Sunday, April 30, 2006

47



Happy Birthday, Prime Minister!

The First 100 Days

Look at this list of accomplishments of the Harper government during its first 100 days.

Shut down aid to Hamas.
Appointed the first Supreme Court justice ever to face questioning from Parliament.
Faced down Bernard Shapiro and won.
Visited Afghanistan and buried the peacekeeping myth for good.
Settled the softwood lumber dispute.
Forced the Parliamentary Press Gallery to do real reporting instead of recycling press releases.

Think back to the first 100 days of the Martin government.

That's the difference between leadership campaigning and leadership.

This Space For Rent

With apartment vacancies in Toronto at record highs, landlords are throwing all sorts of incentives at potential tenants to rent or current tenants to stay on--a month or two of free rent, free parking, free cable and internet access, and so forth.

Now with the return of rent control in Ontario, landlords are going to see profit margins thinned by rising property taxes and energy costs shaved down even more:

New restrictions on "above-guideline increases." Currently, landlords may increase rents by more than the government-mandated percentage to cover the costs of capital projects, such as major renovations. The new legislation will make it clear that the costs of routine maintenance cannot be passed on to tenants this way.

Restoration of the "costs no longer borne" clause. Under this clause, landlords who get above-guideline increases for capital projects would have to roll back rents once the project is paid for.

Restoration of "orders prohibiting rent increases." The legislation will give the rental housing tribunal the power to freeze rents on apartment buildings that are subject to outstanding work orders from the municipality.

Elimination of "default eviction orders." Now, if a tenant does not dispute a landlord's claims of non-payment of rent, the tribunal may issue an eviction order without a hearing. The legislation will require a hearing.


At least one of the more objectionable proposals--rent controls--will not be in the legislation. The Federation Of Rental Housing Providers-Ontario has a collection of articles explaining how rent controls don't actually benefit the great mass of tenants and disadvantages decent landlords--not slum lords--at the same time.

Artificially holding rents down doesn't help poorer and newer tenants in the long run, but it certainly allows longer-term tenants a great advantage and landlords a disincentive to improve their properties or keep current tenants satisfied.

And deadbeat tenants will be able to game the system a little longer. Instead of having to actively pursue an appeal of an eviction order, they can sit back and wait for the appeal to be scheduled, and keep on defaulting.

And if capital projects do significantly increase the value of a rental property, shouldn't a landlord be able to charge more for what has become a more desirable property?

I rent myself, and I've known good landlords and bad, but my sympathies have generally been with the landlords in this market. With interest rates at record lows and all sorts of new mortgages being offered at easy terms, this is not a landlord's market, and it won't ever be again if this legislation goes through.

Source: Toronto Star

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Fits And Seizures

An epilepsy support organization that suggested Muhammad might have been an epileptic hasn't had its offices firebombed yet, but the rhetoric from some offended Muslims has been no less incendiary:

Geoff Bobb, executive director of Epilepsy Toronto, is anything but a spineless sort of guy. So when hundreds of letters from the Muslim community began flooding into his office, asking that the Prophet Mohammed's name be removed from Epilepsy Toronto's list of famous people with the disorder, his first instinct was to stand firm.

The on-line list, which sweeps its way through a huge cast of characters beginning with Socrates, Saint Paul and Joan of Arc and moving through to Napoleon, Newton, Alfred Nobel, Flaubert, Agatha Christie and Danny Glover, is there to empower people who suffer seizures. If you think that epilepsy stands in the way of achievement, the names are there to make you think again.

Now, however, Mohammed's name is no longer on the list. Mr. Bobb says he removed it because the complaints -- some of which came from as far away as Egypt and India -- convinced him that the Muslim Prophet's medical condition could not be historically confirmed.

....

A writer who identified himself only as Yousuf wrote, "Make an apology and repentence [sic] to Almighty, for you will be accounted for your deeds On The Day Of Judgment. Amen."

At least one letter writer, who declined to speak with The Globe and Mail, also visited Epilepsy Toronto's King Street office.

But Mr. Bobb, who discussed the issue with staff after the letters began to arrive in February, says the Toronto group wasn't forced into the decision.

"We were challenged by a number of members of the Muslim community to authenticate our source. The best we could come up with, in the history books, were comments from [author] Fyodor Dostoyevsky to the effect that Mohammed's visions were, in reality, seizures. While entirely possible, our challengers were quick to take issue with this view of history and suggested that it was motivated by Christian-based propaganda to discredit Islam.


Given the rest of Muhammad's history, epilepsy would have been among the least of his problems.

Or perhaps, the most fateful grand mal seizures in history.

Source: Globe and Mail

Terror Report

Today's National Post post article about this recent U.S. State Department report on terrorism is a bit of a head-scratcher on the surface, because of the article's bizarre claim about the report:

The State Department's harsh language on Canada contrasted with its statements in the report of Iraq, which it said was "not currently a terrorist safe haven" despite the continued attacks carried out by al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi and other groups in the country.


Which claim, of course, the State Department report does not even remotely bear out.

The principal threat to the close U.S.-Canadian cooperative relationship remains the fallout from the Arar case. U.S. authorities in 2002 detained dual nationality Canadian-Syrian terrorist suspect Maher Arar in New York and removed him to his native Syria. Arar claimed he was tortured in Syria, triggering a media outcry in Canada that prompted the Canadian Government to review and restrict information-sharing arrangements with the United States. The two governments are working to develop a mechanism to accommodate Canadian concerns while resuming the free flow of counterterrorism information.

The Arar case underscores a greater concern for the United States: the presence in Canada of numerous suspected terrorists and terrorist supporters. Algerian-born Ahmed Ressam, the "millennium bomber" caught attempting to bring bomb-making materials into the United States, was denied asylum in Canada, yet remained in Montreal for seven years and used false identification to obtain a Canadian passport. Other known terrorists in Canada include:

• Mohammed Mahjoub, member of Vanguards of Conquest, a radical wing of Egyptian
Islamic Jihad;
• Mahmud Jaballah, senior member of the Egyptian Islamic terrorist organization al-
Jihad and al-Qaida;
• Hassan Al Merei, suspected al-Qaida member;
• Mohammed Harkat, suspected al-Qaida member; and
• Adil Charkaoui, suspected al-Qaida member.

Canada is also home to the Khadr terrorist family. Father Ahmed Said, a member of al-Qaida, was killed by Pakistani security forces in 2003. A son accused of killing a U.S. Army medic and wounding another soldier is being held in Guantanamo. Another son was detained by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and has since returned to Canada. The USG seeks the extradition of a third son for conspiring to kill Americans. A daughter is under investigation by Canadian authorities for terror-related offenses.


And on Iraq :

Terrorist attacks are frequent and are conducted by Islamic extremists, former regime elements, and foreign terrorists. Attacks and kidnappings in Iraq targeted foreign aid workers, contractors, and other non-combatants. Usama Bin Ladin, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi all declared the importance of victory for their terrorist cause in Iraq. In recent months, a growing distinction between the
various elements of the Iraqi insurgency and the foreign terrorists has emerged.

....

Terrorist groups coordinated and conducted attacks on Iraq’s utility infrastructure and also claimed responsibility for kidnappings and attacks on Iraqi personnel working at refineries and electrical stations. Terrorists’ efforts to disrupt and destroy Iraq’s energy infrastructure sought to make the Iraqi Government appear incapable of providing essential services, and hindered economic development. These attacks also sought to undercut public and international support for Iraq.


Looks like someone at CanWest needs reading comprehension lessons. Or a lesson in journalistic ethics.

Nonetheless, it's refreshing to see these people referred to in cold print as terrorists instead of misguided souls or innocent immigrants to Canada caught up in a witchhunt.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Mad Computer Science, Part II: Held To Ransom

Malware is getting even more malevolent these days as some spammers, no longer content merely to hawk male enhancement pills and fake designer watches, now are demanding ransom for hijacking your computer:

A new kind of malware circulating on the Internet freezes a computer and then asks for a ransom paid through the Western Union Holdings money transfer service.

A sample of the Trojan horse virus was sent to Sophos, a security vendor, said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant. The malware, which Sophos named Troj/Ransom-A, is one of only a few viruses so far that have asked for a ransom in exchange for releasing control of a computer, Cluley said.

....

Once run, the Trojan freezes the computer, displaying a message saying files are being deleted every 30 minutes. It then gives instructions on how to send $10.99 via Western Union to free the computer.


Wait until the banks and government get hold of this so-called "ransomware." It could be an incredibly effective tool for going after deadbeats of all kinds. The technically naive ones who don't think to back up valuable computer files that might be worth something as collateral, that is. But how many of them are out there?

