Sunday, October 7, 2007

on not blogging...or, on blogging...about hockey

Remind me why I set up this blog thingie?

To write? To render my feeble brainstorms public? To ruminate about what's been pissing me off/inspiring me/etc. in the world of politics?

That latter one was my main source of inspiration.

More recently though I've found it harder to say what I really want to say.

As far as opinionated bureaucrats with attitude go, I'm no Ottawonk, I guess.

Also, the circus that is the Liberal Party of Canada is just... it takes me beyond my ability to take the high road, and since I didn't intend for this blog to become an outpost for intrapartisan potshots (which I have no right to make anyway, not being intraparty), I think the healthiest thing for me to do is to back off wringing my hands over federal politics together.

The Bouchard-Taylor commission has been predictably embarrassing/hilarious, with only occasional gusts to enlightened which, I fear, will likely go unnoticed in the final report. I have a treatise-in-progress on this, which will go up sometime in the coming weeks.

Music's on hold for me.

That leaves hockey. Happily, this has become a rich source of blogging interest for me. I've spent quite a bit of time yacking here the last few weeks, and I'm not the least bit ashamed to admit that I loved it.

So...point of discussion.

What the hell is Tom Kostopoulos doing getting power play time?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Me still blog here....

...have been drawn to other, non-computer-related things of late. Frankly it's healthy that I haven't been around this sitemuch lately; I spend enough of my days drooling before a monitor as it is. I don't post from a berry or my cell and (for obvious reasons) won't consider attempting to post using my office terminal, so it's evening-hour posts or nothing for me.

I did visit the e-group today for a chat about the Ontario electoral reform vote coming up next month. Is it me, or is the absence of chatter in the MSM about this vote a little creepy? I know there was a spike in columnist disdain (see: Potter, Andrew) when the Citizen's Assembly released it's recommendation earlier this year, but otherwise, not so much out there. Oh well, not like it's anywhere near as important as Lindsay Lohan, eh?

In other news, with Patrice Brisebois under contract I am now anxiously awaiting confirmation that Rick Green and Gaston Gingras are coming out of retirement....

Friday, July 20, 2007

Some things better left under development...

So today I decided to scrap a pair of follow-up posts to this little diatribe. A couple of lessons about blogging: first, if you have doubts about the veracity of your own logic, you're probably right; and second, if you can't finish a blog post in one sitting then it's best not to let it collect dust for too long. With these now-deleted posts I managed to violate both rules. Plus they were just plain poorly written. Guess I needed my vacation more than I thought.

There really isn't that much to read into this. I just wasn't happy with what I wrote. It's not the first time, certainly won't be the last.

On to other things....

Saturday, July 7, 2007

I'm still here...

...in fact I have a rapidly growing stack of posts saved as drafts-in-progress - an interesting test of the hypothesis that if you have no clue whether the technology you're using works or not, the only way to find out is to try it.

Meantime, I thought I'd share a letter I sent to the National Post the other day, in response to a typically annoying editorial rant about the alleged excesses of liberal celebrities. Not surprisingly, it didn't make the cut....

"The Editors of the National Post this morning seem unusually unaware of the hypocrisy of their words ("Don't Ask Us - We're Just Musicians" - 06 July,2007). Quite secure in their moral and intellectual superiority, they congratulate the Arctic Monkeys and other rock groups who've chosen to opt out of the Live Earth concert series, and encourage other, less "humble" artists to take note, do the right thing and muzzle themselves for what would surely be the betterment of society.

"That popular artists would choose to use the platform afforded them by their celebrity and public reach to promote the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, rather than Scientology or their preferred brand of eyeliner, is presented as evidence of decay in public discourse.

"This line of argument is getting old, and undermines a key principle of the notion of a marketplace of ideas - that what is true and right rises above what is false and wrong, because the aggregate of consumers will be able to tell fact from fiction.

"In that sense, it should matter far more that the findings of the IPCC are typically vetted by over 600 scientists and reviewed and approved by over 100 national governments - including Canada -before being released to the public, than whether or not the Arctic Monkeys play Live Earth.

"This is not to pooh-pooh on the Arctic Monkeys, by the way. They are well within their rights to recuse themselves from this particular marketplace. Just as Ronald Reagan (or Ahh-nold)was within his rights to stand for governor of California. Just as Todd Rundgren is within his rights to advocate on behalf of the National Rifle Association.

"The point is, they have the right to use whatever particular advantages they have to whatever end they choose. As do the editors of the National Post, by the way: their access to this platform - the editorial pages of a national newspaper - is an advantage they have in the marketplace of ideas that has little or nothing to do with whether they are uniquely qualified to use it.

"What the Post editors fail to realize is that ordinary people are increasingly noticing that those who occupy the traditional platforms of opinion leadership -the Lou Dobbs, Margaret Wentes, David Frums, Lowell Greens, etc., of the world -are not necessarily in those positions by divine right or ubiquitous talent. And they're turing elsewhere - to late-night TV, to the blogosphere, and to the celebrities whose pet causes mirror their own.

"One would suspect that the editors of the National Post should be more rattled by the rise in competition in the marketplace of ideas than they are irritated by Barbara Streisand. They probably aren't. They should be."

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Memory Almost Full

I also owe y'all a review of Macca's latest album, don't I?


The short version is that Memory Almost Full, went set alongside his body of studio recordings over the past ten years, shows conclusively that age, maturity - and, yes, tragedy - have sharpened, not dulled, his creative prowess. Make no mistake, this one's special.


Forget the commercialism of the Starbucks deal. Like Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, Flaming Pie, Run Devil Run and (to a lesser extent) Driving Rain, this album stands on its own merit.


Ironically, the only track I'm not particularly fond of is the one chosen as the North American single - "Ever Present Past." Not that it's weak, but it's not as representative of the mood of the album as the other tracks.


The opening track - "Dance Tonight" - has taken hits from some critics for being too cute. Y'know what? It is cute. Swallow it. Apparently written whilst entertaining his young daughter with the mandolin, it is cute, but it's also fun - happily, and urgently, fun.


Urgency. Paul's best work has always been characterized by a rare sort of emotional urgency: ballads like "Hey Jude," "Let It Be" and "Maybe I'm Amazed;" rockers like "I'm Down," "Helter Skelter," "Hi Hi Hi" and "Band on the Run," even folksy little ditties like "Blackbird," "Put It There" and "Calico Skies" - they are written, and sung, with an edge. You can tell when Paul McCartney is on and when he's mailing it in - think of the contrast, on his smash 1982 record Tug of War, between the heartbreaking ode to John Lennon "Here Today" on the one hand, and the successful (but entirely forgettable) "Ebony and Ivory."


On Memory Almost Full, that emotional urgency is evident in every track Perhaps on a certain level, the urgency within him is greater than ever: now 65, Paul McCartney is no spring chicken, and the voice has deepened and roughened a bit since 1997. The vocal performances are excellent - not lazy, not strained - but they convey an almost unsettling vulnerability: songs like "Gratitude" and "House of Wax" in particular sent shivers down my spine.

