her motives are somewhat more selfish.

Carolyn Parrish is a publicity sow. Any publicity. Unlike backbenchers like Helena Guergis or , who want publicity to put an issue (aid to China) on the public agenda, Ms. Parrish seems to want publicity just for its own sake, having fallen into the delusion that publicity equals importance. And she knows that the best way to get it is to say and do things that will pander to the moonbat elements of the Librano movement, while shocking and appalling everyone else. Kinda like the "lite" version of Howard Dean.

Of course it'll be her undoing. Funny thing about doing the outrageous; if you do it too often, it's not outrageous anymore. You also run the risk of taking attention away from something that your boss wants publicity for--like his own accomplishments. And when the boss is someone like Paul Martin, getting the mikes pointed towards you is like the nail that sticks out -- and must be hammered down.

The fact that Parrish is "in negotiations" to return suggests to me that, while she may indeed have friends in the caucus, she's not completely welcome yet; there are others resistant to the idea of The Garish One in their ranks.

In a way, I'd wish her luck. The Garish Ms. Parrish is a living example of what can happen when people don't vote Tory.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Blogosphere Strikes Again

(Hat tip: Instapundit.)

It seems that it just doesn't pay to be an MSM journalist these days. Right in the middle of your composing the paragraph that "gets" that no-good evil conservative, you look behind you -- and find that the Pyjamahadeen has put you in their sights. By the time you get yourself in position to return fire, it's too late.

Dan Rather knows the feeling. So, apparently, does Dilpazier Aslam, the now-former reporter for the London Guardian:

The Guardian has terminated a reporter's one-year training contract after a blogger revealed the writer was a member of a extremist Islamist political party and had not declared his interest to the newspaper when he wrote for its comment pages after the July 7 attacks.

The Guardian's move - according to the newspaper, taken after reporter Dilpazier Aslam refused to resign from the party, Hizb ut- Tahrir - echoes recent media oustings in America, but is the first time a British journalist has been forced to step down after coming under fire from bloggers - independent web diarists.

Scott Burgess, who runs the Daily Ablution blog, revealed Mr Aslam’s ties to Hizb ut-Tahrir, which operates legally in Britain but is banned in several other countries.

Mr Aslam contributed to Hizb ut-Tahrir's website, where he wrote: "fight fire with fire, the state of Israel versus the Khilafah State".

Mr Burgess, a British-based American who had applied for the internship post at the Guardian to which Mr Aslam was appointed, established that the reporter "was working for this group as recently as June of last year."

Writing for The Guardian in the wake of the July 7 London bombs, Mr Aslam described himself as "a Yorkshire lad, born and bred" in a comment piece.

He went on to say Britons should not pretend to be shocked at the events of July 7, in which 56 died, including four suicide bombers.

After the article was published, The Guardian's attention was drawn to a document Hizb ut-Tahrir posted in March 2002, on its British website,

It quotes a passage from the Koran ("kill them wherever you find them...") followed by material arguing: "the Jews are a people of slander...a treacherous people... they fabricate lies and twist words from their right places".

According to The Guardian's statement, Mr Aslam told the editor, Alan Rusbridger, that he was unwilling to leave Hizb ut-Tahrir, and "while he personally repudiated anti-semitism, he did not consider the website material to be promoting violence or to be anti-semitic."

See here for the Guardian's coverage of its own mess, and here for Scott Burgess' response to the whole thing.

As a side issue, was the firing justified? I'd say that depends on whose decision it was to keep Mr. Aslam's political affiliation out of his commentary. If Mr. Aslam never bothered to mention it, well, that's his own fault, and he can't blame the editor for being mad at him.

But if he did mention it, and the editor made the decision not to drop it, then I don't blame him for consulting a lawyer for a wrongful-dismissal action. To be the victim of a CYA manoeuvre is a rotten reason for losing a job.

Frankly, I find the Guardian's somewhat outraged reaction to the whole matter amusing. That this was written by an anonymous "staffer" says much about the paper's attitude towards the blogosphere and its denizens--perhaps they're afraid of losing another staffer?

No matter. The pyjamahadeen is here to stay. And journalists had better get used to it.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

A Day At the Beach

It's a sunny day today, and the humidity's dropped compared to last week, which means that walking outside isn't a sticky misery. So I elected to spend part of the afternoon at the beach.

You wouldn't normally associate Ottawa with beaches, but there are quite a few nice ones out there. There's Britannia Beach, up around Richmond Road near the Ottawa River Parkway. And around Carleton University (which is my neighborhood), there's Mooney's Bay Beach, about a twenty-minute walk from my home. They're both connected to the river, so of course there's sand and shoreline.

Mooney's Bay is a good place to go to in this kind of weather. It's unfortunate that they didn't allow swimming today -- there was a coloform count that meant the water was polluted enough to be unhealthy -- but there were other activities around Mooney's Bay that one could engage in.

Volleyball, for example. There's a charity volleyball tournament that takes place here every summer, but for now the nets are for public use.

There are also a few bike paths connected to the area, but given its closeness I preferred to walk.

Of course, there are lots of other reasons to go to the beach ...

Yep. Lots of good reasons ...

Friday, July 22, 2005

Get This Boy Some Duct Tape

Y'know, if Red Green is recruiting for new members for Possum Lodge, I think we've managed to find one.

Geoff Milburn is an engineering student at the University of Waterloo. Like most students, he's broke. Also like most students, he's been suffering from the current heat wave. But unlike most students, he decided to do something about it: he built an air conditioner. For under $25. Canadian.

Looks like something out of Red Green's Handyman Corner, right? But apparently it works. In fact it works so well that CTV News invited Geoff to demonstrate it on Canada AM.

Geoff's also put the original plans for his cheap A/C here, but check out some of the subsequent improvements he's made as well (a true engineer; there's always something that can be tweaked).

And if Steve Smith is paying attention, he'd be smart to invite him to the Lodge ...

Debating the Dearth of Doctors

Andrew over at Bound by Gravity is debating Mike of Rational Reasons over what to do about the shortage of doctors in Canada.

This is actually one of those debates where both readers and contributors can actually learn something from the discussion. Canadians in general need more discussions like this; since health care reform is going to be a major part of the political agenda in the future, we owe it to ourselves to be able to discuss this.

Here's the link to the commentary. Both Andrew and Mike are encouraging others to contribute to the discussion as well, so feel free.

What About Bob?

You know it's a slow day for Canadian news when stories like this pop up:

Lifelong New Democrat Bob Rae, the cerebral former leader of one of the most unpopular governments in Ontario history, is being touted in some Liberal circles as a possible successor to Prime Minister Paul Martin.

"When people talk about who are potential leaders, Bob Rae's name does make the list," said Senator Terry Mercer, a onetime national director of the party and an ally of former Prime Minister Jean Chretien. "It's been speculation more than (anything). There's been no one come and say look, 'I've been thinking of supporting Bob Rae for leader, what do you think?'"

Nevertheless, Mr. Mercer said the 56-year-old former MP's name first surfaced as a potential candidate six months ago. It has not disappeared since.