Source: Yahoo

The Department Formerly Known As Prince

Canadian governments tend to reorganize departments with an alacrity that puzzles many foreign observers, especially in America, where the creation of new Cabinet-level departments is a relatively infrequent occurence.

It suggests a certain instability in the public service and lack of focus, even if does keep the bureaucrats hopping to please their political masters.

To say nothing about the costs of changing letterhead:

The Harper government's decision, and that of the Martin administration before that, to merge or split up what is called today the Department of Human Resources and Social Development, comes with a steep cost to taxpayers, according to internal government memos -- something in the order of $2-million.

When a new leader decides a department should have a new name, it means stationary, letterhead, envelopes and calling cards all have to be replaced with new ones, while Web sites, e-forms, exterior signs and interior directory boards need to be updated.

When Paul Martin became prime minister in December, 2003, he split up the scandal-ridden Human Resources and Development Canada. It became the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and the Department of Social Development Canada.

Fast-forward to this year when Stephen Harper took over the Prime Minister's Office. He promptly put the two departments back together again into the new Department of Human Resources and Social Development. Once again, the name change carried the cost of letterhead, business cards, signs and updated Web sites.


Perhaps the differences can be found in the much sharper separation of executive and legislative branches in the American system--new Cabinet-level departments cannot be created at the President's whim, but require Congressional approval. Difficult to obtain, but once obtained, the departments remain entrenched.

Only four new Cabinet-level departments have been created in the last 30 years in the United States--Health & Human Services, Education (from the split-up of Health, Education & Welfare), Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security.

Quite a contrast.

And one that makes for more stable bureaucracy and certainty in government. Nothing like knowing your role from day-to-day and year-to-year.

Source: National Post

Mad Computer Science

The world has seen many examples of science turned to inhumane ends--eugenic sterilization, medical experiments on concentration camp prisoners, biological warfare experiments--but never have we thought our own scientists willing to become accomplices to evil.

Until now:

Canadian researchers have figured out a way to create spam that could bypass the best filters and trick even the most savvy computer users into opening messages they would normally delete.

Mischief-makers would use this kind of spam -- which employs hijacked computers to make sophisticated e-mail messages that appear to be from people known to computer users -- to release viruses, worms or spyware on unsuspecting users or expose them to theft of personal information.

....

Spam is always evolving, but the kind of high-tech stuff once thought to be too much work for spammers was easily demonstrated by Prof. Aycock and student-researcher Nathan Friess in their study "Spam Zombies from Outer Space."

The study, which was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and has been peer reviewed, will be presented next week at the European Institute for Computer Anti-Virus Research conference.

....

Spam of the future could be sent from the e-mail accounts of friends or colleagues, the Alberta researchers say. The spam could be so sophisticated that messages may contain abbreviations, personal signatures or misspellings that people would expect to see in e-mail from people they know.

Those tricks would make sure people are more apt to visit a Web link or download an attachment, allowing the spammers to peek into hard drives, grab personal data or infect the computer.


Our posterity will curse these men and their deeds as among the greatest villainy ever to be seen on this earth.

Source: Globe and Mail

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Thrown Out Of Court

Sinclair Stevens will now have to content himself with writing cranky letters to the editor and distributing incoherent tracts to unwitting passers-by, now that the Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear his appeal of the decision to merge the Progressive Conservative and Canadian Alliance parties.

Or perhaps he can go UFO watching with Paul Hellyer in his spare time.

Or run for the leadership of the Liberal Party. It's not like they couldn't use another Toronto-based malcontent.

Lumbering Along

Here's the full text of the proposed softwood lumber deal.

Boiled down to its essence:

--We get 80% of the export tariffs imposed on our lumber back;
--We'll cap our exports to 34% of the U.S. market and pay surcharges for any excesses.

For a deal that roughly restores the status quo ante, it's getting a rough ride from the industry:

Shares of Canadian lumber companies dropped Thursday ahead of Mr. Harper's news, as a slew of analysts derided the tentative deal.

"The deal is awful. It basically marginalizes the Canadian industry over the next seven years," Richard Kelertas, an analyst at Desjardins Securities, said in an interview.

"Even if the Americans make some modifications to this, it is still a trap for the Canadians. The trap is that there is no language to exit, so they will be trapped in this bad deal for seven years."

....

Mr. Kelertas, the Desjardins Securities analyst, said that the original deal flew in the face of the North American Free Trade Agreement and World Trade Organization regulations, which state that cross-border deals are illegal. "The danger here is that you set a very dangerous precedent by saying that NAFTA is no good and can be argued by the Americans that it is unconstitutional."


Incredible to see all the same people who were whining about NAFTA now whining that NAFTA isn't being followed.

Perhaps this wasn't the best deal we hoped for, but given how badly the previous government poisoned relations with the U.S., it was the best we could get under a new, less hostile government.

Still, an imperfect solution is better than no solution and thousands of lumber industry workers being thrown out of work as a result.

Bird Course

I have thoughts about the softwood lumber deal, but I won't be able to articulate them properly right now.

So here's an irrelevant bit of filler: birds can be taught grammar!

The simplest grammar, long thought to be one of the skills that separate man from beast, can be taught to a common songbird, new research suggests.

Starlings learned to differentiate between a regular birdsong “sentence” and one containing a clause or another sentence of warbling, according to a study in Thursday's journal Nature. It took University of California at San Diego psychology researcher Tim Gentner a month and about 15,000 training attempts, with food as a reward, to get the birds to recognize the most basic of grammar in their own bird language.

Yet what they learned may shake up the field of linguistics.

While many animals can roar, sing, grunt or otherwise make noise, linguists have contended for years that the key to distinguishing language skills goes back to our elementary school teachers and basic grammar.

Sentences that contain an explanatory clause are something that humans can recognize, but not animals, researchers figured.


If birds do it, why can't newspaper editors do it? Or bloggers, for that matter?

Maybe we can also figure out if an infinite number of monkeys can reproduce the works of Shakespeare, too.

Science marches on!

That Sinking Feeling

Toronto is just a few hundred more water main breaks from sinking into Lake Ontario. Do your part!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Left Hands Joined

No doubt that the increasing prospect of this is making this an even more attractive prospect to others:

A new poll, released as two more left-leaning candidates prepare to enter the Liberal leadership race, suggests a merger of the Liberal and New Democratic parties could be an electoral winner.

The Decima Research poll found that 25 per cent of Canadians believed the two parties should unite.

Voters who supported either of the two parties in last winter's election were even more receptive to the idea: 36 per cent of Liberals favoured a merger and 32 per cent of New Democrats.

Moreover, a Decima analysis of the 2006 election results suggests that had the two parties joined forces during last winter's election, they could have blocked the Conservatives from winning a minority government.


Before left-leaning voters start celebrating the possibility of eternal "progressive" government in Canada, they should take a few cautionary notes from the Conservative Party's example.

First: One plus one does not always equal two. Even if the Liberals and NDP are both left-leaning parties, certain factions within both parties will decamp because they just will not work together.

Fiscal and social conservatives in the Liberal Party, increasingly marginalized among their own kind, will likely go to the Conservative Party rather than share a tent with hot-blooded socialists and pro-abortion, anti-family activists.

Hardcore environmentalists will be just as unwilling to be swallowed up by Liberals perceived as all too friendly to big business polluters. The Green Party awaits their arrival.

Expect loudly proclaimed defections if such a merger comes to pass from both sides.

Second: You can throw a party together at the last minute, but don't expect it to win at the last minute either.

Those of us who were disappointed by the failure to win in 2004 after a short-lived mid-election rise in the polls collapsed, in retrospect, proved to be more grateful for what was achieved than resentful about what was not.

The Conservative Party had to run an accelerated merger and leadership process, and throw together a campaign team and platform from scratch. What normally takes two to three years had to be done in less than six months.

We were fortunate to have some of the shine come off Paul Martin's image, even though the full extent of Adscam and the Liberal Party's corruption had yet to be known.

A united left will likely not have the same benefit of scandals and a tired leader and government with heavy baggage going into the next election. And it will still face all the same organizational challenges.

Third: Don't run ahead of your own membership.

Most people will agree, eventually, that merger is a good idea. But they will not actively pursue it until they're convinced of the futility of the status quo. It took three elections and the near-collapse of both Alliance and PC Parties before hope and fear overcame inertia. The time was not ripe in 2000 when Reform tried to unite the right all on its own. Three years later, everyone wanted on, fast.

Finally: Remember that the media will not want this merger to fail. It will work long and hard for the consummation of its greatest hopes. One liberal party, indivisible, with patronage and entitlements for all.