Other highlights: "Mr. Bellamy," whose protagonist joins the pantheon of funky Macca characters created over the years (Eleanor Rigby, Uncle Albert & Admiral Halsey, Rocky Raccoon, Jenny Wren, the nameless girl from "She's Given Up Talking," the Famous Groupies & the Lead Guitarist Who Lived in Epping Forest - to name a few); "Only Mama Knows," an amazing rock melody; "Nod Your Head," which more than one critic has compared favorably to "Why Don't We Do It In the Road"; and the closing medley, particularly "The End of the End," which will be remembered as possibly the most powerful lyric he's ever written. For those who are inclined to splurge on the Special Edition CD or the extras package on ITunes, "Why So Blue" is the best of the bonus tracks by far.

Honestly, it's impossible for me to write this as anything other than a fan. So you can take what I have to say with a grain of salt if you wish. But a quick scan of the reviews available online shows I'm not alone in saying this one is special. Here are a couple of examples. A quick hop oer to wikipedia shows that the buying public is paying attention: in the states, Memory Almost Full is finishing its fifth straight week in the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Not bad.

As I write this, "House of Wax" is playing on the ITunes player. And it still gives me shivers. Yeah, this one's special.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

On the subject of intelligent political discourse

Is there a reason for Antonia Maioni?

Because honestly, I can't think of one. From her vapid postings on Maclean's 50 (sample quote from her comment on the Quebec election: "History was made as Quebecers elected a minority government and was made again as the third-party ADQ formed the official opposition. But the real story of the election is what happened in terms of the vote.") to her inimitable penchant for stating the boneheadedly obvious during her myriad television appearances as Quebec-based-political-scientist-at-large, rarely has a political observer/commentator taken so much opportunity to contribute to the public discourse and delivered so little.

Case in point: how the hell can a Canadian political scientist manage to produce a treatise on the legacy of Tony Blair and fail to acknowledge, even in passing, the impact of Blair's establishment of devolved assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland? Are there no lessons to be drawn from this legacy for Canada - say, regarding the perils of dicking around with the distribution of legislative and spending powers for electoral gain?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Getting ready to watch the draft...

...and getting worried about increased competitiveness in the Eastern Conference. Both the Leafs and the Panthers have shored up their goaltending depth charts dramatically within the past six hours. The pressure has to be mounting on Bob Gainey to improve his roster quickly. Don't forget, if either Florida or Toronto had had consistent goaltending last year, both would have likely made the playoffs.

Eklund has been talking up Patrick Marleau-to-the-HAbs rumours for a couple of weeks now. Wouldn't it be nice....

He almost had me...

...but then Colby Cosh had to screw it all up by transforming this appalling case of intellectual censorship and "War on Drugs" hysteria into a rant on public schools. This case has absoluetly bugger-all to due with the merits of public schools and everything to do with Kieran King's critical thinking being targeted for extinguishment by a thread of repressive, socially conservative culture present in far too many communities.

I should point out that, in my public and Catholic high school, we talked about drugs. We talked about the relative danger of pot vs. tobacco, booze, etc. We also talked about sex - hell, a couple of kids put on a how-to-apply-a-condom demo (they used a cucumber, as I recall). Did I mention that it was a Catholic high school?

And you know what? Teachers didn't throw fits or call the principal or have kids suspended. They led these discussions. They encouraged them.

So don't you dare make this about public schools, Colby. Make this about (to paraphrase Al Franken) idiocies and the idiotic idiots who commit them.

Updated faves...

...to include Lori of Fresh Fish Daily as well as the redoubtable knitting blog, Anny Purls.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

by the way...

...I should also note that I've edited yesterday's post in a couple of areas, for clarity.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The meek shall inherit, my ass

This was certainly an interesting way to start my day.

The thing is, I had an opportunity to go to Loyola when I was young. Or, to be more precise, my folks were considering applying on my behalf.

But, family legend has it, they were distinctly nonplussed by the application documents, which sought a great deal of historical minutiae of my father's lineage, and my mother's...maiden name.

More generally, I was loathe to go. I I did spend one miserable month of Grade 8 in what was at the time known as Sir Winston Churchill High School (to this day I wonder, are there so few great Canadians that they had to name the place after a British Prime Minister?) before returning to my natural home of Father McDonald High School, at the time the only remaining English Catholic high school in the Ste-Croix school board.

I am a living witness to the opportunity cost of choosing public school over private, and a poor school over a booming one. When I got to CEGEP and enrolled in the natural sciences stream, I was stunned to discover how much I'd missed out on, particularly in terms of opportunities for enriched math classes. Our dying little school could do little more than prepare us to meet appropriate provincial standards (and they did that very well, I hasten to add), but they simply lacked the resources of the private schools and even some of the larger, well-endowed public schools in the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal. As a result, I was one maybe 3 out of 30+ kids enrolled in the enriched natural sciences stream at Vanier in 1995 without prior instruction in college-level calculus. I didn't die, but I sure as hell didn't end up as an engineer inventing a better lightbulb, either.

But that's the point, actually. I wasn't cut out for high sciences and engineering, but the economic imperatives of the time, the messaging to kids, was always, "go into the sciences, go into engineering, go into computer programming," or what have you.

My public school offered me plenty of opportunities to develop the skills that suited my heart and interests - particularly with regard to writing. I certainly don't feel as if my life was sent permanently astray by the fact I didn't go to Loyola.

So I have no regrets. And I don't resent Mr. Flaherty for his pride; there's certainly something to be said for the story of a little Irish scruff from Lachine growing up to become Minister of Finance.

Instead I'll simply remind him and Mr. Macdonald that, notwithstanding their delusions of grandeur, Loyola grads don't "run the country." Canadian voters - including in particular the 94% of Canadians - have a considerably bigger say.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Quick Shout-out...

To Lori of Fresh Fish Daily, for her kind words elsewhere on this site.

I'm also happy to pass along my best wishes in her ongoing boycott of Starbucks. I wish her well in her hunt for bean alternatives.

Personally I don't do Starbucks. But then again, paying anything more than a buck for a cup of coffee is enough to rile my sense of moral indignation, that is to say, cheapness. Still, fair trade coffee has been an issue of interest to me since university, and Starbucks needs to take care to ensure that what probably sounded to them like a great idea from an image and corporate social responsibility standpoint doesn't undermine the fair trade movement with its methods.

I am happy to report that I did not buy my copy of Memory Almost Full from a Starbucks outlet. I got it off ITunes.

And speaking of Memory Almost Full, a review is forthcoming.

Green auto rebate redux

I hadn't realized, when I blogged here about the eco-auto rebate, just pissed off Honda was.

Apparently they were.