Okay, here's the thing: name the last provincial premier to become prime minister of Canada.

Hard, huh? That's because there hasn't been one since 1896, when Charlie Tupper was shoehorned into the post for 2 months, before blowing the subsequent election. (It surprises people that someone was PM for a shorter time than John Turner or Kim Campbell.)

And furthermore, this is Bob Rae we're talking about, Ontario's first NDP premier, who was so bad that it took a Common Sense Revolution to fix everything.

So why do some Libranos think Bob Rae would make a good PM? Here's what the article says:

1. Apart from the regular party contributions, he's pretty much cut his ties with the New Democrats (i.e., he's moved towards the political centre)

2. He's been pretty hawkish, and is on record as bashing NDP security policy (i.e. he won't gut the Canadian Forces in favour of the Canada Council)

3. He's got friends among the Liberals, as well as his brother John who works in the Liberal stronghold called Power Corporation (I'm trying to remember which blogger is the conspiracist about Power Corp. and the Liberal Party -- no doubt it'll come to me)

4. He's used the 10 years since getting whomped by Mike Harris to re-invent himself as an elder statesman

What with bombings in London and the "Red-Headed League" tunnel in B.C., there would be plenty of stories for the front page more newsworthy than this one. This is just a speculation piece, that you pull out when you want filler.

For what it's worth, here are the minuses of getting Bob Rae to be Prime Minister:

1. People still remember his Ontario track record, including the organized labour vote (he forced government employes to take leave without pay), as opposed to what he's done lately

2. As an Ontarian, he'd be pretty hard to support outside of that province (limited appeal in Quebec)

3. Unless he can better publicize his work in the Middle East, he's got no positive track record in international affairs on which he can base a platform

4. The "friends among the Liberals" argument can be flipped, by clever Tories, into charges of cronyism against the federal Liberals in general--which, in the wake of the Gomery inquiry, is difficult to refute

5. He lost to Mike Harris, of all people. That's not attractive to a professional Liberal

6. Given all the grief he took as Premier, does he even want to go back to that kind of partisan-charged atmosphere, magnified on a national stage and augmented exponentially by the blogosphere?

This is not to say that Bob doesn't have a future role to play in federal politics. I'd say he'd probably be on the short list for Governor-General when Adrienne Clarkson finishes her term. He seems to have the snooty, "let them eat cake" look required for the position.

And if that's not in the cards, he might try being a Brian Mulroney impersonator.

UPDATE (10h53 EDT): Adam Daifallah has a nice summary (complete with links) of the media effort to elevate Bob to bigger things. His thinking is that the Toronto establishment want another political star. I think the rest of Canada may feel otherwise.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Not Quite the Great Escape, or, Bad Journalism at the CBC

Actually, the context is closer to the old Sherlock Holmes story "The Red-Headed League," but even though the circumstances are criminal I can't help but hear the Elmer Bernstein theme music upon reading this story:

SEATTLE (CP) - U.S. government agents have shut down a drug-smuggling tunnel built under the Canadian border between Aldergrove, B.C., and Lynden, Wash.

The exact length of the tunnel was not known. It ran from a building on the Canadian side to a house on the U.S. side, 90 metres from the border.

The Seattle Times' website reported that investigators used a machine that can "see" underground, a video-equipped robot, a drug-sniffing dog and an air horn to find it.

Neighbours said they had suspicions about the building but were shocked to discover what is alleged to have been going on inside.

A woman who lives near the tunnel on the American side of the border said federal agents stopped her when she tried to drive home Wednesday. She said three people were arrested in the abandoned home; Border Patrol agents confirmed the arrests.

"It blows me away," Ruthie Steinfort told the Times. "We're right next to the border station."

It is not clear if Canadian police knew of the U.S. investigation.

Y'know, if one were a lefty blogger, one couldn't help but remark that he didn't think disaffected Tories were that desperate to leave the country for Bushworld ...

UPDATE (10h40 EDT): Well, the CBC has an update on the story, and from here it's a perfect example of how the CBC never lets the truth get in the way of a good story.

For example, the CP story lists the Canadian terminus for the tunnel as Aldergrove, while the CBC story says it's Langley. (The Seattle Times story doesn't list the Canadian terminus.) Since, according to MapQuest, Aldergrove is closer to Linden, WA than Langley, I'm inclined to give the edge to CP.

Next, we have this paragraph:

Sources told the The Seattle Times newspaper the tunnel had a concrete floor, fibreglass walls, ventilation, video security and a groundwater-removal system.
It apparently had been under construction for eight months, and the FBI and drug enforcement agents had been monitoring its progress.

Interesting detail. Just one problem: the Seattle Times story used that description for a different tunnel, on the U.S./Mexico border:

In March, U.S. officials found a tunnel that had been dug from a middle-class San Diego-area neighborhood to an upscale residence in Mexico. Investigators called the 200-yard-long tunnel the most sophisticated they have seen along the California-Mexico border.

Investigators used a machine that can "see" underground, a video-equipped robot, a drug-sniffing dog and an air horn to find it.

That tunnel was 3 feet wide and 5 feet high with a concrete floor. It had wood-beam supports, fiberglass walls, ventilation, video security and groundwater-removal systems. Several altars with flowers and pictures of saints also were found inside.

How did the Times story describe the Linden tunnel?

A law-enforcement source familiar with the investigation said it was newly constructed and designed for drug trafficking.

He said the tunnel passed under two roads and appeared to be skillfully built.

"It wasn't built by a teenager with scrap wood from nearby homes," said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The law-enforcement source said a portion of the tunnel's interior was lined with wood. He called the underground project "elaborate." He said that when he traveled to the site about a month ago, it was still under construction, but added it could have been completed by now.

Not very sexy, right? And the information comes from an anonymous source, which are always suspect nowadays. No wonder the CBC flack opted to go with a more sexy description, even though it was misleading. (Although, to be fair, the CP story made the same error.)

Possibly the most misleading part of the CBC story comes from the map supplied, intended to show the tunnel:

Fine and dandy, except that the tunnel's total length was reported to be 100 yards --the length that could fit in a football stadium, not the distance between the two towns. This is a very misleading graphic.

Moral of the story? Journalists can still get the details wrong -- even those at the CBC.

And they wonder why the public has no confidence in them?

UPDATE 2 (14h55 EDT): The CBC has an updated story up, correcting the location and giving more details about the tunnel:

Police say the 1.5-metre high, one-metre wide tunnel runs from a metal Quonset hut just north of the border to an abandoned house in Lynden, Wash. -– just 90 metres south of the border.

Francis Devandra Raj, 30, Timothy Woo, 34, and Jonathan Valenzuela, 27, face charges in the U.S. of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to import marijuana.

Police say they believe it's the first tunnel they've ever found crossing the Canadian border. They say the tunnel is sophisticated, with a concrete floor, iron reinforcements and wood supports.

It had been under construction for eight months, and was first spotted by Canadian border officials back in February.

The updated story doesn't use the faulty map; however the earlier story link is still active as of this writing (though I don't think it'll stay that way for long).

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Jim Aparo, R.I.P.