Bring Me A Cup Of Hot Fat

And the head of Alfredo Garcia.

But seriously folks, what sort of ghoul would steal a head out of a funeral home?

I'd take a closer look at the funeral home employees. There are people who get into certain fields just to satisfy their particular perversions or psychoses.

Carry On, Mon

Caribana is dead. Long live the Carribean Carnival.

Break out the ganja and rejoice!

All the mas bands and jerk chicken and twice the shootings!

Fly The Flag High

Ours is a sentimental age, when reserve and self-control are seen as callousness, and when sincerity is measured by public emotion and not actual deeds.

The pop psychologists and grief counsellors who swoop down like vultures on every tragic event and fatal misfortune treat people as though they are too fragile to deal with life's most unpleasant realities.

It is also an age when symbolism is much abused and misunderstood.

Flying the flag at half-staff every time a soldier is killed is a terrible signal to send to our enemies and people at home. It is a sign of mourning when what is needed is strength and defiance.

Had the same misguided policy been in effect during the World Wars and Korea, our flags would never have flown full-staff for the duration of the conflict.

Our enemies then would have seized upon it in their propaganda as proof of our unwillingness to fight.

Our pacifists would have delighted in such a public admission of futility.

There will be a time for national mourning for the fallen, but it is not now, not when the mission remains to be accomplished.

Keep the flags flying high!

LINK: Babbling Brooks makes the same point even more effectively than I could.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hide And Go Seek

The Iranian government isn't even pretending to play along with the United Nations and its inspectors who couldn't find enriched uranium if it was glowing in the dark in front of them:

Iran warned on Tuesday it will sever relations with the United Nations atomic watchdog if sanctions are imposed over its nuclear drive and vowed a military attack would merely send its activities underground.

Despite the tough rhetoric from the Islamic regime, diplomats in Vienna said a high-level Iranian delegation was to hold last-minute talks on Wednesday with the UN atomic agency ahead of a UN deadline on Friday for it to suspend uranium enrichment.

National security chief Ali Larijani had earlier refused to rule out using oil as a weapon in the worsening international stand-off, warning of "important consequences" for energy supplies if Iran was subjected to "radical measures".

"If you decide to use sanctions against us, our relations with the agency will be suspended," Larijani said of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The IAEA has been investigating Iran for more than three years, and any cut in ties would spell an end to international inspections and monitoring of nuclear facilities inside the Islamic republic.


This is the world's fourth largest producer of crude oil, ladies and gentlemen. Our economy's lifeblood flows through arteries controlled by Islamic lunatics who--unlike the Soviets before them--will gladly turn half the world into a radioactive charnel house if it brings back the Twelfth Imam.

If they want to send their nuke program underground, send them underground along with it--covered in rubble.

Source: The Mail & Guardian

Hard Bargain On Softwood

You get a better deal when you don't continually insult the people sitting across the table.

Duties off, our money back and we keep the same share of the U.S. lumber market that we had prior to the whole mess.

And the President returning our Prime Minister's calls for a change.

Not bad!

Fourth Estate, Fifth Column

When TV news started showing soldiers' bodies coming home every day from Vietnam, public confidence in winning the war began to fall preciptiously, even though the United States and South Vietnam were dominating the Viet Cong militarily.

The same practice has been banned now in the United States. Nonetheless, the media has found other ways to degrade public and military morale.

The practice is ostensibly done to show respect for the soldiers, but in reality, it is to allow the media to use their coffins as platforms for defeatism.

Which is why I'm glad to see our government not allow our media to do the same:

The media will be banned from CFB Trenton today when the bodies of four Canadian soldiers killed over the weekend in Afghanistan return home.

The decision to mirror a practice that is controversial in the United States follows an announcement on Sunday that the flag on the Peace Tower will not be flown at half-mast to mark the deaths.

The two events have some in opposition accusing the Conservative government of a deliberate attempt to limit public knowledge of the human cost of Canada's mission in Afghanistan.

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor issued a statement yesterday confirming the change, saying the arrival of the soldiers' bodies is a private event for the grieving families.

....

A spokesman for the minister confirmed that the media ban will also apply in any future deaths of soldiers.


Canada has not even lost a score of soldiers in Afghanistan, and already comparisons to Iraq and Vietnam are being blithely thrown around.

Our mission has hardly been a military failure, but the media would like to turn it into a political failure.

And it can do so by appealling to public naivete about the nature of war, the peacekeeping myth, and when all else fails, simple anti-American sentiment.

If the current Canadian media had been covering World War II, it would have demanded an immediate surrender to the Axis after the first corvette sank or soldier died at Dieppe or Hong Kong.

Don't let it act as a fifth column this time.

Source: Globe And Mail

Monday, April 24, 2006

Rae's Return

Thomas Walkom has killed the fatted calf to welcome back the prodigal son of the Liberal Party, whose decades-long sojourn in the NDP is now dismissed as a falling astray from the one true path of righteousness:

By all rights, he should always have been a Liberal. His father, Saul, was an important foreign service mandarin under Lester Pearson; his sister, Jennifer, dated the young Pierre Trudeau; his brother John was a key backroom figure behind Jean Chr├ętien.

But as a student at the University of Toronto in the late 1960s, young Bob Rae began to tentatively break away from the family project.

In part, this reflected the times. The Vietnam War was on and students were questioning not only the U.S. role but the quiet support given to it by Canada's Liberal government.

For Rae, given his father's past role as a Canadian diplomat involved in the Vietnam file, this critique had an intensely personal dimension.

Trudeaumania provided a brief respite. In 1968, Rae and his roommate Michael Ignatieff — now a rival for the Liberal leadership crown — attended the convention that elected Trudeau. Tellingly, perhaps, Ignatieff went as an elected Liberal delegate. Rae, fascinated but less certain, was just another excited Trudeau youth worker.

Within a few months, the excitement had worn off. Writing in the Varsity, the campus newspaper, Rae bewailed his brief infatuation with Trudeau Liberalism. Young people, he said, had been attracted by the prime minister's intellect. But in the end, this was not enough; a leader must have principles as well

"The infatuation with intelligence should come to an abrupt halt." Rae wrote, noting that while Trudeau might look different on the surface, in reality he was just another Liberal "jazzed up and wearing sandals."


....

By the end of his time in office, Rae had become a convert to fiscal rectitude, public-sector restraint, workfare, hospital nursing cutbacks and tough-minded education reform — all of which were picked up and expanded upon by his successor, Conservative Mike Harris.

Musing on his experience later, Rae wrote that social democrats — if they are to succeed — must embrace free market economics, avoid absolute principles of right and wrong, and make practical choices.

He might have said they need to become Liberals.


Walkom's column is a form of absolution for Rae and reassurance for Liberals that they will not be backing an NDP Trojan horse.

It is revealing, however, of just how far to the left the Liberal Party is moving, when a former NDP premier and party stalwart forced only by the reality of governing to abandon his socialist ambitions is considered to be part of the party's centre.

And it is further revealing that he will just another one of the glut of Toronto-area leadership candidates. With Stephane Dion as the token Quebecois (who'd a thunk it?) and Scott Brison as the token East Coast candidate (and of course, no need for even a token Westerner), the Liberal Party has passed from being mildly apologetic and defensive of its Toronto-centric nature to outright pride therein.

Time heals all wounds. Bob Rae's government is now retreating into the mists of history, with the Harris/Eves years having intervened, and McGuinty approaching his second term. People in Ontario have forgotten, if not forgiven, Bob Rae for his spectacular incompetence as Premier. And people outside Ontario don't really care.

Most of all, he has the blessing of Power Corporation. No one else in the race can claim that.

Let us not underestimate Bob Rae. He is a far more formidable candidate under his new packaging than you think.

50 Ways To Leave Your Liver

In all seriousness though, this man is a truly selfless benefactor. Most of us wouldn't even cross the street to help this poor child, let alone give up part of a vital organ:

In an extreme act of generosity, Canada-based Kevin Gosling donated a part of his liver to a 5-year old comatose child to help him recover from an incurable liver disease . He further stated that he had no regrets about donating his organ to a complete stranger or about putting his own life at risk, adding that he would do it again, if necessary.

The impact a kidney donation had on one of his family friends is said to have been instrumental in shaping the decision of this 46-year old man. The enthusiastic donor was seen wearing a bright green ribbon, expressing his desire for organ donation, at a press meet.

....

The child had an intrinsic enzyme deficiency that placed him with the constant risk of permanent brain damage, coma and eventually death. 'Imagine if your child had to take a special formula and medications every six hours -- in fact about 40 pills a day and had to be on a severely restricted low-protein diet. Where do you turn to for hope? Hope for us came in the form of an angel-donor named Kevin', said a letter from the recipient's family.