I can understand their point of view. The cut-off is 6.5 L/100 km. The Yaris is rated at 6.4, the Fit at 6.6. And the outcome apparently is that the rebate program seriously skewed sales towards the Yaris. So Honda came out with a rebate plan of its own, and almost immediately saw the Fit sales performance zoom back.

Now supposedly they're tweaking under the hood of both the Fit and the Civic to see if they can come in under the wire - although they stress they won't do anything in terms of reducing the Fit's curb weight that might compromise its 5-star crash rating, which incidentally is better than that of the Yaris, which got a 4-star score.

This is excellent news. And it goes to show that government actually can make a difference, even if the difference is sometimes small.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Fun while it lasted

As I write this post, the Sens have just lost Game 4 to the Ducks. Final score 3-2.

So yeah, the series is pretty much done, but never mind that. Instead, I'd like to call for a moment of silence for the new NHL.

For if there is a single team in the NHL that symbolizes precisely the opposite of what the so-called "new NHL" was supposed to represent, it is the Anaheim Ducks. League leaders in fighting majors. Second only to the non-playoff Florida Panthers in points earned via overtime loss or shootout loss. A whopping nine roster players with double-digit goal totals during the regular season (Ottawa had 12, Detroit 13, and Buffalo had 10 - including three 30+ goal-scorers). A single player - Teemu Selanne - with regular season totals that surpassed the point-a-game plateau.

And yet. Playing a punishing defensive game - call it the "new trap" and making liberal use of their elbow pads and shin guards (it is pure chance that Ray Emery hasn't been decapitated yet), the Ducks are on the cusp of winning the Stanley Cup.

I am loathe to begrudge individual Duck players like Jean-Sébastien Giguère, Rob Niedermeyer and Teemu (Honorary Jet-for-Life) Selanne. They deserve their moment in the sun.

And the Ducks are undeniably winning by playing the game within - albeit on the very edge - of the boundaries of the rules as they are being called.

But that's the problem, isn't it?

Observers have already noted with resigned amusement the lack of scoring during these playoffs. Only three of the top ten playoff scorers have produced at or above a point-per-game clip - and they all play on the Sens' top line. The Ducks have had far more penalties called against them than the Sens, but they have also had far fewer called against them than they could have. Not unlike the 1970's-era Flyers or the Devils and Panthers of the mid-1990s, the Ducks have painted the league into a corner, daring on-ice officials to call a penalty, leading with the elbows, crashing the opposing goaltender with impunity, and then daring the officials to call another one.

And what will we see next year? We'll see 29 teams falling over themselves to sign that 20-goal scorer with size, speed, and sandpaper, and abandoning that noble experiment of smaller, skillful forwards that left the likes of Montreal, Edmonton, Nashville, Minnesota and Detroit on the outside looking in. John Muckler will be pilloried once again for letting Zdeno Chara walk, never mind that Chara proved nothing this season except that he was entirely incapable of leading the Bruins out of the darkness.

I had to laugh as I watched Don Cherry and Brett Hull yacking on the NBC broadcast 2nd intermission show about how fighting is great, the instigator rule sucks, yada yada yada. And y'know what? They're right. Fred Shero coached his goons to 2 Stanley Cups. And Scotty Bowman and the Habs broke their hold on the Cup by...out-gooning them. This has always been the way in the NHL: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em then go out beat 'em at their own game.

But I ask again. Is this really what they had in mind?

I've had enough. I'm watching the Bulldogs. There's a really exciting story being written down in Steeltown. You might want to check it out.

Friday, June 1, 2007

And with that messiness out of the way...

Here be shout-outs to my Facebook buddies from Father Mac, Vanier, Concordia, and beyond! See you on your walls!

disclosure

Just so's that I might square the circle for those of you who have come here from my facebook site, and to clarify for those readers of this site who've been wondering about the cryptic references to my personal backstory in previous posts....

I am an employee of the federal public service. I have generally chosen to use an alternate presentation of my name when I am blogging and/or posting online. The reason for this is, while I do not tend to engage in partisan debate, and I have not to date written about issues directly related to my area of work, I do like writing about politics and policy issues, and I wish to meticulously separate my work ID from my life as a private citizen. As such, I won't directly criticize government Ministers or officials or organizations affiliated with the Government of Canada, discuss sensitive issues, discuss issues related to my own work, or generally do or say anything that would suggest I am disrespectful of, or incapable of serving, my employer.

You're entitled to wonder, why bother? Anyone who's bothered to read this blog from the beginning will have a pretty clear idea of where I lean on things. My answer to that is, that's not the point. I certainly do not agree with everything the current government does and/or stands for. That is also true of governments in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan...well, you get my point. Bureaucrats are, contrary to popular opinion, a fantastically diverse bunch. What unites us (on good days, at least) is our respect for the institution we serve.

The easier thing to do would be to not blog. Or to quit my job. Since neither appealed to me, I chose instead to find my own balance - by blogging, but not necessrily in a way such that my blogging becomes associated with my work life. I'm told there are other blogging bureaucrats out there, and I'm sure they've all wrestled with these issues before arriving at solutions that suit their needs.

Why D. Andy? Meh. It just happened. Hardly seems worth the effort in retrospect, especially given the Facebook link.

Accordingly, I will absolutely continue to engage in the Canadian political blogosphere, in as respectful and non-partisan a manner as my conscience will allow me to be.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Why I'm defending the Charest tax cut...

...or at least, why I'm defending his right to cut taxes using equalization money. Hint: it's not because I want the bigger refund next year. Or because I think it's a great idea.

It's because, as I point out (see link above), it is "entirely legitimate and consistent with the mandate of the equalization program."

And because virtually every province receiving equalization this year (with the exception of New Brunswick, where the recently elected Liberal government there actually ran on a platform of raising taxes and raising spending) is enacting a tax cut of some stripe in their respective 2007-08, with precisely none of the reproach and hyperbole coming from national media or leaders of envious "have" provinces that has been directed at Quebec.

I'm an anglo Quebecer, quite transparently not soveriegntist nor "autonomiste", and what few readers I have are most likely anglophone, and/or residing in English Canada. But I live in Quebec and thus feel firsthand the consequences of allowing arcane debates over fiscal federalism to be blown up into highly politicized, often hysterical, pissing matches where all manner of interest in fact and truth is lost.

And if anything else, the events of the past year should demonstrate conclusively that there is precious little political hay to be made in manufacturing fiscal injustice dragons and putting on a show of slaying them.

The reaction to Charest's tax cut proposal, and the absence of any similar reaction to tax cuts in other provinces, demonstrates to me (a) the folly of mixing politics with transfer payment policy, and (b) the fact that, even at a time when the threat of separation is supposedly remote, the two solitudes remain as far apart as ever - and that no one seems particularly concerned about it.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Waiting on Memory Almost Full

Paul McCartney's new album, Memory Almost Full, is out on June 4. I already bought "Ever Present Past" on the Itunes store. And I have "Dance Tonight" (via youtube) on a loop as I write this. The latter is almost too good. As a songwriter I'm insanely jealous. As a Paul fan, well, first Chaos & Creation in the Back Yard and now this? I'm feeling totally spoiled.