There have been many artists who have created iconic depictions of The Batman (I liked Bruce Timm's renditions myself). Probably one of the best known was the Neal Adams' version of the 1970's and 1980's.

Neal, of course, was an innovator, and when he left DC a lot of other artists tried to keep Batman up to his standard. Of them all, I'd have to say the most consistent was Jim Aparo.

Jim was the one who illustrated the infamous story that killed off Batman's sidekick Robin (Jason Todd). He was the regular artist on the main Batman title at the time. He also helped to launch the original Outsiders team.

Granted, he was never as flashy as Rob Liefeld or Jim Lee. But he gives hope for the rest of us comics wannabees because he taught himself how to draw:

In a 2000 interview with Jim Amash for Comic Book Artist, Aparo said he went to Hartford Art School for a semester, but was mostly self-taught.

"I just drew as a kid and went with it," he said. "I studied and copied comic strips and comic books. I grew up with Superman, Batman, and Captain Marvel. I really liked Captain Marvel Jr. by Mac Raboy. That was beautiful stuff. I liked Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff ... all of those guys."

He'll be missed.

James Doohan, R.I.P.

Montgomery Scott James Doohan

One factor I've always liked about the original Star Trek series, is that it was a team effort. James T. Kirk could never go boldly on his own; he needed a ship full of people to get him there. And whom did he rely on to look after the ship?

Not the guy with the pointed ears (although "Beam me up, Mr. Spock!" is canon). Not the crusty country doctor. No, he relied on a man who couldn't change the laws of physics, who could play "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes and mean it, a man who always inflated his repair estimates because he knew the captain would use every bit of time he gave him -- in short, he relied on a miracle worker. He needed "Scotty."

James Doohan acted in a number of other roles. In the CBC television movie "Flight Into Danger" (which was remade into the big feature Airport) he played the civilian passenger who wound up in the cockpit of a jetliner trying to make an emergency landing. But it will always be as Montgomery Scott that this Canadian-born actor will always be remembered. And it's nice to know that he learned not to let the typecasting bother him:

In 1973, he complained to his dentist, who advised him: "Jimmy, you're going to be Scotty long after you're dead. If I were you, I'd go with the flow."

"I took his advice," said Doohan, "and since then everything's been just lovely."

The word is given: Warp speed, Mr. Scott.

The Nutty Ex-Professor

(Hat tip: NealeNews.)

I've often wondered how CBC Radio picks the people who do the morning "Commentary" slots on their radio shots. I'm beginning to think the primary consideration is the willingness to appear stupid in front of a national audience.

Take, for example, this piece that aired July 18th, by Bob Ferguson, a retired professor from RMC Kingston:

Given the inertia of the Catholic Church, perhaps we could encourage reform by changing the environment in which all religions operate.

Couldn't we insist that human rights, employment and consumer legislation apply to them as it does other organizations? Then it would be illegal to require a particular marital status as a condition of employment or to exclude women from the priesthood.

Hold it. Is the professor that the government dictate how a religion should practice itself? "Bishop, you're under arrest for not making this lesbian a monsignor. The fine is two million dollars."

Of course the Vatican wouldn't like the changes, but they would come to accept them in time as a fact of life in Canada. Indeed I suspect many clergy would welcome the external pressure.

As stupid as this sounds, this does point out one of the bigger weaknesses of the mainstream churches, in the eyes of modern observers: societal apathy. We don't see a lot of people applying Catholic doctrines to their everyday living, so it's only natural to conclude that the Church teachings are generally ignored in Canada.

Bob's mistake is assuming that what afflicts Canadian society also afflicts the higher-ups at the Vatican. He also misjudges the precise influence of the Church in daily life: moral teaching from an older, more traditional perspective than what we learn from the governments of the day. (The idea of Paul Martin as a Cardinal only makes sense to me if I pretend to be a musketeer.)

And as for "external pressure," I can't think why a clergyman would welcome it. He already has two bosses to answer to: the congregation, and the Hierarchy. Answering to a Ministry of Religious Correctness would be a third unwelcome headache.

We could also help the general cause of religious freedom by introducing a code of moral practice for religions. They will never achieve unity so why not try for compatibility? Can't religious leaders agree to adjust doctrine so all religions can operate within the code?

What's being described here is Ecumenism. It's been going on for hundreds of years. Government imposition won't speed it up.

I am an engineer so the model I am thinking about is rather like the provincial acts regulating the practice of engineering. For example, engineers must have an engineering degree from a recognized university or pass qualification exams. They must have a number of years of practical experience and pass an ethics exam. The different branches: mechanical, electrical, civil and the like have a code of practice that applies to everyone. Why can't religious groups do the same?

Because differing religions have different interpretations of God, the relationship of God to the individual, and the role of God in society. The role of belief in our society is not one that can be regulated on a consistent basis, because it depends on individual practice.

I envisage a congress meeting to hammer out a code that would form the basis of legislation to regulate the practice of religion. Like the professional engineers' P.Eng designation, there would then be RRPs (or registered religious practitioners). To carry the analogy to its conclusion, no one could be a religious practitioner without this qualification.

If Bob is talking about governance in the church, well, these things already exist. In Christianity, they're called seminaries. All denominations have them.

But in terms of practicing religion, anyone can be a religious practitioner, because we all have ideas about God / Gaea / whatever, and to practice a religion means simply to exercise our ability to worship. No one's ever needed government permission to pray.

I won't try to propose what might be in the new code except for a few obvious things: A key item would have to be a ban on claims of exclusivity. It should be unethical for any RRP to claim that theirs was the one true religion and believers in anything else or nothing were doomed to fire and brimstone. One might also expect prohibition of ritual circumcisions, bans on preaching hate or violence, the regulation of faith healers, protocols for missionary work, etc.

Unfortunately, what this amounts to is the imposition of a so-called "liberal" humanism on a diversity of religions. These are modern, Western values of a specific temporal, nation-state, whereas religions tend to be beyond the temporal. Temporal values change over time; religions, being stable, do not.

Now what is the point of proposing this? I do it because I am worried that the separation between church and state is under threat.

Of course, he proposes to fix this by imposing the state upon the church, making the operation a success by killing the patient.

Religion is important in our lives, but it can become a danger to society when people claim that the unalterable will of God is the basis for their opinions and actions. Yes religion can be a comfort and a guide, but we cannot take rules from our holy books and apply them to the modern world without democratic debate and due regard for the law.

"Thou shalt not kill." "Thou shalt not steal." Our modern world, with its code of laws, evolved from the very same "holy books" that Ferguson disparages. Because organized religion, by its very nature, is a group activity, and since it evolved rules for worshippers to get along, it's one of the historical building blocks for the concept of community.

Separation of church and state exists because we have always recognized the difference between temporal and spiritual powers. To think that the government should impose itself on the Church is to suggest that the government is better at speaking for God. And somehow, I don't think many people believe that.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Flip, Flop and Fly (No Kerrys Need Apply)

In these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, is it really a fashion crime to wear flip-flop sandals to important events?