The potential donor had to face 12 hours of extensive interrogation by psychiatrists and doctors before they concluded his humanitarian motive. The much-awaited green signal was then given to the six-hour transplant surgery that carried a 0.5 percent risk of death.


Sign your organ donor card so that people don't have to depend on random chance or the kindness of strangers for life-saving transplants. You might even need to get one yourself one day. And Kevin Goslings are few and far between.

Source: Medindia.net

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Brison Agonistes

He was all for the creation of the Conservative Party right up until it was clear that he wouldn't be leading it.

He still can't order a hot dog in French, but don't you dare call him on it.

He says he doesn't want to be judged by his sexual preference, but he's done everything except march down the aisle with the prom king.

He also brings his own ethical challenges with insider trading to a party full of ethically challenged horse-traders.

He has the worst case of self-infatuation since Narcissus.

Bring him on!

The Toronto Navel Gaze

The Toronto Star , like all other Toronto media outlets, is torn by two conflicting impulses: the belief that Toronto is the greatest city in the world, and the fear that Toronto does not have the ability to achieve true greatness.

The only conclusion I can draw from today's especially self-centred article is that Toronto needs a tyrant with bombs and a staff of urban planners to make it great:

What are the forces that shape the urban landscape and culture into something recognizably wonderful and inspiring? And what can we learn as Toronto, the most culturally diverse city on the planet, at last begins to accept and maybe embrace its own potential greatness?

....

In the past, you could make a city great by sheer, often bloody, willpower if you happened to be a visionary despot, which is how kings and popes transformed the likes of Paris and Rome, beginning in the 17th century. But those cities, like their early counterparts in North America, were much smaller at the time.

And there has always been the phoenix effect — tragic natural disasters like floods or fires that have, in the end, transformed cities into something ultimately more magnificent.


Confident cities don't need to keep seeking reassurance and approval from others that their cities are great. You wouldn't see an article like this in the New York Times or Le Monde, bewailing the need to make New York and Paris great.

You also don't see this attitude in cities that are comfortable with their own identity and prosperity, and have no need to raise themselves to the imaginary level of Great City. You don't see the people of Calgary whining about why nobody thinks it's a world-class city because its people are too busy working and striving for success.

In any event, the status of Great City is ephemeral. Babylon, Carthage, and Mohenjo-Daro were all Great Cities in their day, and now they are dust.

So, too, will be Toronto.

Inside The Dance

To hear the media pundits and talking heads bleat on about the changes Stephen Harper's PMO has made to dealings with the Parliamentary Press Gallery, one would think that the government was jailing dissident journalists and censoring press reports in the manner of a Third World dictatorship.

More experienced and honest scribes such as Hartley Steward not only know that what's going on is as tightly scripted and ritualized as kabuki theatre, but are also willing to break the fourth wall to let the public in on the act:

Here is how the game works.

In the main, the government wants to manage the news completely. It wants its accomplishments, however marginal, to get the best possible political bang for the buck.

Control of timing is as important as the actual facts. For instance, freedom of the press wanes dramatically as an election approaches. Sometimes it disappears totally. The forces of the government charged with dealing with the press have on their mind nothing but positive initiatives and happy thoughts. The press is half free, as it were.

The ultimate goal for the government and the job of its myriad of propaganda artists and flacks is to keep from the public — or at least minimize the impact of — anything harmful to the party’s re-election efforts and to announce in the most positive way anything likely to make said party look good.

This is a relentless job which takes as much government manpower and energy as actually running the country. Ironically, the parties employ mostly ex-journalists with Ottawa experience who, of course, understand the game perfectly.


Read the whole thing and you'll be able to put in words exactly why you believed the recent complaints about restricting access to ministers and moving the PM's press conference site were so much sound and fury signifying nothing.

There is nothing new under the sun.

Just that the arrogance of journalists has risen in proportion to the number of PPG hacks whose primary education is not the school of hard knocks but schools of journalism.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Four Canadians Killed In Afghanistan

Let not their sacrifice be in vain.

What Canada has pledged to do, must be carried through to the end.

Hard-Ass Reporting

Some people just will not let go of the David Emerson defection, for reasons that have far less to do with defending democratic principles than with trying to force out the Conservative government early.

Others have taken to leaking comments by Emerson to the effect that he is shocked, SHOCKED, to see partisanship going on in the Conservative caucus.

The net effect of all this sniping has not been to advance electoral reform or even to dent the government's popularity, but to confirm the lazy and cynical nature of political reporting in this country.

David Emerson calling the Prime Minister a "hard-ass" is not news. Especially when he meant it in the most complimentary sense of the term:

"Stephen Harper’s a hard-ass because he has his views, he has his principles, he has his visions and he’s prepared to stand by it and not be bowed and intimidated by people," Emerson said.

"And in that sense, yeah, he’s a hard-ass," the embattled Emerson told reporters at a meeting of the Vancouver Board of Trade.

His former Liberal aide was quoted recently as saying Emerson told him he was frustrated over Harper’s tight control on cabinet.

Emerson denied most of those claims, saying the aide chose to spin their conversation in that direction.

....

Afterwards he told reporters he did have lunch with the aide and told him he’s had a hard time since he crossed the floor and that friends have turned on him.

"I expressed my frustration and the pain that I had been through in the last 60 days and I talked about it, not as a matter of being unhappy with the new Conservative government, I talked about it as being a direct result of the treatment I got from people who I thought were friends and colleagues, namely a lot of the partisans in the Liberal party."

He said he told the aide how much more sophisticated he thought the Conservatives were in running government.

"I commented on the fact that cabinet meetings are much more focused, much more business-like."

Emerson said he told the aide that Canada now has a prime minister who is willing to say No and that Emerson thinks that is a good thing.

"I probably did say he was a hard-ass. It was meant as a compliment, not a criticism. If I call you a hard-ass I think you’re a pretty solid guy and you’ve got grit. If I call you a soft-ass or a candy-ass then I’m criticizing you," Emerson said.


But then, Emerson calling Paul Martin a "soft-ass" isn't news any more.

The only person this story reflects badly on is not Emerson, or Harper, but the "jack-ass" reporter who tried to make a story out of nothing.

Source: Halifax Chronicle-Herald

Friday, April 21, 2006

Nailed

Some men are such abject failures in life that they can't even put themselves out of their own misery. Like this suicidal methhead:

An Oregon man who went to a hospital complaining of a headache was found to have 12 nails embedded in his skull from a suicide attempt with a nail gun, doctors say.

Surgeons removed the nails with needle-nosed pliers and a drill, and the man survived with no serious lasting effects, according to a report on the medical oddity in the current issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery.

The unidentified 33-year-old man was suicidal and high on methamphetamine last year when he fired the nails -- up to 2 inches in length -- into his head one by one.

The nails were not visible when doctors first examined the man in the emergency room of an unidentified Oregon hospital a day later. Doctors were surprised when X-rays revealed six nails clustered between his right eye and ear, two below his right ear and four on the left side of his head.


This tragedy clinches the case for a national nail gun registry. We must take a different tack and hammer our politicians before a spike in the nail gun crime and accident rates starts finishing people off.

Source: Newsday

Imbalancing Act

While the provinces have complained loudly about federal intrusion into provincial jurisdiction, they've usually been quite happy to take the money that goes along with the feds' disregard for the division of powers.

The result has been the creation of two concepts whose very existence is often doubted: the "fiscal imbalance", wherein the provinces contribute more to the federal treasury than they get back, and the "federal spending power", the quasi-constitutional authority under which the federal government gets the provinces in line on health and education by controlling top-up funds.

Fixing the problem takes us right back to constitutional debate, and it's good that Stephen Harper isn't afraid to touch the issue that others have shrunk from since Meech Lake and Charlottetown collapsed:

While he promised to stop short of the ambitious, tumultuous Meech Lake project of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, Harper said the do-nothing constitutional era of the former Liberal government is about to end. "We will go step by step," Harper told reporters after speaking to nearly 2,000 business leaders in Montreal.

....

"We have the intention of limiting our power, if such a power exists," Harper said. "My preference is to have a formal limitation on this power.


"We're not talking today, we're not talking yet, about constitutional amendments, but my position is known."


Harper's plan to stay out of areas of provincial responsibility is part of a package of policies that have special appeal in Quebec, the province that may hold the key to a future Conservative majority government.


In his speech to the Montreal Board of Trade, Harper promised a new era of openness that will include a Quebec that is "autonomous."


Harper later said every province should be autonomous in a federation like Canada.