...TOY!!!!!

I've been on Facebook for 48 hours now. Having waaaaaaaaaaaayyy too much fun. Am not yet Stephane Dion's friend. He probably doesn't mind; apparently he's already got a few. Best new toy in many a year.

Of course, this will ultimately require that I finish the job I started (in a convoluted, roundabout way, of course, becuase that's how I do things) on this post. I will. Not tonight, but soon.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Stop the Presses! Ungrateful Have-Not Province Takes Equalization Money, Cuts Taxes!!!

Gotcha!

Charlie, the Reitman's Bag, and the Sneeze

So if I'm gonna descend into the depths of blog perdition by writing about my cat, and posting pictures of said cat, I might as well go at it in style. Hence, some vital stats:




Born: March 10, 2007

Walked out of my dreams and into my arms: May 6, 2007

Weight at 2 mos.: 3 lbs, 6 oz.

Gender: Male


Favorite Toy: Hard to say, but I've been at the computer most of the evening wrapping up something for work for tomorrow, and he's spent the last 15 minutes thrashing about in a Reitmans shopping bag, which is the longest I've seen him play with anything that wasn't his own tail. I will be keeping this in mind when we head to the PetSmart in Gloucester this weekend.


As I write this, he crawls out of the bag, hops up on my knee and then up onto the computer table, walks right up to the monitor and.....sneezes.


I'll be back with the Windex. Meantime here's Charlie mauling a sweatshirt I got at Disneyland in 1988. It's now his blankie. One less thing for ebay....





Again with the not blogging...

I think it was like this back when I was 7 and tried - quite unsuccesfully - to keep a diary.

And when I was school, and we had to write an entry in our journal every day. At one point, I got around this annoying task by riffing on - in 25 words or less - whether or not I'd "had fun" at recess earlier that morning. Teacher wasn't impressed....

I'll post some info as to why I'm busy lately... but for now here's a clue...





Friday, May 4, 2007

Further to the below...

A couple more things that occurred to me after writing the original post. Some of these thoughts were developed in the comments below; others came to me as I wrote in on Colby Cosh's interesting post over at canada.com.

1) Denis Coderre is a lot of things, not all of which are flattering, but he is not a separatist. Similarly, while some Quebec hockey writers are known to go over the top when it comes to French-English flare-ups, they're not all cut from the same cloth in that regard. My citing François Gagnon (below) was deliberate in that regard, because he is decidely not a wingnut. He and his colleagues may have had a rough ride over the Kovalev thing (which I ain't goin' nowheres near for all the tea in China), but he's not a reflexively anti-English talking head.

I raise this because, more than once, I've seen or heard suggestions that this whole thing is reducible to separatists and/or anti-anglo types trying to stir merde. This kind of dismissive sterotyping is plain wrong. The issue should be discussed on its merits, not dismissed because the guys doing the complaining are francophone Quebecers.

2) On the merits of the issue, I want to come back to the point that this is all the NHL's fault. They're the ones who failed to send a strong message about not tolerating anti-francophone taunts or other ethnic slurs; they could have, for example, fined the Coyotes team and/or the coach for failing to control his players. And they're the ones who allowed this gaping chasm between the official record and Cormier's report to go unexplained, despite persistent questions in the francophone media.

3) Having said it's all the NHL's fault, and having already said that I believe Shane Doan's accounting of the incident, there are all sorts of things that Doan could have done to stop the snowball effect. Doan could have been more proactive in speaking out against that type of language. He could have said something like: "Everyone knows that epithets and insults go back and forth on the ice all the time. And ususally there's little or no evil intent behind it. But the NHL is an international league, and we have a responsibility to set an example by respecting one another. As a captain of an NHL team, as a [insert your choice of 'person of integrity' and/or 'Christian' and/or whatever], I can promise that I won't condone or tolerate that kind of behaviour from my teammates." Instead he allowed himself to get drawn into a legal pissing match with Denis Coderre.

4) When all is said and done, the system worked. The Committee heard Hockey Canada's side of the story. They voted to endorse the team. Then they adjourned. It took less than two hours. This did not prevent Parliament from debating such matters as Afghanistan or Kyoto or Danny Williams. Some perspective, please.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

I'm probably going to regret this, but...

...it's not, as some are suggesting, a total waste of time for Canadian Parliamentarians to be debating the Shane Doan situation. I say this, by the way, even though I actually believe Shane Doan when he says he wasn't the one who directed the "f***'in frenchmen" slur at the four French-Canadian officials who worked the Habs-Coyotes game in question, way the hell back in 2005. I'll accept his assertion that, as a devout Christian, he doesn't ever ever use the F-word. I'll even accept that Doan is sincere when he says he would have made the exact same argument about four California-native refs officiating a game in LA; goofy and legitimate accusations of homerism abound in hockey (remember the 2002 women's hockey gold medal game? Damn American refs....)

Okay. Still. It's beyond dispute, and Doan acknowledges, that there were anti-French slurs (mostly of the juvenile, schoolyard type) flying all over the ice, and that Doan was indirectly drawn into it. It's also beyond dispute that the NHL, by (a) clearing Doan, (b) not investigating the incident further and (c) failing to publicly back Cormier, miserably failed to read the mood in Quebec.

Finally, it's also beyond dispute that waaaaaaaay too many people outside Quebec can't, or don't bother to, follow what's being said in the francophone Quebec media. If they did, they'd know that this issue never actually went away, that anger over the gaping chasm between Michel Cormier's report and the NHL's tactic of basically washing its hands of the whole affair has been simmering. Hockey Canada should have seen this coming, should have been prepared, should have dealt with it head-on. The fact that they didn't make an effort to understand or anticipate the sentiment in Quebec (or at least among the francophone Quebec press) is a massive failure on their part.

François Gagnon (sportwriter for La Presse, frequent guest on the anglophone CFCF-Montreal sports show SportsNight 360 and cyberpresse.ca blogger, gets it exactly right:

"Ça fait 18 mois que c’est arrivé cette affaire là. Dix huit mois qu’on en parle dans tous les médias du Québec et nos collègues de Toronto n’ont pas cru bon une seconde s’intéresser à ce qui se disait ici. Et c’est justement parce qu’ils se réveillent à la dernière minute que cela fait tout un plat et qu’on se retrouve encore à dire que les francophones passent leur temps à se plaindre dans le reste du pays.

(...)

"[Doan] a été nono dans ses commentaires. Il a manqué de jugement, et de respect. Mais je suis convaincu qu’il n’a pas de haine viscérale contre les francophones. Il n’a pas la moindre idée de l’impact de ce qu’il a dit. C’est tout!