Apparently some journalists think so:

A photo of Northwestern University's national championship women's lacrosse team, taken during the athletes' visit to the White House last week, shows four of the nine women in the front row wearing flip-flop sandals along with their dresses and skirts.

A front-page story in the Chicago Tribune included the headline "YOU WORE FLIP-FLOPS TO THE WHITE HOUSE?!" inspired by an e-mail sent to player Kate Darmody from her older brother after he saw the photo on the team's Web site.

Family members of other players expressed similar dismay, insisting the summer footwear staple was too casual for a visit with the president.

"Don't even ask me about the flip-flops," said the mother of player Aly Josephs. "It mortified me."

Well, mothers will be mothers.

Y'know, there are a lot of ways to describe President Bush, but "sartorially correct" isn't one of them. He's always seemed to be the kinda guy who'd toss the tie away, if he thought he could get away with it. But for some reason, people insist on formality when meeting The President.

But, as any Blogging Tory knows, there are worse fashion crimes ...

Monday, July 18, 2005

Carolyn Bennett Dives Off the Deep End

I think we can define a principle of bad modern government: it's a combination of wishful thinking plus bad bureaucratic execution.

Take, for example, the musings of Public Health minister Carolyn Bennett:

Swimming lessons should be made part of every Canadian child's education, the federal minister responsible for public health says.

Carolyn Bennett said she wants the lessons to be part of the school curriculum and that the federal government should help fund the initiative.

"We've made such strides in this country, from seat belts and car seats to bicycle helmet legislation in many provinces," said Bennett. "It's time we looked at swimming safety."

"I think every kid should know what to do when they fall into water."

Okay, this is a typical example of Liberal thinking: identify a problem and think the federal government can solve it by tossing money at it.

Wanna know why this is dumb Liberal thinking?

First, childhood education is a provincial responsibility. If the federal government wants to fund water safety program, it would have to negotiate with the provinces -- and the provinces, especially Quebec, have always been stubborn about not having spending directives tied to money transfers from Ottawa.

Second, for practical purposes municipalities have to get involved. If you want swimming to be part of the standard curriculum, then that assumes that all primary schools have access to a swimming pool. Which means either individual schools get their own pool (which means the municipalities have to be consulted for zoning and construction) or arrangements have to be made with public pools (which means they have to be consulted for setting aside special times for school use, and maintenance in winter for outdoor sites). In either case, you can bet that municipalities will give a hard time, especially in smaller communities which don't currently have a pool.

Third, who are you going to get to actually run the programs? Private organizations like the Red Cross? Would those instructors have to join teachers' unions? And what about private swimming instructors, what would you do about them? Given the Liberals' thinking about health care, I'm not optimistic.

It's a bad habit to think that government can and should solve all problems. Unfortunately, too many Liberals like Ms. Bennett have the habit, and it'll take a major burn for them to unlearn it.

At Least the Canadian Army Had Paintball ...

(Hat tip: The National Review Corner.)

It has to be admitted that nowadays the British are better known for the Navy rather than the Army. Nonetheless it was the Army that won Waterloo, and marched into North Africa, and helped to liberate Europe during World War II, yadda yadda yadda.

And now, look at this story from the Daily Telegraph:

Soldiers are facing the undignified prospect of being forced to shout "bang, bang" on military training exercises after an admission by the Army that it is running out of blank ammunition.

Details of the fiasco emerged after a letter from the Headquarters Land Command, the organisation responsible for training the Army in Britain, was leaked to The Sunday Telegraph....

The letter from Headquarters Land Command states that the Army has informed the Cadet Branch "that there is expected to be a significant shortage of 5.56mm blank ammunition this summer".

The 5.56mm ammunition is the standard round used with the SA80 semi-automatic assault rifle. Blank rounds fit into standard-issue magazines and emit a loud noise, meant to simulate rifle fire.

The letter continues: "This is an Army-wide issue and has been brought about as supply has not been anticipated to meet demand. The Defence Logistics Organisation are looking to find a solution, but the likelihood of this being found before the end of August is slim."

The letter says that the shortage will "undoubtedly have an adverse affect on field craft training" and that Headquarters Land Command has "not offered an alternative". It adds: "Units should therefore be ... ready to amend their training programme to reflect the situation."

.... A senior Army officer said that the ammunition crisis was "shambolic" and came at the worst possible time for the Army.

He said: "There is nothing more dispiriting than soldiers having to go on exercise and shout 'bang, bang' because there is not enough blank ammunition. Any benefit from the exercise will be lost because soldiers just won't take it seriously. Why should soldiers who are being sent to Iraq, where their lives will be endangered, be forced to shout 'bang' in training because someone in the Ministry of Defence can't do basic arithmetic? It's a disgrace."

Remember, this is the British Army; they're supposed to be better supported than the Canadian Forces, simply because they have more troops and have lots more to do.

Fact of life that bureaucrats tend to forget: bullets cost money. And soldiers need bullets, even if they're not going into combat, to keep up their weaponry skills. (Nobody is born knowing how to shoot people.)

And fake bullets -- blanks, wax or rubber, whatever -- are needed for training, but they still cost money. Even paintball weapons will do in a pinch.

Y'know what worries me about this story? That some DND suit will read it and think that shouting "bang bang" would be a good idea, as a cost-saving measure for the Forces.

The 26th Edition of the Red Ensign Standard ...

... may be found here, courtesy of new Brigadier Robot Guy.

RG's obviously a little exhausted; going through nearly 60 blogs can take a lot of time, if you're not used to it. So give him some congratulations when you get there, alright?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Damn Right Journalists Should Be Worried

(Hat tip: Powerline.)

This is a pretty good article from the Washington Post, ostensibly about an arranged conversation ("arranged" in that Post writer David von Drehle had the idea, not "arranged" as in "staged") between bloggers Betsy Newmark and Barbara O'Brien. The idea was that they'd debate while touring the sights of Washington.

Reading about the blogging discussion is interesting if you're interested in American politics, but what I find illuminating is these passages from the third page:

Readers may think we in the press are arrogant and out of touch, but that's just an act. Really we're sick with anxiety about the Death of Print. What began with the Gutenberg Bible often seems to be headed for an ignominious and fast-approaching end, around 2009, with the publication of the last printed work guaranteed to find a market: Mitch Albom's The Five Diets You'll Be on in Heaven.

Who's going to finish us off? Currently, we're worried about bloggers. Interlinked Internet diaries known as Web logs -- blogs -- are proliferating faster than nudies of Paris Hilton these days, from zero a decade ago to more than 10 million today. To date, no one has figured out how to make much money at blogging ... Most bloggers earn nothing from their blogs. But that doesn't stop journalists from wringing our hands in countless articles about blogging, wiping our brows through endless panels devoted to blogging, scrying through bottomless poll data about blogging, and launching blogs of our own ...