Harper also promised to start addressing the so-called fiscal imbalance within the year. The provinces have long argued that Ottawa is collecting billions in tax dollars that should go to the provincial capitals instead, although each province has its own idea of how this imbalance should be corrected.


"We will present specific proposals on the fiscal imbalance, and let me tell you what they won't include: a hike in federal spending in areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction," he said.


This is the best way to tackle constitutional reform: no grand projects, no special status clauses, just straightforward solutions to current problems. This will get all the provinces on side--especially Quebec, which has yet to sign the 1982 Constitution Act, but which acts as if it had.

Get agreement on this issue, and other more contentious ones can be dealt with later.

A sensible balance between grand schemes and doing nothing.

Source: Yahoo

Volpe: Il Capo

Joe Volpe may be an intellectual lightweight and administrative bumbler, but when it comes to playing the Liberal Party's favourite game of divide and conquer the ethnics, he has few peers:

Joe Volpe, the former immigration minister, will announce his candidacy for the Liberal leadership today at a community centre in Toronto's Little Italy.

The prospect has yielded snorts of derision from supporters of some of the candidates already in the field and derogatory comments about the Liberals' so-called "spaghetti caucus."

But those who think that leadership campaigns are fought in the realm of ideas should go back and read Lawrence Martin's Iron Man, about the scrap between the Chretien and Martin camps in 1990.

The author recounts how Mr. Chretien picked Scarborough MP and Greek immigrant, Jimmy Karygiannis, to sign up ethnic members. He enlisted 9,500.

"We were getting Greeked," complained one Martin campaigner. "And if we weren't getting Greeked, we were getting Sikhed."

"I signed up anything that moved back then," Jimmy K, as he is widely known, told the author. He travelled to Peterborough at one in the morning and signed up a family of 15 Sikhs living in a shack. At a delegate selection meeting in Kitchener, he ran around sticking bubble gum in pay phone slots so that the Martin organizers couldn't call in last-minute recruits.

Jimmy K is now Joe Volpe's national organizer. Meanwhile, Mr. Volpe himself is no mean operator. He was heavily involved in Mr. Martin's campaign for the Liberal leadership, and insiders whisper that Judy Sgro's fall from grace as immigration minister, courtesy of friendly fire from within the party, and Mr. Volpe's ascendancy to her former job were not unrelated events.


Volpe can get boots on the ground and delegates on the floor, but that's the extent of his political abilities. That might just be enough for him to come up the middle of this pack of second-stringers.

Say this with a straight face, though: Prime Minister Joe Volpe.

You can't.

Exactly.

Go Joe Go!

Source: National Post

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Off The Air

While the talking heads continue to agitate, bloviate and pontificate, people who actually do an honest day's work at CBC are getting the axe:

CBC Television has sent layoff notices to 79 employees at its Toronto production centre and plans to stop all in-house design.

The CBC will shut down its Toronto design operations and lay off all the set design, set decoration, carpentry, paint shop, special effects, hair, costumes and props crew. Only graphic designers and makeup artists for in-house programs survived the cuts.

The cuts were made because costs keep rising annually, but the CBC's allocation from the federal government has not risen in real terms in more than 20 years, said Fred Mattocks, executive director of regional programming and television production.

"It's necessary because English TV does not have enough money to meet all the needs of its schedule and programming," he said in an interview with CBC Arts Online on Thursday.

"We want to make much more Canadian drama," he said. "That requires money and that money has to come from somewhere."


Interesting decision there. Make more drama by firing the people behind the scenes.

But CBC never lacks for drama. And comedy. And tragedy. And bathos. And farce.

Source: CBC

All In La Famiglia

Joe Volpe won't have the crucial Italo-Torontonian bloc of the Liberal Party all to himself now that Maurizio Bevilacqua is jumping in.

If you've never heard of Bevilacqua before, neither has anyone else outside the party, but you'll be hearing a heck of a lot more about him in the months to come, because his following in the Liberal Party is greater than it appears.

Blood will run in the streets of Woodbridge and the Corso Italia.

This Sentence Is False

Everyone in the criminal justice system knows that when a judge hands down a provincial jail or federal penetentiary sentence, the person sentenced will almost never serve it all.

Prisoners serving intermittent sentences will be told to go home if there's no room in the provincial jail that weekend. Those in custody before sentencing can get the benefit of "two-for-one" counting of days towards their sentence; temporary absences after one-sixth of the sentence, parole eligibility after one-third and mandatory release after two-thirds (the mandatory supervision release) all ensure that truth in sentencing doesn't exist.

But we can't blame the judges for this state of affairs; once they pass sentence, everything is in the hands of the corrections system and the National Parole Board.

And an accomplished liar can snow the Parole Board every time.

Like Wayne Kellestine:

During his 40-year criminal career, Wayne Kellestine, the outlaw biker now accused in the worst mass murder in Ontario history, frequently won early release from jails, prisons and halfway houses by telling officials he would quit all the vices that kept landing him in trouble, his parole records show.

Mr. Kellestine's long history encompasses drugs, assault and a charge of attempted murder that was dropped after the man he allegedly shot decided not to testify against him.

At court and parole hearings, he routinely insisted he would kick his associations with guns, drugs and outlaw bikers. Often -- but not always -- he was taken at his word, even when police officers cautioned that he should not be taken at face value.

"The local police are opposed to your release due to your ties to organized crime," the National Parole Board pointed out the last time Mr. Kellestine left prison, in 2003.

Still, after completing two-thirds of four years from his 2002 conviction for possessing assorted firearms, some of them prohibited weapons, Mr. Kellestine was allowed to return to his southwestern Ontario farm without spending the remaining months of his sentence in a halfway house.

He was ordered to stay away from outlaw bikers.


But don't just take Kellestine as an example of the Parole Board's failure.

See what they have to say about what it claims really goes on with parole,and the decision-making process.

You'll understand how Kellestine could take them in, time and again.

Source: Globe and Mail

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

If You Build It, They Won't Come

Toronto's city fathers labour under the impression that Toronto must host one major worldwide event, whether it be the Olympics or World's Fair, before it can be truly considered a world-class city.

But world's fairs are no longer the draw that they once were, and they have faded in the public consciousness accordingly.

Quick test: where were the last three Summer Olympics held? Where were the last three Expos held?

Exactly.

Someone has to break the bad news to city council:

The attendance forecast in a study backing a possible bid to play host to a world's fair in Toronto in 2015 is far too optimistic, according to a review prepared for the Toronto Economic Development Corp.

The feasibility study's approach, which was to extrapolate from the number of visits to Expo 67 in Montreal, using the contemporary population in Eastern Canada and the northeastern United States, is "simplistic," the review says.

The review, by California-based consulting firm Economics Research Associates in conjunction with world's fair expert Gordon Linden, says a reasonable forecast of a low, medium and high attendance would be 30 million, 40 million or 50 million visits, rather than the 72 million of the feasibility study.

The review also warns that "the world's fair industry faces widespread questioning as to enduring appeal and relevance in face of increasingly sophisticated competition from alternative location-based and electronic entertainment forms."


This downward trend isn't going to change any time soon. The last Expo in Aichi, Japan (which is the first you've probably heard of it) had only 22 million visitors over six months, a far cry from the 50 million who came to Expo '67.

By 2015, Expo Toronto might be competing with the CNE for the role of fastest-fading Toronto entertainment institution.

But hey, maybe it's just what we need to actually revitalize the waterfront, a project that has been regularly announced and shelved since the Pleistocene era.

Going Commando

If you think that PMO is keeping a tight lid on information, DND makes PMO look like a leaking sieve by comparison when it comes to anything to do with JTF2:

A former Canadian Forces commando will face a court martial in Gatineau, Que., in June on a charge of desertion after he mysteriously vanished overseas for almost two years.

Two other charges against former sergeant Montgomery Paisley, who served with the Ottawa-based Joint Task Force 2 special forces unit, have been dropped. Those charges included absence without leave and stealing, which was related to the alleged theft of a military laptop computer.

If found guilty of desertion, Mr. Paisley could face up to two years in jail and dismissal with disgrace from the Canadian Forces, said military spokeswoman Major Laurie Kannegiesser. "The dismissal with disgrace would be retroactive," she said, adding that Mr. Paisley has already been released from the military.

And in another chapter in Mr. Paisley's mysterious disappearance, the Department of Foreign Affairs is claiming it cannot "confirm or deny" that it ever wrote a single word about the former soldier. The excessive level of government secrecy has been common in the case of the JTF2 explosives expert, who vanished in the summer of 2003.

Mr. Paisley's disappearance and his intricate knowledge of explosives were enough to set off alarm bells in Thailand during an October, 2003, APEC summit of world leaders. Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told journalists at the time that the country's police were hunting for the Canadian, whom he described as "a mentally ill person." It was only later revealed that Mr. Paisley was a member of JTF2.