"Mais les grands coupables dans ce dossier sont les responsables de la LNH, Colin Campbell en tête, qui a balayé le fait français sous le tapis comme on balaie les restes de poussières que la balayeuse a laissés derrière elle.... Les grands responsables sont les dirigeants de Hockey Canada qui ont eu l’audace de dire qu’ils n’étaient pas au courant de l’affaire et qui se sont mis les deux pieds dans la merde comme des enfants se mettent les deux pieds dans le premier trou d’eau qu’ils croisent sur le chemin de l’école."

What he's saying, in not so many words, is that if there are still two solitudes in this country, it's because too many people aren't trying hard enough.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Red Green politics

At both the E-Group and POGGE, I've been trying (with limited success) to flesh out the argument that the Dion-May deal is a good thing from a pro-environment politics perspective, with the caveat that it must lead to a transformative election on the question of climate change, environmental sustainability and green economics. Canada needs all political parties, and indeed all of our public policy discourse, to make a real and permanent shift away from the assumption that the environment and the economy are by definition in conflict.

A quote from my dusty old environmental economics textbook (one of the few university texts I keep on a shelf rather than in a box in the basement), which sounds elementary to those who get it but remains taboo in the field of traditional economics, sums up the issue:

"[Optimal allocation of environmental and natural resources] requires an understanding of more than just economic behavior. It also requires an understanding of the whole ecological system and how the ecological system responds to changes in both the economic system and the ecological system." (James R. Kahn, The Economic Approach to Environmental and Natural Resources)

In 2007, this should be common sense. There is no economy without the environment. As such, economic analysis must, to the utmost extent possible, incorporate environmental factors.
This is why the Stern Report is so important: it's a validation of what environmentalists have been trying to get across for decades. And it's why the current debate in Canada over the costs of implementing Kyoto is so infuriating - especially to those among us who plan to be alive in 50 years. I mean, do we honestly think that doing nothing, or doing anything less than absolutely everything we can do now, is going to save our economy?

This is why the Red Green deal is a good thing - provided we don't stop there but rather make the next election about this essential principle of fully including environmental factors into our economics. It should have been done a long time (say, maybe, 14 years, or 10, or 7 years) ago. It wasn't.

And I want to reiterate a point I've made elsewhere - the Greens shouldn't presume that they'll still be standing if and when this transformation in complete. There are lots of ways to be green. The NDP, Libs and Tories have lots of eco-tested policy instruments to choose from and make their own according to their values. The Greens may turn out to be nothing more than a transitional presence on Canada's political landscape.

And you know what? I honestly don't care who'se left standing anymore. But we need to get over this hang-up of choosing between the economy or the environment, and now.

Becasue if we don't - well, I think George Carlin put it best: "The planet is fine. The people are fucked."

A new fave

I'm always interested to see progressive-minded bloggers and thinkers popping up in different places, especially in places where progressive politics tend to get stuck on the back burner. Such is it that the blog of one Ken Chapman, operating out of Edmonton, has attracted my attention, as have his very interesting posts over on the E-group.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Talking about cars...

I have to admit that I find this program quite interesting - though somewhat modest and perhaps a bit too picky (though on the other hand, it's not the Conservative Party's fault the Honda Fit doesn't measure up - or the Aveo, or the Accent, or the Versa....

And as an unreconstructed car dweeb, I gotta admit I find this tool to be genuinely fun, and genuinely useful, if not always user-friendly. Who knew a Chevrolet Optra gets worse mileage than a Monte Carlo?

Yeah, I know... never mind...

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

An unfinished lyric

Sometimes it's such an interesting world that we live in
We tend to lose hold of ourselves
Holding on to some old familiar meaning
That should put back on the shelf.

I was seeing in you
So many things that were not true
Got caught up in one to many lines

Now it turns out we've been wasting time
We've been wasting time and we don't know why

Today's a mildly better day

Some relatively good news on some family health fronts. A relatively productive day at the office. Koivu takes the team on his back and leads the Habs to vivtory (memo to Zdeno Chara: the Bell Centre clean-up crew found your jockstrap - it landed in the Molson Ex section). And the music continues to heal. As I write this, I'm listening to Elbow's excellent recent album, "Leaders of the Free World." Some really powerful recordings.

I think the time is coming for me to write more openly about myself in the hope of gaining some value from this little online diary experiment of mine. It's difficult though, at least if I want to continue to blog the way I want to.

For now, I guess I'll start by linking to this.

Back later.

Beyond parody

Keith Richards says in an interview today that he snorted his father's ashes mixed with cocaine.

Money quote:

"The strangest thing I've tried to snort? My father. I snorted my father....He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn't have cared. . . . It went down pretty well, and I'm still alive."

Monday, April 2, 2007

My smile stays on

A a musician and a music fan, I've always been partial to the edge and emotion that comes from a good live performance. And as a Britrock fan, I was quite tickled when it was announced a couple of years ago that Paul Rodgers (ex of Free, Bad Company, and one of the most bitchin' electric blues album - "Muddy Water Blues" - ever) had teamed up with Queen. Skeptical, but tickled.

A couple of weeks ago, "Return of the Champions," a live album from the 2005-06 Queen + Paul Rodgers tour, was put up in the Canadian ITunes store. On somewhat of a whim, on Sunday I bought their arrangement of "The Show Must Go On."

And I've been playing it ever since.

Not just because Paul Rodgers' shredded, but still vital, pipes were made for this song. Not just because Brian May is on fire.

And not just because some family members of mine, not to mention some family relationships, are currently mired in periods of less-than-great health, or because there is very little I can do about any of it.

But man, I needed this song.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

A worthy cause

General Motors has announced a funky little campaign to test interest in launching a minicar (i.e. smaller, more economical and cheaper than the Aveo/Fit/Yaris segment) in North America.

Starting on April 4, web surfers will have the chance to go to the site (linked in the post title, above) and vote on which of three minicar designs they would wish GM to employ for their foray into this much-misunderestimated segment of the North American auto market. The key thing for GM, however, will be the level of traffic and interest. Money quote from the wire story:

"The results will help Chevy determine U.S. market interest in the minicar segment, and which design resonates best with potential buyers," said the company's statement."

In other words, if people don't turn out and vote, GM will have a lovely excuse to back out.

This is important. It's important because to date, options in this segment in North America are frustratingly slim - basically it's the Smart or bust. If GM can successfully bring out a model that will come in under the Aveo/Fit/Yaris in terms of price and cost, it will give urban and suburban dwellers (esp. in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, New England/New York) a choice they haven't had in a very long time.

So don't let GM claim buyer apathy. Give them lots of good reasons to bring this car out. Vote.

So what have I been doing...

...instead of writing on my own blog?

Weighing on the Quebec election at the E-group, and partaking in a chat about child care over at Work in Progress.

So much for this blog being about things other than politics....