Most of these millions of Web logs are not concerned with news or politics. There are blogs about knitting and blogs about cooking and blogs about reading and blogs about computer engineering. There are military blogs and vegetarian blogs and Catholic blogs and birdwatching blogs. Gossip blogs, music blogs, Lindsay Lohan blogs, movie blogs, car blogs, history blogs, gardening blogs, fishing blogs. Blogs about football, basketball, baseball, NASCAR, hockey, boxing and ballet. Blogs about "The Apprentice," "Survivor" and "American Idol." People are blogging about dorm food, pregnancy, marriage and divorce.

If you think about it, that's a pretty fair sample of the interests of a well-rounded newspaper.

"No one blog can cover everything . . . But one can envisage a blogosphere that readers rely on to obtain essentially everything they now get from a news-paper or a newscast," wrote Paul Mirengoff of the popular Power Line blog not long ago. "The basic facts of a story would come from links to news services. The analysis would come from specialized blogs or non-specialized blogs that happen to have expertise in the subject area. The op-ed type opinions would come from the opinion blogs . . .

"Thus, the blogosphere is likely to replace the MSM" -- that's mainstream media -- "for a growing number of consumers. Many others will continue to check out the MSM, but regard it much more skeptically (that is, take it much less seriously) than they have done in the past. It will be up to the MSM to decide whether it wishes to respond to these developments by undertaking radical change."

Radical change.

Sounds scary.

Well ... yeah. A well-written blog can serve as an informative source for information on a given subject area. One expert blog on topic plus one expert blog on another topic of interest plus one blog on discussion ... it's quite possible that a web surfer could browse the blogosphere and come out just as informed about his world (and possibly even more so) as a newspaper reader.

This is probably the best articulation I've seen of the Mainstream Media's concern over blogs. It's got nothing to do with ideology or partisanship, and everything to do with the control of information.

Journalists aren't competing with bloggers for public attention. They're competing with the blogosphere. And the blogosphere is picking up points.

Friday, July 15, 2005

James Cameron's Titanic Obsession

How many times does James Cameron have to go back to Titanic?

In just over a week, Academy Award-winning filmmaker James Cameron plans to take TV viewers on a live tour of the ill-fated ocean liner from its resting place at the bottom of the Atlantic where it sank nearly a century ago in one of history's most notorious marine disasters.

This week Cameron was in a Los Angeles editing suite putting together pre-taped sequences from the latest of the 30 expedition dives he's taken to the Titanic site over the past decade. He was then going to fly back to the site to do more filming and to prepare for the live elements of
Last Mysteries of the Titanic, a two-hour special to air Sunday, July 24 on Discovery Channel.

30 dives. You ever get the feeling that Cameron's getting a little -- er -- overboard over this ship?

I mean, this is Cameron's third major movie project based on the Titanic story. We already know about the 1997 Oscar-winning blockbuster ("I'm King of the World!") and he also did a 3-D Imax documentary called Ghosts of the Abyss. (And I'm not even counting the movie documentaries or the interactive Titanic Explorer game.) Everyone's agreed that the story's a fascinating one, but this is surely milking it dry.

Discovery Channel's press releases trumpet this special as "a final farewell" to the shipwreck because it is in a "grave state of deterioration and time for future dives and exploration is quickly running out."

But Cameron says that while some parts of the ship have understandably collapsed into rust, other parts have not changed at all during the 10 years he's visited it.

"In terms of saying farewell, it's my farewell," he says with a chuckle. "Because I'm not going back. This is my last expedition."

Not to be foreboding or anything, but I think Captain E.J.Smith said something similar ...

He's Ba-a-a-a-a-ck ...

... and I guess it's a good thing, since Saturday nights just wouldn't be the same without him:

Don Cherry will be back in his familiar spot in the first intermission when Hockey Night in Canada returns in October.

The flamboyant Coach's Corner commentator, known for his unique clothing choices and his love for everything Canadian, signed a one-year deal with CBC on Thursday.

What's even better news is that we're going to get Grapes in all his unedited glory:

The controversial seven-second delay, which was placed on Cherry's live Coach's Corner segment in January 2004, will be removed at the start of this season.

Management [had] imposed the delay after he said mostly Europeans and French Canadians wear visors.

Heh. Now I wonder what kinda variation we'll be getting on that second national anthem?

When You Gotta Go, You Gotta Go-Go-Go-Go-Go

There are of course some strange reasons for going too far over the speed limit. I suppose I can be sympathetic towards this one:

An Ottawa man who was travelling almost twice the legal speed limit says he was simply trying to get to a toilet.

Hayder Mobarak, 19, classed as G2, or probationary, driver, was clocked at 195 kilometres an hour on Highway 417 while speeding in his parents Lexus just after 11 p.m. on March 14.

He had two friends with him at the time. No alcohol was suspected. He received a $926.25 fine and a 30-day licence suspension.

"I was going to the gym and I was taking a protein shake, and if you overdose it's really painful," Mr. Mobarak said. "This is why I was rushing to the washroom. It's a really good medical reason. I don't speed. That's the only speeding ticket I ever got. It's a serious issue. I did not want to s--- in my mom's car. I wasn't thinking. I was in pain."

Apart from admiring the fact that he got 192 kph out of a Lexus, there are two questions:

1) Didn't driving school teach you about how drinking and driving at the same time is a no-no?

2) And if you drank the shake before getting in the car, then why didn't you go before you left?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Rick Roasts Ralph

What would you do with this photo showing Alberta premier Ralph Klein with a priceless expression on his face?

Well, if you're Rick Mercer, you invite people to Photoshop this into something creative. I'm just going to pick four of the ones he's got on his site (the captions are mine, by the way):

"Now, Lord Martin, I sense you wish to continue your search for western Liberal votes ..."

"Who are you calling a 'damned dirty ape?'"

"Hey, waiter! You left the vodka out of this Bloody Caesar -- "

" -- oh, never mind! There it is."

Here are the two main links. I'm pretty sure Rick's going to put up more ... at least I hope so. Ralph's always good for a laugh.

Calling Dick Tracy ...

I'm not sure how many people out there remember the Dick Tracy newspaper strip, although I've a hunch that quite a few of you out there have seen the movie with Warren Beatty. Anyway, remember the wrist radio that the detective used to keep in touch with his men?

In the age of the cell-phone, of course, the concept of mobile communications that Chester Gould hinted at in the 1940s is a reality, even if Gould's details aren't quite right. We're not quite at the stage where we can wear wrist radios ...

... or are we?

Check out this story from The Watch Report, a site all about wrist and fashion watches, about the current state-of-the-art in wrist communicators. There's even a gallery showing all the prototypes that have been worked on in the past decade. Some look pretty close to what Gould had in mind, although a few of them look more like a Power Rangers morpher.

Me, I'm waiting for the day when cellphones get small enough to be pinned onto a jacket lapel. As in, "Phantom Observer to Enterprise, come in."

Still Think the London Bombings Can't Happen Here?

Some guy from Seattle apparently got caught trying to sneak a functioning bomb into B.C. via an interborder ferry.

Canada Border Services Agency officers said they became suspicious while questioning the man, who was travelling with his daughter.

They said they examined his truck and found a suspicious device in the glove box – a 7½-centimetre brass pipe that was capped on each end and had a 15-centimetre green fuse-like string glued to one end.