Last year, Mr. Paisley walked into the Canadian embassy in Bangkok and said he wanted to go home. When he was returned to Canada, he was held at an "undisclosed defence location," because military officials were concerned news agencies might try to photograph him. By then, photos of a youthful Mr. Paisley had already appeared on the Internet.


Who knows what Paisley could have been up during those two years in Thailand? He sounds like someone who would have been of interest to terrorist groups, unfriendly regimes or anyone else looking for mercenaries.

Whatever else he may have done, it's clear the feds don't think he did much worse than desert, or he'd be getting much worse thrown at him than desertion.

Anyone out there know anything more about this case?

Source: National Post

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Nosey Parker

Even the most carefully planned and coordinated media strategy cannot prevent embarrassing situations like this from happening.

The Parliamentary Press Gallery may be rather less mature and more unruly than this tot, but they have something to lose if they don't adjust their attitudes and expectations.

This child does not.

You can just see the Liberal spin machine having a field day with this picture. "See why Canadians don't like to be led by the nose, Mr. Harper?"

He still hasn't completely lived down that Brokeback Mountain getup he wore at the Calgary Stampede.

This photo will become an instant classic, just like Stanfield dropping the football.

Cute babies are even more dangerous than wayward footballs.

Toronto Stinks

The parlour pinks who can afford not to have reality squatting, begging and pissing upon their well-trimmed lawns in front of their stylishly renovated Edwardian townhouses in the Annex will have every idea what Joe Warmington is talking about. They just don't care, as long as they don't have to suffer along with the plebs:

Tomorrow they count the homeless.

It's another amazing chapter in an already pathetic pattern of not being able to get a handle on this horrible blight we all know is a national disgrace. Have you been to a city park in recent years? Do you like the smell of urine?

It has become a dirty, disgusting city. The looks on the faces of our tourists say all you need to know about the possibility of them coming back to the garbage dump that is not in Michigan but sits right atop Lake Ontario.

Perhaps they should put the anti-smoking crowd in charge of dealing with the homeless. They have been successful at ensuring there's not many indoor spots to smoke anymore. They have been so effective, you can't have a cigarette near the entrance of buildings.

But it seems to be okay to urinate outside an entrance. And defecate, sleep and snore.

....

During my years Scrawlin I took dozens of pictures of homeless people asleep on grates, doorways, in the parks or harassing the hardworking citizens or tourists for money.

And yet here they are in 2006 at City Hall looking at us taxpayers with a straight face and saying they are going out tomorrow to do a homeless census.

Some on council are terrified they won't find enough to justify their wasteful money-pit spending. That could be one positive aspect of supporting the count.

But I see this as another phony make-work project. We already know there is a problem but we don't have the strength to deal with it.


You always get what you're willing to pay for. The city fathers are not actively ignoring the homeless problem and its deleterious effects on the city; they are encouraging it, because it gives them a problem they can always pretend to be solving while shaking down the taxpayer and other governments to pay for it.

Never mind that this strategy renders sections of the city increasingly unfit for human habitation, or lowers visitors' and residents' opinion of the city.

The progressives get to be seen to care about the plight of the homeless through programs that do nothing to solve or even reduce the problem to manageable levels. And being seen to care, they keep their client groups mollified and the votes coming in at election time.

The city government and the activists feed off each other in a mutually parasitic relationship; the city gets to look good by distributing largesse, and the activists get to look even better by fighting city hall and winning.

As for the homeless? The genuine bums laugh cynically over their muscatel at the whole mess while the mentally ill sink further into delusion and despair.

And so the game goes on.

Old Soldiers Never Die

We've heard of Japanese soldiers coming out of the jungles 30 years after World War II ended, still refusing to surrender. But this old soldier takes the prize for turning up long after the battle was over:

A Japanese ex-soldier who disappeared after World War II and was officially declared dead in 2000 has turned up alive in Ukraine, officials say.
Ishinosuke Uwano was serving with the Japanese Imperial Army in Russia's Sakhalin Island when the war ended. He lost contact with his family in 1958.

The 83-year-old has now reappeared, in Ukraine, where he is married and has a family, Japanese officials say.

He is due to visit Japan for the first time in six decades on Wednesday.

Just six years ago, his family officially registered him as having been killed in the war - and his details were removed from the official family registry.

Because of this, Mr Uwano must "return to Japan technically as a Ukrainian citizen with a Ukraine passport," a government official said.

....

He was one of thousands of Japanese soldiers and civilians who were left stranded across the Pacific and in parts of China and Russia after the war ended.

Some were kept as prisoners and forced to work as slave labourers, others chose to remain of their own accord.

Why Mr Uwano remained in Russia, and how he ended up in Ukraine, has not been disclosed.


One story that hasn't received much coverage--perhaps because of the passage of time and loss of records--is the fate of thousands of Axis POWs held by the Soviets, and even Allied soldiers who ended up behind Soviet lines, who were neither repatriated nor known to have perished in Soviet gulags.

There are probably many more Japanese and German soldiers who simply resigned themselves to never returning home and made new lives for themselves in the former Soviet Union. And perhaps even a few American, British and Canadian soldiers as well.

Theirs is a story that needs to be told.

Source: BBC

Licence To Bill

Hiring a paralegal is often a hit-or-miss proposition because there haven't been any effective licensing or educational requirements for them.

Many have some sort of legal training as law clerks, even as lawyers, and can do the grunt work more quickly and cheaply than most lawyers. More than a few are fly-by-nighters who can't tell a judgment from a verdict but will gladly charge you hundreds of dollars to confuse you about the difference.

But both groups of paralegals, good and bad, can mess up or rip off clients who have little recourse because they have no regulatory body to oversee them, and often, no professional liability insurance to cover them.

So now the Law Society of Upper Canada is stepping in to regulate paralegals:

Bill 14 will regulate paralegals for the first time in Canada. The omnibus legislation, designed to increase access to justice, passed second reading last week and is expected to go to public hearings soon.

Few, including paralegals themselves, disagree with the idea the profession needs regulating. But not everyone thinks the government's legislation has it quite right.

Some lawyers think it doesn't make a clear distinction between paralegals and lawyers, leaving people vulnerable to being taken advantage of by paralegals.

Some paralegals think the legislation's design will drive them out of business, leaving people with no choice but to use higher-priced lawyers.

The legislation lays out the broad plan to regulate the industry but leaves most of the detail, such as defining the legal services paralegals can perform and the educational standards they'll have to meet, to the Law Society of Upper Canada, the governing body for Ontario lawyers.

....

But the legislation doesn't use the word paralegal, talking instead of people licensed to "provide legal services." Lawyers are licensed to "practice law."


The difference is simple enough to explain even if the wording of the legislation is rather vague.

One may provide legal services, such as notarizing documents or drafting a plaintiff's claim in small claims court, without actually providing the client an opinion about the law. Law clerks do all this sort of paperwork all the time in law offices--and believe me, they're the ones who keep law offices organized and working smoothly.

But a lawyer's responsibility is to advise his client about the law itself, and how it applies to the facts in the client's matter.

Think of it in terms of the difference between the physician who examines and diagnoses, and the nurse who handles the patient care in hospital.

And ask yourself if you would want nurses to be unregulated and able to practice with no professional qualifications or training whatsoever.

Regulating paralegals will not drive them out of business, or put lawyers out of business, any more than nurses do to physicians. They're both necessary to the legal profession and should be governed accordingly.

Source: Toronto Star

Monday, April 17, 2006

24 Sussex Drive Closed To Evangelicals?

Canadian society has just found a new class of scapegoats and pariahs, if this poll is anything to go by:

Canadians are becoming increasingly uneasy about mixing religion and politics and they'd be more likely to vote for a party lead by an atheist or a Muslim than an evangelical Christian, suggests a new poll.

The survey was conducted for CanWest News Service late last week, less than three months after Canadians voted for a government led by Stephen Harper, an evangelical Christian and one of the country's most openly religious leaders in decades.

....

Only 63 per cent of Canadians said they'd vote for a party leader and potential prime minister who is an evangelical Christian, even if they liked the party and its views. That dropped from 80 per cent a decade ago.

Canadians appear to be slightly more accepting of a potential prime minister who is a Muslim or atheist.

Sixty-eight per cent said they would vote for a candidate in either of those categories, a drop from 74 per cent and 72 per cent, respectively, in 1996.