Monday, March 26, 2007

Thoughts on Charest and the election

  • The turkeys at Radio-Canada owe him a beer and an apology.
  • He was the only leader who spoke in English (I mean, for crissake, even Lucien Bouchard said a few words in English in 1998).
  • He was (bizarrely) the only leader who openly acknowledged that this election shows Quebec to be divided (I mean, Mario "autonomiste" Dumont was shut out of Montreal and the Outaouais; even Harper has Cannon).
  • At some point, someone is going to have to notice that he is probably the first Quebec political leader since Duplessis to lead his party to a plurality of popular votes in three consecutive elections (1998, 2003, and now 2007).
  • If he's smart, he gives Mario about $100 million to spend in a budget amendment bill, and hope to God that Dumont can't control his troops.
  • Harper cannot claim victory based on this result.
  • We'll be back at this again in a year.

playing catch-up

I had a diary when I was seven. I think my record in terms of writing in it regularly was probably not as good as my frequency as a blogger.

Lots to think about lately. A good friend mine and of my wife, a former classmate of ours back in Montreal, has left the NCR, moved to lovely Whitehorse. We wish her well, I already miss her, and I'll probably come back to this later.

I'm (obviously) from a much younger generation of English-speaking Montrealers that didn't witness first-hand the mass exodus that occurred in the late 1970s. The dispersal of my generation has been more gradual, more quiet, more anonymous. And I admit that I've lost much of the passion that I felt even 10 years ago for my links to the Montreal English-speaking community, such as they were. But today for some reason I feel that loss.

It's been five years since I left Montreal. Five years since I've been living in a milieu that is in certain settings entirely francophone, and in other settings almost entirely anglophone, with only some token bilingualism thrown in here and there. It's definitely not the same. The immersion of the two solitudes here is fleeting, more a matter of convenience or necessity than of principle. Being an English Montrealer meant something that being an English Ouatouais-an (?!?) doesn't. And for every little personal connection to Montreal that is lost to me, I feel a little less myself. I'm becoming someone else, and I don't know who that is yet.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Call me a parochial hick if you want...

I know that, what with all the strife in the world, our soldiers in Afghanistan, the Arctic melting, etc., it probably seems trite to be concerned by something like this.

I really don't care.

To me, it's important that over 80% of Canadian households (including those with relatively high incomes, as in over $80K a year) put in more hours, more weeks of work than ever before and yet have less to show for it.

Call me petty.

Who knew blogging would be so much work?

(Warning: obscure Simpsons references inside)

Not me, obviously.

My online activity of late has been confined to the comment threads over at the E-Group. That's primarily because as a participant in this funky little medium called the blogosphere I've found it infinitely easier to react than to initiate. Plus I'm wanting to have some semblance of consistent moral and intellectual foundation behind what I write, and it's not always there to the extent I want it.

This of course was the point. I'm doing this blogging first and foremost to allow myself a forum to formulate my thoughts and political identity in writing, something that used to seem to come naturally but maybe not.

Christ, I'm navel gazing on the Internet. Everybody watch!!

Seriously, what I've found most interesting - and infuriating - in the discussions over there is how quickly we fall into what Paul Wells so aptly described as a game of "so's your mother" regarding the record of the Chrétien/Martin Liberals. And whenever I watch Question Period - gotta love the CPAC online feed - and see Jack Layton wasting half of his opening question making sure he gets in a dig at the party that's been out of office for over 13 months now, or listen to another Tory minister's refrain of "13 years of Liberal mismanagement" in lieu of actually answering legitmate questions, I'm inclined to pack my bags for Cuba or China, where at least they don't bother to pretend they have a democracy.

What attracted me to blogging in the first place was how they had the potential to allow for a discourse that didn't ape CNN's Crossfire (R.I.P). And yet there I was getting dragged into it, and wondering why I was so hot under the collar. And it's nice to think this is all healthy debate and gamesmanship, but often that's just spin or willful blindness to the lack of debate that is instructive and productive.

I'm reminded of a testy email exchange I got into with a classmate many years ago over the utility of conflict (yes, I know, the ironing is incredible). She thought inciting argument was a great tool for moving things forward between people. I felt that most arguments tend to be manufactured and as a result an incredibly inefficient means of resolving disagreements. I believe the gist of my counter-argument went something like: Your ability to initiate and score points in a debate can show you to be an effective asshole but proves nothing about your skills as a problem solver. And the only reason she liked argument because she was good at it. Glove slap! She don't take crap!

Needless to say, she didn't have much after that. So I guess I won my argument against argument. More ironing.

This is where politics and I go our separate ways. Democratic discourse is all about argument, debate, a ruthless marketplace of ideas where the best arguments invariably rise to the top. I happen to be a pretty good debater - and I can be a stubborn prick when I want to be. What I can't stand is the predetermined nature of our discourse, and for the life of me I don't know why we all don't give all our major political parties the finger, shut 'em down and start from scratch.

Because really, none of them have anything to be proud of.

Now, try to imagine how this post would read if I'd written it while drunk.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Riddle me this, Habs watchers...

Is this a prelude to a biger acquisition? Or is Gainey setting the stage now to make a move for Angelo Esposito on Draft Day?

By the way, a shout-out to Trashy, my first-ever commenter. You'd think there oughtta be a prize, but nope.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Because actually reading the thing is so hard...

...we can instead take the word of newest Macleans.ca celebrity pundit Tasha Kheiriddin, who reliably informs us that Statcan's recent study on university access "...concludes that fees are not a determinant of access ."

Oh. Sorry.

This has officially gone beyond simple misunderstanding or understating of research findings. This is rapidly entering the realm of intellectual dishonesty.

This has got to stop. Low- and middle-income Canadian students and families are being cheated by shoddy treatment of the truth in this debate.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007

On a totally unrelated note...

...I know Habs fans everywhere are getting seriously worried.

But this would be a terrible mistake.

Not because he couldn't help; he probably would pretty well. But so would this guy, the way he's playing. And Gainey would first need to make room.

Personally, I wouldn't be adverse to Bob Gainey trading either Huet or Aebischer at this point, and bringing up Halak and/or Price to challenge the remaining veteran for game time. But if there aren't any takers for #30 or #39, then Gainey would just be bringing on another headache that coach Carbo doesn't need. Three-goalie systems are rare, and rarely successful.

Messing with Big Al

Good.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Emily Haines, where have you been all of my life?

Just bought Metric's Live it Out album off iTunes.

I should explain that, in terms of the Canadian indie scene, I've been rather slow on the uptake. This is actually quite consistent with my practice of being slow on the uptake with most things music (I finally got off my arse and bought O.K. Computer last year).

Anyway. "Patriarch on a Vespa" is possibly the coolest song title in the history of the universe. The music rocks, too.