They arrested him, secured the ferry terminal and called in the Victoria police.

A photo of the device was sent to the RCMP bomb squad in Vancouver, who advised their colleagues to put it in a secure container designed to hold explosives.

The RCMP Explosives Team was to travel to Victoria on Wednesday to examine the device and dispose of it.

The man, who lives in the Seattle suburb of Issaquah, was to appear in court in Victoria on Wednesday afternoon facing a charge of possession of an explosive device.

Doesn't exactly sound like the profile of an Islamic terrorist, does it? But then again, does it have to? After all, the British authorities have established that the people behind the London bombings were British-born, not from outside.

And remember, even a small bomb can cause terror. The bomb described in the story sounds pretty small, but imagine it attached to a tanker truck parked at a corner gas station. Now imagine what people around the area would do when it went off.

If there are still Canadians who don't think a terrorist incident can happen here, I know some doctors who'd like to meet them. They'd love to see proof that dinosaurs can still exist.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Well, You Can Forget About Getting the Lawn Raked This Fall ...

... 'cause apparently the NHL is going to start up again.

Why Barry Manilow Can Get Stuck In Your Head

Ever thought of a song that annoys you -- say, the theme from Inspector Gadget, or Paul McCartney singing Yesterday, or Britney Spears singing anything -- and then realized you can't get the song out of your head? In fact, the silly tune seems to be stuck in your cranium for the rest of the day?

As things turn out, this may be an actual medical condition:

Dr. [Victor] Aziz belongs to a small circle of psychiatrists and neurologists who are investigating this condition. They suspect that the hallucinations experienced by Mr. King and others are a result of malfunctioning brain networks that normally allow us to perceive music.
They also suspect that many cases of musical hallucinations go undiagnosed.

"You just need to look for it," Dr. Aziz said. And based on his studies of the hallucinations, he suspects that in the next few decades, they will be far more common.

Musical hallucinations were invading people's minds long before they were recognized as a medical condition. "Plenty of musical composers have had musical hallucinations," Dr. Aziz said.

Dr. Aziz believes that people tend to hear songs they have heard repeatedly or that are emotionally significant to them. "There is a meaning behind these things," he said.

Uh-oh. I guess that means if you spend too much time with the kids watching Barney & Friends, you're in trouble if someone starts saying "I love you ..."

Anyway, you might want to read the whole Times article. Then try listening to some good music instead of Britney. Shania Twain, anyone?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

When Rick Mercer Tries to Raise Funds for the Libranos ...

... well ... let's just say the results ain't pretty.

The Comartin Vendetta

It seems that Windsor-Tecumseh MP Joe Comartin's stance on same-sex marriage has aroused the ire of Bishop Ronald Fabbro.

Controversy surrounding Comartin began late last week when Bishop Ronald Fabbro of the Roman Catholic Diocese of London directed copies of his letter be handed out to every parish member and be read aloud during the weekly church service.

He also stripped Comartin of his duties in handling marriage preparation classes and other public church activities at Holy Rosary because of the MP's comments and support for passage of the same-sex marriage bill.

Angry in T.O. has a post defending the Bishop on this, and some of the commentary after it is worth reading, even though some of it degenerates into homophobic ranting. Speaking as a lapsed Protestant, though, I find it hard to see the Bishop's actions as anything other than a vendetta -- directing institutional power to ostracize and persecute an individual for his beliefs.

Let's get something clear here. Mr. Comartin is not a minister or a priest under official orders, he is a lay member who volunteered for the classes he was subsequently kicked out of. While the Bishop certainly had the right to strip Mr. Comartin of his duties; where he went off the rails was in going public with his denunciation -- and in a place and time where spiritual matters, not temporal ones, are supposed to be under consideration. It stinks too much of the actions of an institutional bully -- and certainly won't be attractive to potential converts.

There is a time and place for the Bishop's actions, and it's called the next federal election. Let him endorse -- or censure -- candidates as they make their positions known; let him exhort his flock to become politically active. But ostracizing is best done in private; a public one is more damaging to the ostracizer than its victim.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Why We Shouldn't Let Gurmant Grewal Be Finance Minister

Looks like Gurmant Grewal's in trouble again -- and this time it's over campaign financing.

Barj Dhahan, a Vancouver businessman, donated to Grewal's campaign expecting to get a tax receipt, but he never did. "I ended up saying that, you know, I think there's something fishy here."

Dhahan gave Grewal a cheque for $600 for his 2004 re-election campaign. He says Grewal asked him to make it out to him personally. Grewal deposited the cheque in January 2004, but not to his riding association or his party.

"All I know is the back of the cheque is endorsed by Mr. Grewal," Dhahan said. "He is the best person to know where this money went."

Sarup Mann is another campaign contributor who never got a receipt. "If the [Conservative] party doesn't have the money, I don't know where that went. I don't have a tax receipt," he said.

Mann also gave $600 for Grewal's campaign. He says Grewal asked for the cheque to be made out to himself. Grewal deposited it. The party didn't get it.

The Elections Act has strict rules about campaign donations. Every donor has to get a receipt.

The act also makes it illegal for campaign contributions to be deposited anywhere but in the campaign's account or the riding association's account. The act also says only the official agent can handle contributions and that all of them must be reported to Elections Canada.

Something tells me Stephen Harper might want to extend Grewal's stress leave. This does seem to have the stench of corruption -- or, more likely, Grewal's thought processes are so befuddled it never occurred to him that he didn't send out tax receipts.

In any case, this inability to keep track of money does not speak well for Grewal's chances for the Tory front bench.

The president of Grewal's Newton-North Delta riding association, Jim Holt, backed out of an interview at the last minute, saying his investigation is incomplete.

Holt says the charges are part of a "political assassination campaign" by the Liberals against Grewal.

Certainly the Liberals can only benefit from this latest allegation. But if a politician is any good, all of his or her books should be able to stand up under scrutiny. Unless, of course, they thought they were following the example of the Chrétien government.

Hmmm ...

Chuck Cadman, R.I.P.

The fact that Chuck Cadman's final vote allowed the Martin government to hang on to power should not be considered his final legacy. It's only a part of the public record, nothing more.

And Cadman himself would have argued that his true legacy would be the changes to the Criminal Code and the proclamation of the new Youth Criminal Justice Act, making life super-tough for young offenders, as well as his work for victims' rights.

But I think a case can be made that Cadman's true legacy lies in the lessons people could learn about the relationship between an MP and his constituents.

Cadman, it must be remembered, did not resign from a political party to sit as an independent. Instead he ran for office in the last election -- and won -- as an independent, a far more difficult accomplishment than you might think.

He did, admittedly, have the advantage of incumbency. He came to office in 1997 as a Reform, and later an Alliance MP. When the Alliance and the PCs merged in 2004, a party rival signed up more members and managed to displace Cadman as the official Conservative candidate. Cadman, however, had amassed enough loyalty among his staff and co-workers that he could set up an run an independent campaign.

Normally, this would have meant a shoo-in for the NDP candidate, because the natural Tory vote would have split. But Cadman's reputation with his riding was so strong that he won handily, facing down both the NDP and Tory electoral machines.