The typically theologically illiterate Canadian could not identify the tenets of evangelical Christianity, nor properly identify evangelical denominations from a list of Protestant churches (and they'd probably wonder why the Catholic Church was left off the list). And he probably could not name any prominent evangelical Christians, except a few televangelists whose influence even within their own denominations is far less than commonly believed. This, in a country where the majority of the English-speaking population is at least nominally Protestant.

But the evangelicals have become the new class of untouchables to be excluded from public life, one far more sinister than the Catholics and Jews with their supposedly divided allegiances to foreign powers and even Muslims whose faith cannot even grasp the notion of a distinct secular sphere.

This poll apparently does not give a regional breakdown of numbers, but one suspects that the greatest hostility would have been in Toronto (whose elites would rather see their sons be pederasts than preachers) and in Quebec (where even now, Protestantism is still regarded as anglais .

And don't think that this is simply limited to politics, either. I suspect as many people would want to see evangelicals excluded from law, medicine, education, and a whole host of professions because of their beliefs.

Source: Ottawa Citizen

Hard Times At GM

The automotive division of General Motors, the world's largest provider of pension, health and other employee benefits, will be going down shortly, but at least its workforce will be staying up:

Viagra, Cialis and other erectile dysfunction drugs are costing General Motors Corp. a hefty sum.

The company spends $17-million (U.S.) annually on such drugs, said GM spokeswoman Sharon Baldwin.

Although that's a small fraction of GM's overall health care costs, which in 2005 were more than $5-billion, company executives often use the example to illustrate what they say are out-of-control health-care costs.

The world's largest auto maker lost $10.6-billion last year and says skyrocketing health-care costs are partly to blame. GM provides health care for 1.1 million employees, retirees and dependents.

Viagra is covered under GM's labour agreement with the United Auto Workers union, as well as benefit plans for salaried workers.


Think of how much more wisely this $17 million could have been spent, even under GM's sprawling benefits system. A relatively small sum, to be sure, but symptomatic of how the UAW and GM's continual surrender to its extortionate demands are about to destroy a corporation that was once as emblematic of American business in its time as Microsoft is now.

Like the infamous rubber room where GM pays people not to work. Even France doesn't have something this outrageous.

Starting Post Scramble

The Liberal Party leadership race is about to presently resemble a multi-car pileup on the Don Valley Parkway: a terrifying sight of carnage and destruction that you just can't help but slow down and gawk at.

Everybody who shouldn't be running, from the Liberal Party's objective of finding an electable leader who can get the Natural Governing Party By Divine Right back into office, is about to jump in:

Former Ontario premier Bob Rae is planning to launch his campaign for the Liberal leadership early next week, according to campaign advisers -- but at least three other candidates are expected to jump in the race before him.

Mr. Rae, 57, has been testing the waters for more than a month, but delivered a strong hint on April 8 that he is seriously considering running for the leadership.

Now, his campaign advisers insist he is in the race and they are gearing up for an official campaign kickoff early next week.

....

Mr. Rae's launch is scheduled after those of a series of other candidates who plan to enter the race officially this week, while the House of Commons is shut for its extended Easter break.

MPs Maurizio Bevilacqua, 45, and Joe Volpe, 58, are expected to throw their hats in the ring in the contest to succeed Paul Martin this week, while Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison, 38, is planning a weekend launch in his home province.

The three new candidates this week will bring the number officially in the race to seven.

Carolyn Bennett, 55, the former public-health minister, is also expected to launch her campaign early next week, while advisers to MP Ken Dryden, 58, say he is gearing up for a launch soon after.

"It will be soon, but not as soon as this week," one of Mr. Dryden's senior advisers said.


Or perhaps more like the California gubernatorial recall election in 2003 that elected Arnold Schwarzenegger? All the serious contenders backed out early leaving a host of second-stringers and fringe nuts to pile on (Gary Coleman? Mary Carey?) and make a near-joke of the race.

Furthermore,the pileup of Toronto candidates will do nothing to alleviate the growing perception that the Liberal Party has ceased to be a a nationally-based party and become a Toronto-based big city bloc. Observers will recall the media's obsessive complaints about Reform/Alliance/Conservative Parties being Western-dominated, and its relative silence about the Toronto hegemony over the Liberals so far.

There will be no coronation, in any event. But this week, with the exception of Bob Rae, will bring us the also-rans.

Source: Globe and Mail

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Sunday

And in the end of the sabbath, when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalen and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre. And behold there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and coming, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. And his countenance was as lightning, and his raiment as snow. And for fear of him, the guards were struck with terror, and became as dead men. And the angel answering, said to the women: Fear not you; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.

He is not here, for he is risen, as he said. Come, and see the place where the Lord was laid. And going quickly, tell ye his disciples that he is risen: and behold he will go before you into Galilee; there you shall see him. Lo, I have foretold it to you. And they went out quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy, running to tell his disciples. And behold Jesus met them, saying: All hail. But they came up and took hold of his feet, and adored him. Then Jesus said to them: Fear not. Go, tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, there they shall see me.--Matthew 28: 1-10

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Nothing Succeeds Like Exxcess

If you think rising oil prices are good for Alberta's economy, they were even better for the chairman of Exxon, who could have bought Alberta on his salary and bonus:

Lee Raymond, the chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil Corp., earned $144,573 for each day of the 13 years he served at the top of the oil company, according to a report in Saturday's New York Times.

Raymond, who retired from Exxon in December, received more than $686 million from 1993 to 2005, according to an analysis done for the paper by an independent compensation consultant.

Raymond received more than $400 million in the final year of his contract.


Granted, top executives should be paid well for the work they do. Their decisions can bring down a corporation, even an industry, and a good deal of the economy with it. And if they're raking in profits, they deserve their cut.

But what the hell can any one man do with $400 million a year? There are only so many ways to spend, invest or donate it. At some point, the money must just become an abstraction.

Heck, just give me his job for two weeks and I'll be set for life. Exxon's share price might tank since I don't know from oil, but what a great two weeks it will have been!

Source: Market Watch

Perversion Laid Bare

A most interesting and entertaining response by a strip club owner who hired a man convicted of possessing child pornography:

Smith's legal problems should not reflect on Sensations, Roberts said, any more than a teacher's conviction for a similar crime should reflect on a school.


Don't judge all regular low-rent perverts by the actions of a few.

Source: Halifax Daily News

Shoot The Off Messenger

Order and discipline make such a refreshing change in Ottawa these days, don't they? When was the last time you saw a government actually attempt to stick to its declared priorities instead of just muddling through crises or changing its top priorities every single week?

Too bad that the press can only focus on the downside of all this, because it forces them to work for their stories instead of recycling whatever pap used to come out of past Liberal PMOs:

Ministers in the new Conservative government have been warned they could be banned from travelling, publicly humiliated or even fired for verbal gaffes.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is determined not to have his agenda derailed and his ministers have been made aware they will face punishment for loose-lipped indiscretions.

Harper's chief of staff, Ian Brodie, has given colleagues in ministers' offices stark warnings about sanctions for cabinet members who either embarrass or contradict the government in public, sources say.

The worst of those penalties — being dumped from cabinet, shuffled to another portfolio, or barred from official trips — have not been imposed yet.

But the lesser punishment of public embarrassment has been swiftly levelled on at least two cabinet ministers and one British Columbia MP.

All have been forced to publicly swallow their words in pride-pummelling mea culpas within hours of causing unwanted headlines.

"It's constant," one government official said of the pressure on ministers. "The message comes from the top: If you (mess) up you will publicly and embarrassingly retract — no ifs, ands or buts.

"So stick to the party line, or you'll go out there and tell the whole world that you're a dumb (jerk) who screwed up."

Industry Minister Maxime Bernier became the latest victim this week. He told a radio interviewer that Canada could lose its legal battle against the U.S. over lumber tariffs, and that taxpayers shouldn't be left covering loan guarantees for the softwood industry.

At the urging of the Prime Minister's Office, he issued a press release to declare that his remarks on lumber did not reflect the views of either his government or even his own department.

"Mr. Bernier clarified his position," was all Harper said about his minister's comments.

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay has been on the job for just two months but has already been compelled to hold a news conference and issue a press release to clarify a pair of statements — one about hostages in Iraq and another about aid for the Hamas-led Palestinian government.

B.C. MP Colin Mayes (Okanagan-Shuswap) quickly issued a press release to "retract without reservation" his suggestion that journalists should be jailed if they write misleading stories.


The media is very unhappy to see its chance to play its favourite sport much reduced. Gaffes that once produced days of stories and commentary now disappear early in the news cycle because the communications team and PMO smack down the offenders--hard, with public humiliation for their carelessness.