Faith and Reason

To the extent I actually have readers (Hi, Mom), I'd like to draw their attention to this fascinating blogalogue between Andrew Sullivan and Sam Harris. I think I mentioned earlier that Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish is my favourite blog. This, and discussions like it, are why.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Those who can't, watch.

I'm not sure what business I have liking hockey.

When I was a young kid growing up in Montreal, I really didn't pay much attention to the Montreal Canadiens, the NHL, or hockey in general. Baseball, yeah. I can still visualize the picture of Gary Carter from the Expos team (circa 1982 I think) on my bedroom wall.

But hockey? One of my cousins played for his university team. But I couldn't skate worth a damn. My dad took me to a Canadiens game in 1989, but I didn't really know what the hell was going on.

And my earliest street hockey memory involves hurling myself bodily out of the way of a hockey ball fired from about 75 feet away by a burly 18-year-old guy with a straggly beard and a pony tail (I was 10) and still rising as it found the top corner of the net.

Did I mention that I was the goalie?

Not my finest hour.

But, as they say, timing is everything. Sometime during the spring or summer (I think) of 1992, I managed to talk my parents into letting me have an old 13-inch tv in my bedroom. With a goofy-looking antenna bought at Radio Shack, I eventually discovered that I could get a fuzzy CBC signal on Channel 6, and a slightly better feed of Radio Canada on Channel 2.

Well.

The first hockey game I clearly remember watching on that little TV pitted the Habs against the Hartford Whalers in Game 2 of the Adams Division Semifinal. Denis Savard racked up 3 assists in the second period alone (finishing with 4 overall) as the Habs trounced the Whalers 5-2. Interesting. Then, of course, they got bounced from the playoffs by the Bruins, Pat Burns quit, and Serge Savard went shopping, picking up Vincent Damphousse and Brian Bellows and moving out Russ Courtnall, Shayne Corson, Brent Gilchrest and Mike McPhee.

As the 1992-93 season began, I discovered that Habs games could be found on channel 10 (TVA) and UHF-35 (TQS). With Dick Irvin and Steve Shutt on the radio and the TV volume at zero, my little TV and I followed the Habs through a roller-coaster of a season, which (of course) culminated in an improbable 24th Stanley Cup.

And I was hooked.

And I still am, despite the fact that the Habs have not been nearly as generous to their fans in the years since what hockey historians now generally agree was a lucky Cup win. Even since moving to the Outaouais region, I've kept my allegiance, despite subtle and less-subtle prods from friends and co-workers that I should move on back the Sens.

Which leads me to the present day, with my beloved Habs stumbling through an inconsistent season that began with great promise. As I write this, RDS is reporting that coach Guy Carbonneau (damn, the act of typing that makes me feel old) has -again - shuffled the lines, with Alexei Kovalev now projected to ride shotgun with Saku Koivu and Chris Higgins.

We play the Sens tomorrow. Blogging will be light. Unless we get our asses handed to us in the first period, in which case blogging will be heavy and colourful.

joining the non-partisan alliance (replete with some shout-outs)

I explained in my original post that a big source of motivation for me starting this blog was a need to provide an outlet for my feelings about certain political issues. I mentioned in particular what I felt (and still feel) was a beneath-the-belt smear job on Stéphane Dion over his dual citizenship.

I definitely will be using this virtual platform to speak my mind (I've already done that on a couple of topics). And it will probably become pretty clear where my political and philosophical sympathies lie, if that hasn't already happened. But for a number of reasons I'll touch on in due course, I want to tread very carefully in how I deal with the more down-and-dirty aspects of partisan politics. More importantly, I'm not sure this blog would be reflective of me if I allowed it to become too partisan in tone.

In deciding on which of the many excellent Canadian blog exchanges out there I would seek to engage with, these concerns have been nagging at me. I finally decided that the Non-partisan Canadians Alliance was the place for me. Without a doubt it's the community that is most reflective of where I am in my head and heart - which is to say, all over the bloody map ;)

I want to take a moment to thank the Calgary Grit for being kind enough to reply to my email seeking advice on blogging. He encouraged me to join the Liblogs, of course, and I probably could do that, but I'm simply not there yet, and I may not get there. This probably sounds pithy as hell, but it's true. I'll probably want to re-visit my possible affiliation with other exchanges over time, but it can wait.

I'd also like to send a shout-out to James Bow, (a) for welcoming me aboard, and (b) for a very good tip - that being, to remember to be myself as I blog, which includes not getting into the rut of blogging only about politics all the time. He's right. So a promise - the next blog will be about something other than politics.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Fun With Headlines - CBC Edition

Updated below...

Here be the headline to the CBC.CA's report on a new Statcan analytical paper released today:

University costs not blocking poor youth: StatsCan
Last Updated: Thursday, February 8, 2007 12:18 PM ET

And here be the headline 56 minutes later:

University costs may not be blocking poor youth: StatsCan
Last Updated: Thursday, February 8, 2007 1:14 PM ET

Here be the CBC's report. And here be the actual study, which in fact does not say that university costs may not be blocking poor youth from enrolling. What it does say is that the so-called "income gap" (i.e., high school grads whose parents are poor are less likely to go on to university that those whose parents are rich) is not solely attributable to the financial costs of enrolling in university. Other factors, in addition to one's ability to absorb the financial costs of going to university(such as a student's reading ability, his/her high school grades, the educational background of his/her parents) were also found to influence the likelihood of enrolling in university, and as with ability to pay, these other factors were found to be linked to income.

Specifically, kids coming from poor homes were less likely than kids from richer homes to have:
  • achieved good grades in school;
  • scored well on literacy tests;
  • parents with university or professional degrees;
  • parents who expected them to enroll in university.
All of these factors, in addition to ability to pay, were found to be important contributors to the "income gap." The study found that 12% of the income gap is attributable to ability to pay, versus 12% for parental expectations, 14% for academic achievement, 20% for reading ability, and 30% for parental education.

Ahem.

Update - This is the text of a message I submitted through the CBC website's "feedback" feature today:

"With respect, your coverage of the Statcan study on the impact of tuition cost on access to university, and particularly the headline, is grossly misleading. The study does not, in fact, show that tuition costs do not impact access to university. The study is an analysis ofthe factors that contribute to the well-known "income gap" in terms of university participation. The study shows "financial constraints" to be one of many "observable factors" (among them reading ability, high school academic achievement, parental educational background, and parental expectations) that make up the income gap. Financial constraints made up 12% of the gap, versus (respectively) 20%, 14% 30%and 12% for the other factors.

"I see this morning that the cyberpresse.ca website is now carrying the same misleading headline that you first ran with yesterday and persist in publishing, in modified form, today. The coverage by the media of this very important study is doing a disservice to Canadian youth, who deserve to have the issues they face dealt with in a fair and accurate manner. I urge you to correct the record."

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

tuition

So the students are marching again. For lower fees, for a longer freeze, for more federal money.