It's a good lesson for all MPs to learn: if you have a solid relationship with your constituents, you can still win your next election. To be an example of a dedicated MP, I think, is Chuck Cadman's true legacy.

Friday, July 08, 2005

To Replace Ahenakew, How 'Bout a Blogger for the Order of Canada?

So, David Ahenakew has been stripped of the Order of Canada:

The Governor General's office has confirmed its plans to strip Ahenakew of his membership in the prestigious Order of Canada after many Canadians called for the honour to be revoked.

In the news conference later, Ahenakew said authorities decided to strip him of the Order of Canada before the court reached its verdict.

"This, of course, was the direct result of the pressure put on the (Governor General's) advisory committee by some of the Jewish community, including a letter-writing campaign and the lobbying by the Canadian Jewish Congress,'' he said at a news conference.

Lucie Brosseau, a spokeswoman in the Governor General's office, says a letter was sent to Ahenakew on June 30 informing him he is being removed from the Order.

Since the Order of Canada was created in 1967, only one other person has ever been stripped of the honour.

Alan Eagleson, former hockey agent and executive director of the NHL Players Association, had his membership revoked after having been found guilty of fraud.

So how did David get the Order, exactly? From the Governor-General's web site:

Member of a United Nations committee and of the World Indigenous Peoples Council. His many years of service to Indians and Métis in Saskatchewan culminated in his election as Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, which has revolutionized Indian education in his province.

In other words, he got the award because he put in a few years of public service. Doesn't sound like much, does it?

As a matter of fact, you don't really need all that much to get one:

Any person or group is welcome to nominate a deserving individual as candidate for appointment to the Order of Canada.

Nominations should be accompanied by biographical notes detailing the career and achievements of the nominee. It is helpful to include the names of persons who would support the nomination and who could provide information about why the individual deserves the honour.

Take, for example, the late Stu Hart:

As patriarch of Canada's first family of professional wrestling, he has made an important contribution to the sport for more than five decades. Founder of Stampede Wrestling and an icon of the golden era of wrestling, he has been coach and mentor to countless young athletes, imparting the highest standards of athleticism and personal conduct. A generous supporter of community life in Calgary, he is a loyal benefactor to more than thirty charitable and civic organizations including the Shriners' Hospital for Crippled Children and the Alberta Firefighters Toy Fund.

So, Stu got the award because of his work in pro wrestling. (Hey, I'm not objecting; I'm a WWE fan myself.)

Y'know, I'm beginning to wonder if we shouldn't start a campaign to nominate a blogger for the Order. I mean, look at the nomination form. All that seems to be required is a name, a resume for that guy, a nominator and three others who can vouch for the nomination.

Let's see, the nominee ... how 'about Brian Neale of NealeNews? He seems to be a favorite link among Canadian bloggers. How do other people feel about the idea?

Of Course It Could Happen Here

I haven't wanted to post on the London bombings of yesterday, mainly because a lot of bloggers have already jumped on it. But I do want to highlight a point that yes, it could happen in Canada. For example, this story from Adrian Humphreys of the National Post:

"Human targets sorted by level of importance," reads a list in the al-Battar Military Manual, a training manual masterminded by Saif al-Adel, one of al-Qaeda's most senior leaders, and distributed to supporters over the Internet.

Jewish targets top the list. Then, in a separate category called "the Christians," the manual states: "The grades of importance are as follows: 1. Americans, 2. British, 3. Spaniards, 4. Australians, 5. Canadians, 6. Italians."

With yesterday's attack, the first four countries on the list have all been targeted.

Of course, the question will come up: why would Canada be next? The TTC Chairman phrased a version of this in what is probably the leading candidate for dumb statement of the year:

TTC Chairman Howard Moscoe wondered " if the terrorists first would have to find where Toronto is before they attacked it. Canada is not as vulnerable as the U.S. or Britain or Spain. We don't have any troops to pull out of Iraq."

Paul Denton has suggested that part of the reason may be ideological:

Canada - like every other nation on that list - would be a target for Islamist terrorists regardless of any current geopolitical machinations. The tipoff to that should be in exactly what the list is called: "The Christians." (And as a corollary, the higher-priority list of targets for mass murder being entirely Jewish.) No one content to plot killing hundreds or thousands based upon mere religion cares that Canada is perpetually in opposition to US foreign policy; frankly, we all look the same to them, as nations composed largely of infidel Christians or infidel secularists.

I think, though, there are more pragmatic reasons to attack Canada:

1) We have troops in Afghanistan in support of a government that terrorists want to undermine
2) We sponsor aid programs that could potentially undermine Islamicist authority and thus disrupt a culture perfect for breeding terrorists
3) We form a significant part of an international economy whose disruption could only benefit terrorism
4) We ship oil into the U.S.; disruption of this would undermine U.S. efforts in the War on Terror
5) We have multiple points of entry into the U.S.; any terrorist incident here could create a diversion of resources to make it easier to slip assets across the border for a major terrorist operation there

Of these reasons, the last one is probably the most important from an immediate, practical standpoint. Judging from comments to Angry's post on this subject, people are having a very hard time believing that Canada would be the target of terrorist rage. The trouble, of course, is that this is the viewpoint of complacency -- and for terrorists, the complacent are the most vulnerable. Canada may not be a world leader anymore, but that doesn't make us less of a target.

The questions people should be asking, though, is not just why it would happen, but where and how.

In terms of where, while terrorism can happen anywhere, some places are more ripe for it than others. Montreal, for example, would be a ripe target because:

-- at least two international agencies have headquarters there, meaning a terrorist incident would have international implications
-- it's a stronghold for organized crime, according to the RCMP (meaning getting weapons or explosives via non-controlled means would be easier)
-- it has a subway system and more international flight traffic, meaning bigger targets to make a splash in the media

That last reason applies to Toronto, as well, and Toronto has a larger Muslim population that an al-Qaeda operative could disappear into. And since Toronto's financial district plays a major role in the international sector, a car bomb on Bay Street could have some serious effects.

Is Ottawa vulnerable? Certainly. Targets would include the Parliament Buildings, DFAIT, the U.S. Embassy and DND. And they're all within walking distance with each other; if a terrorist were to destroy the Mackenzie King bridge, he or she would create enough panic and confusion to disrupt the activities of ALL these places.

No doubt this has already occurred to the agencies under Anne McLellan. But for Canada to be fully engaged in the War on Terror it needs to occur to the rest of us, as well.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

And Rob Lowe's Going to Become the New Press Secretary

So guess who President Bush picks to help his Supreme Court nominee (who hasn't been named yet) get through the Senate confirmation hearings?

Law & Order's District Attorney Arthur Branch.

President Bush has named former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson to help shepherd his yet-to-be named Supreme Court nominee through the Senate, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Wednesday.

Thompson, a Republican and actor on the NBC television series "Law & Order," agreed to accept the post in a telephone conversation with the president on Monday, McClellan said.

He said Thompson would serve as an informal adviser to shepherd the nomination through the Senate.