I was an editor for my CEGEP's (Vanier, if you care) newspaper during the student strikes of 1996-97. We were out for two days in November '96; other CEGEPs, particularly some of the larger francophone CEGEPs in Montreal like Saint-Laurent and de Maisonneuve, were out for something like six weeks. I can't recall how long the universities were out for. But it wasn't fun. And the victories, such as they were, were fleeting.

I remain supportive of the cause, notwithstanding the sincere efforts of guys like Paul Wells and Bob Rae to build a progressive case for raising tuition, provided it's done right. I personally think Wells is barking up the wrong tree by pointing to the lower rate of university participation in Quebec versus Ontario or Nova Scotia as "evidence" that lower tuition doesn't lead to better outcomes in terms of accessing university.

This study, published in 2005 by Statistics Canada, provides a much more nuanced view. Specifically, their findings suggested that "the enrolment gap between students from higher and lower socio-economic backgrounds rose substantially in Ontario [during the late 1990s], where the deregulation of professional programs was more prominent [wheras in] provinces like Quebec and British Columbia, where tuition fees remained stable, no change in the enrolment gap was registered." Of course, the study also found that enrolment increased overall in those programs during that time, meaning Wells' point about higher revenues leading to more spaces is correct. But that enrolment gap, and what it represents in the longer term in terms of the intergenerational perpetuation of poverty, is just not acceptable.

What I find most frustrating in this discussion is the failure by proponents of tuition hikes to properly acknowledge that, in the 21st century, a university degree (or other postsecondary certification) is not what it used to be - or more specifically, that a high school diploma is nowhere near what it used to be in terms of preparing people for entry into the labour market. Such that, absent that additional preparation provided by postsecondary education, an individual is more likely than not to spend his/her adulthood living with precarious employment and poverty, with all the associated social costs.

The Rae report kinda sorta played footise with some of these issues, before coming to the conclusion - based on something other than divine inspiration, I hope - that "the average portion of the operating cost of colleges and universities borne by students (25% for universities and even less for colleges) is not unreasonable." (Page 24)

Sorry, but they ain't sold me yet.

Take that, Hérouxville

Somehow, I'm betting the Hérouses down in Hérouxville hadn't banked on becoming the new national poster town for the post-911 multiculturalism backlash. Today, among other things, we read that a teacher at a very multicultural school in my former hometown/burrough (and no, I'll never get used to calling it a burrough) of Ville Saint-Laurent has decided to cancel a field trip to the nearby town of Saint-Thècle for fear of adding to controversy. Saint-Thècle is not, by the way, one of the five towns in the region to have followed in Hérouxville's footsteps by adopting their own shiny new no-stoning bylaws.

Thankfully, on Monday Jean Charest - finally - found his sea legs (or, if you prefer, guts) on the issue. Good. And, on a somewhat lighter , the town of Huntington has passed what amounts to an anti-Hérouxville declaration, stating that the town embraces without reservation the principles of multiculturalism. Vive le backlash-against-le-backlash!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

...and while I'm playing with the Blogger hyperlink thingie...

...I would join the Calgary Grit in congratulating Ted Haggard on not being gay.

Andrew Sullivan (who, though neither Canadian nor a fiscal leftie is the host of what is by many yards my favourite blog) is, predictably eloquent.

As is, in their own way, the Onion. (with the requisite hat-tip to Mr. Sullivan)

Speaking of bloggers...

...Garth Turner to the Liberals, huh?

I'm watching/listening to his explanatory web video as I'm writing this. Says he met with Dion, found him "reasonable, visionary, passionate." Parrots well-tread lines about how the Progressive Conservative party of old is long gone. Fine.

I see the likes of Adam Radwanski, the Calgary Grit, others aren't overly impressed, wondering if the gain - one MP, not enough to take away the NDP's leverage in the House - will be worth the pain of a guy who has, in some observers, earned a reputation for grandstanding and poor team play. That's fine too.

And yeah, the floor-crosser epithets will fly (though his preemptive strike against this - I'll stand for a byelection if Emerson, Khan and Fortier go too - is just cheeky enough to be effective).

I'll say only that if Dion and Co. are willing to allow Garth's key strength - namely, is innovative use of the Internet as an outreach and promotional tool - to become theirs, then yeah, it's worth it. More on this angle later.

Monday, February 5, 2007

oh goody...my very own acme rack and pinion tranquilizer blog

So, uh, yeah.

'Tsup.

Welcome to what I hope will be a dandy little Canadian blog.

A forum for me (and, eventually, my readers, as I slowly grasp the various the various subtleties of operating a blog - not to mention acquire a reader) to discuss things of interest to Canada, to observers of Canadian politics and public affairs.

A place for good-natured John vs. Paul debates, along with other, more current things music.

The odd rant about hockey and/or reflection on the wonder of cartoons.

And - I swear - only occasionally an embarrassing exercise in vanity.

How to begin....

I'm 28, a resident of Western Quebec and an avid consumer (read: addict) of online news and punditry, and I've been particularly drawn to the Canadian blogosphere - 99% of the time as a consumer, with the odd visit to various comment threads - for a couple of years now. As I recall (it's all a blur) t started with three sites bookmarked as part of my morning routine - Inkless Wells, Norman's Spectator and Kinsella's daily musings - and snowballed from there. Pogge, Jim Elve's E-Group, Andrew Anderson's Bound By Gravity, Zerb, Crawl Across the Ocean, the late Tilting at Windmills, Andrew Spicer, Jonathan Ross...well, you get the hint.

I found it fascinating to watch as interested individuals from across this country would engage in vigorous, sometimes heated, but generally civilized - and, most importantly, well-informed - discussions of very complicated, often very messy political issues. For the most part, I've been content to watch from the sidelines.

A few weeks ago however, I couldn't help myself. Stéphane Dion, the newly-elected leader of the Liberal Party, had come under fire from a couple of isolated outposts (read: Ezra, Bourque, Pat Martin) for his alleged lack of loyalty to Canada, which was evidenced beyond any reasonable doubt by the fact that... his mother was from France.

So I got on the comment boards, engaging in a looooooooooooonnnng recurring debate with Glenn et al over at the E-group, firing off an angry letter to the NDP (of which I am now proudly a former supporter), and generally spending a lot of time being frustrated that our national discourse could sink so low (even if only for a week), but not doing anything about it.

So it's my (naive) hope that by launching this blog and participating in these virtual conversations in a serious way, I can help make a difference.

Meanwhile, I've had another problem.

I fancy myself a writer, but for a number of reasons (which I'll kick around later during one of those occasional exercises in vanity I warned y'all about), I haven't been able to write. At least, not the way I want to.

So, with your indulgence, it is my other (also naive) hope that by launching this blog I will help myself to rediscover a love of writing.

A quick note - I've read the horror stories encountered by novice and veteran bloggers alike about the joys of comments and spam, but since I don't know enough about what I'm doing yet to worry about it, I won't.