"Senator Thompson will guide the nominee through the confirmation process," McClellan said.

Aw, what the heck. Just so long as Jack McCoy doesn't become the new Attorney-General ...

Stand At Ease, Private Sector!

When it comes to contracting things to the private sector, which do you suppose makes sense? Health insurance, or training soldiers?

Guess what the DND people think:

The army is looking for outside help to teach soldiers, drivers and maintenance crews at its Combat Training Centre (CTC) in Gagetown, N.B., as it begins to boost its numbers by 5,000 regular troops and 3,000 reservists.

The successful applicants will have experience in heavy equipment and weapons. Among other things, they will train recruits how to fire the cannon on the army's LAV-III armoured vehicle.

Until now, the army has handled such combat training in-house.

"This will be fairly new ground for us," said Lt.-Col. Steve Strachan, chief of staff at the Gagetown CTC.

New ground? You know what they call private contractors who train soldiers in combat? Mercenaries, is what they call them.

You'd think the Forces would've learned something from that disastrous decision to contract out the Forces' airlift capability. Hell, this doesn't even make sense to the NDP:

Nova Scotia MP Peter Stoffer of the New Democratic Party blames a trend that has seen the military privatize areas such as pilot training and medical services.

"They should have the people on board and in-step in order to do it in-house," he said.

"The minute you start giving it over to companies, when does it stop? What's next?"

Mercenaries, I tell ya. Mercenaries ...

An Opportunity that Stephen Harper Should Think About ...

Granted, Canada is a mediocre player on the world stage -- and that's being generous -- but at least the Prime Minister knows what to do with himself:

Martin, who will travel to Scotland on Wednesday, spent the last two days in Ireland meeting with Irish leaders.

He wrapped up his visit by slipping behind the bar at a local pub and pouring pints of Guinness Tuesday evening. Patrons at Johnnie Fox's in the mountain village of Glencullen said they were more than happy to accept the free beer, saying it's not every day they're served by a world leader.

Note to Harper: you can always get people to listen to you if you pay for the beer. ;)

Waiting for Gomery: The Fraser Institute's Take

Yesterday the Fraser Institute released a report on the Gomery Inquiry testimony. It summarizes most (if not all) of the financial links between individuals and organizations identified by the Inquiry and the Liberal Party of Canada. Allow me to quote from the executive summary:
  • This study finds that at least 565 organizations and individuals are identified in reports and testimony related to the Gomery inquiry.
  • The original 2003 Auditor General sponsorship and advertising report cited only 71 organizations. The activities under investigation are therefore quite widespread.
  • The people identified in these reports and testimony are politicians and bureaucrats (government insiders), and political party members and business people(government outsiders). This paper finds that almost all of them have an exclusive financial link to the Liberal Party of Canada (hereafter referred to as the Liberal party). They donated at least 40 times more to the Liberal party than to all of the other main political parties combined from 1993 to 2003.
  • This paper finds that these individuals privately donated at least $3.9 million to the Liberal party and received at least $7.4 million in private payments from the Liberal party from 1993 to 2003. The Gomery inquiry forensic report found only $2.5 million in Liberal party donations.
  • The same people also received public (tax funded) payments from the federal government, and this was the underlying incentive that encouraged inappropriate behaviour and relationships.
No, I wouldn't expect Canada's mainstream media to report too much on this: for one thing, everyone's suffering from Gomery exhaustion, and for another, the Fraser Institute's always been known as a Tory-leaning think tank. And now that Parliament's on summer break, everyone's tempted to cut the Grits some slack after what they've all been through.

However, for you bloggers who need a quick and dirty summary of just exactly what's at stake in the sponsorship scandal, this report is pure mercury-cored ammunition. At 37 pages, it won't take long to read (a third of this is a list of the witnesses and organizations mentioned in Inquiry testimony), and any backbench MP worth his or her salt should gather plenty of talking points to whack Paul Martin with when Parliament resumes in the fall.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The MSM on Blogs: From Sneers to Screams

(Hat tip: Instapundit.)

Ed Driscoll has put up a nice-reading essay on the history of Internet journalism and the mainstream media. No mention of Hugh Hewitt, but otherwise it's guaranteed to brighten your day if you want to feel good about being a blogger.

Interesting how far back the MSM attitude goes: from condescension (Matt Drudge being talked down to when introduced to the National Press Club in 1998) to panicked frenzy (Nick Coleman blasting Powerline in 2004).

From an itch to a threat in six years -- at least to those journalists who don't get blogging. That's actually pretty good for a technological innovation in news reporting.

The 25th Edition of the Red Ensign Standard ...

... may be found here.

Ray has become our first repeat host of the Standard, but with membership up to 60+ members, it's not likely to happen all that often. He's done a pretty good job, don'tcha think?

Monday, July 04, 2005

Sinatra, Samurai, and the IPod Shuffle

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Atlantic City for a weekend getaway. I'm the type of guy who likes some music when he's driving, and since I didn't want to fiddle with the radio (it takes all day to drive from Ottawa to Atlantic City), I thought I'd get an iPod.

Why an iPod? As an animator I sometimes work with QuickTime files, and when I downloaded the last upgrade to QuickTime, iTunes came with it. And somehow I found iTunes easier than RealPlayer or Media Player when it came to uploading CDs. The drawback is that not too many MP3 players recognize the iTunes format. Hence, my trip to Future Shop to get an iPod.

Of course, not being made of money, what I wound up with was the iPod Shuffle.

I have to admit, I like this thing. As small as a stick of gum and just as light. The on/off switch takes a little getting used to, but loading it up in iTunes turns out to be a breeze thanks to the program's AutoFill feature. It loaded up about 5 CDs worth of music -- and it was only a third full.

And no, I'm not especially bothered by the lack of a screen. The thing about the Shuffle is, it's meant to be used while you're doing something -- jogging, exercising, biking, whatever -- when you want something going on in the background. You don't need to worry about which particular track is playing, so long as it's a good track that doesn't throw you out of your groove.

The tracks I loaded up? Film music from Akira Kurosawa's films, an album by Frank Sinatra, an album by Dean Martin, a 2 CD set of film music from the James Bond series. Put all that in with the "shuffle" option, and I wound up with some very interesting audial company on my way to the Sands Hotel. (Imaging two peasants arguing with Deano while an Aston-Martin attempts to shoot Frankie out of the ejector seat. That's sort of the mood I got put in -- perfect for driving.)

Audio quality was pretty good. Rather than use the included earbuds, I opted for a set of Sony headphones that hook onto the ears for security. (Yes, I know you're not supposed to drive like that, but one thing I figured out is if you keep the sound low enough, you're still able to hear the ambient road noises that warn you about potential hazards.)

And the fact that there are no moving parts in the Shuffle meant that I never worried once about skipping, which is what happened the last time I had a CD player in my car. This was especially fortunate for when I had to drive through Philadelphia. (Note to self: never drive through Philadelphia if you can possibly help it.)

If you don't own an iPod, this is a good entry level model.

And hey -- given the amount of pessimism I've seen around the Blogging Tories this past weekend, it never hurts to writing about something positive.