If this makes the press cranky, so be it. If it makes the mavericks in the opposition caucus even crankier, so be it as well. Government imposes greater responsibilities than opposition. Opposition MPs can shoot their mouths off all they like because their comments don't really change anything. Government MPs' comments can knock policy off the rails.

(PS: Are you reading this, Garth? You're next!)

Source: Toronto Star

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

And bearing his own cross, he went forth to that place which is called Calvary, but in Hebrew Golgotha. Where they crucified him, and with him two others, one on each side, and Jesus in the midst. And Pilate wrote a title also, and he put it upon the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title therefore many of the Jews did read: because the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, in Greek, and in Latin.

Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate: Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am the King of the Jews. Pilate answered: What I have written, I have written. The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified him, took his garments, (and they made four parts, to every soldier a part,) and also his coat. Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said then one to another: Let us not cut it, but let us cast lots for it, whose it shall be; that the scripture might be fulfilled, saying: They have parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture they have cast lot. And the soldiers indeed did these things. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen.

When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own. Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst. 29 Now there was a vessel set there full of vinegar. And they, putting a sponge full of vinegar and hyssop, put it to his mouth. Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost.--John 19:17-30

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Tanker Saves Lord

You have to admit that this was a deft way to keep a disgruntled backbencher's defection from sinking a government.

Approbation, elevation, and castration, all in one stroke.

And now he's seen the error of his ways.

Perhaps Bernard Lord isn't as overrated as everyone thinks.

Les Heretiques

In every field, there are certain opinions that every member is expected to hold simply by virtue of membership, and if their opinions change, their membership must perforce cease.

Thus the end of atheist priests, pacifist soldiers, honest lawyers and federalist Quebec artists:

Artists have always been in the vanguard for Quebec independence. So when two of the province's artistic luminaries questioned their sovereigntist faith this week, their remarks fell like a bombshell.

Michel Tremblay, the world-acclaimed playwright whose works have helped capture Quebec's soul, declared that he was no longer a separatist. It was as if the Pope were renouncing Catholicism. Mr. Tremblay's words were front-page news.

Then another light of the Quebec stage, Robert Lepage, enjoined that he, too, was "less convinced" about independence. The theatre director even admitted to ambivalence about his Quebec identity, since he considered himself Canadian when he travelled the world.

"When I'm here in Quebec, even in Ottawa, I don't feel Canadian," Mr. Lepage said. "But when I travel abroad, I don't know what happens, I feel that Canada is a reality, and I'm part of it."


....

The firestorm led a columnist in the daily La Presse to note that it was less taboo for Mr. Tremblay to acknowledge he is a homosexual -- something he'd done decades ago -- than a federalist.


For a group that prides itself on creativity, free expression and its willingness to ├ępater le bourgeois , the artistic community can be as rigid and intolerant of dissenting political opinion within its own ranks as Stalinists.

But think about it. If your role is defined as shocking ordinary sensibilities--the pursuit of truth and beauty being out of fashion these days--expressing or defending them is heretical in itself.

An artist who didn't toe the political line in art school, or amongst his fellow artists, would soon find galleries and stages closed to him and his works.

How many well-known artists can you think of who haven't been reliably leftish in their public political pronouncements lately?

The message is clear: You must shock public sensibilities, but not ours.

Source: Globe and Mail

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Buying Time

During the early mediaeval period, centuries before the Norman conquest, our Anglo-Saxon forebears would punish homicide or serious injury one of two ways: either with blood revenge or by the payment of wergeld , or "man money" to the family or clan of the murdered or maimed victim.

Now it seems that wergeld has been revived in Ontario:

Victims of crime claimed victory amid cries of chequebook justice from critics Wednesday as an Ontario court endorsed a plea bargain that gives a woman $2 million from the men convicted of shattering her spine with a would-be assassin’s bullet.
The controversial deal, approved by Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant, was designed to provide restitution to Louise Russo, who faces a lifelong struggle after she was gunned down in a drive-by shooting at a Toronto sandwich shop two years ago.

Bryant was defiant as he insisted the promise of cash had no impact on the sentences doled out by Superior Court Justice David Watt to the five men who pleaded guilty to various charges, including conspiracy to commit murder.

....

As part of Wednesday’s agreement, Antonio Borrelli, the man who pulled the trigger, was sentenced 12 years in prison, while Paris Christoforou, Mark Peretz and Peter Scarcella were each sentenced to 11 years behind bars.

With time already served taken into account, Borrelli faces 10 years behind bars, and the three co-accused nine years each.

Filippo Cutulle — who was not involved in the shooting, but charged in connection with subsequent crimes with the co-accused — was sentenced to three years behind bars, which amounts to 17 months when time served is taken into account.


We all naturally have sympathy for Louise Russo's plight. The criminals who left her paralyzed for life should be held both criminally and financially responsible.

But the criminal justice system cannot properly be engaged in the realm of tort. The crime committed against Louise Russo was not just committed against her, but against the Crown--by extension, the whole of Canadian society. Confusing the two systems--one to punish offences against the people and state, the other to compensate personal loss and injury--will inevitably lead to attempts to treat tort law as adjunct of the criminal law.

Tort law need only concern itself with apportioning liability for an injury done by one person to another. Liability need only be established on the balance of probabilities, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, since it does not put the tortfeasor's life and liberty in jeopardy.

But Louise Russo's injury is not just a private economic loss, but a crime committed against society. Permitting even the perception of being able to buy one's way out of prison time trivializes both the personal injury and the crime.

Let her be compensated, by all means. But in civil action, not criminal trial.

Source: Toronto Star

Godfrey Gone

The Liberal Party leadership race isn't big enough for three pontificating PhDs, or seven left-leaning Toronto MPs, so John Godfrey is dropping out.

Not that anyone knew he was in it to begin with.

But his withdrawal does underscore the Liberals' problem with its narrowing base: there's only so much money and support to be taken out of Toronto.

Portrait Of A Biker Gang Boss

Few tears will be shed over the murders of eight Bandidos; many will be quietly relieved that another bunch of biker gang lowlifes have been taken out by one of their own.

Even so, the man charged with executing his fellow gangsters is hardly deserving of a good citizenship award:

More details, meanwhile, are emerging about (Wayne) Kellestine, who relished playing the role of a dangerous man.

The 56-year-old loved to pose in front of his collection of Nazi memorabilia in his rundown farmhouse, near Dutton, about a 20-minute drive from where police discovered the bodies of eight Toronto-area members of the Bandidos motorcycle gang on the weekend.

"His reputation is being an absolute renegade," said someone from the area who knows him well. "A dangerous, dangerous guy. He's always had that reputation."

Michael Simmons, who worked undercover for the Mounties and the OPP against motorcycle gangs 15 years ago, said he purchased cocaine and guns from Kellestine on several occasions and that his work helped put away 18 bikers, including his own brother, Andrew "Teach" Simmons — onetime president of the Outlaws.

"I witnessed him shoot his girlfriend in the back with an air pistol just for a joke," said Simmons, who entered the witness protection program in 1992. "He pointed a .45-calibre at my big toe and asked me if I could blow it off, when I was trying to buy some cocaine off him."

On another occasion, Simmons said he witnessed Kellestine "come flying down the stairs" in a combat arctic suit, armed with an Uzi, after a motion detector was set off on his rural property during a party.

"There was a big party and he freaked out, went upstairs, and he was down and ready for full combat, and that scared the s--- out of me," Simmons recalled.

Before Kellestine was sentenced to two years in prison in 2000 for weapons offences and running a marijuana operation, the court was shown photos of him posing with his personal arsenal, which included machine guns and Luger pistols like those the Nazis used.


If any man and any crime were worthy of the death penalty, they would be. If he could execute eight of his own kind in cold blood, he would gladly execute eight hundred innocents without qualm.

Source: Toronto Star

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Campaigning Against Dirty Money

Provided that the Federal Accountability Act isn't completely gutted by the time it gets out of committee and into third reading, it's going to be much more difficult for parties and campaigns to coast along on big donations from business, labour and interest groups.

Campaign financing is going to depend on building a broader base of smaller donors.

Very good for the Conservatives, who now get to enshrine our competitive advantage in law.

Not so good for the Liberals and NDP, who now have to start playing catch-up.

And much worse for the likes of Belinda Stronach and other rich dilletant opportunists who once planned to buy their way into high office:

Part 1 also amends the Canada Elections Act to

(a) reduce to $1,000 the amount that an individual may contribute annually to a registered party, and create a distinct $1,000 annual limit on contributions to the registered associations, the nomination contestants and the candidates of a registered party;

(b) reduce to $1,000 the amount that an individual may contribute to an independent candidate or to a leadership contestant;

(c) reduce to $1,000 the amount that a nomination contestant, a candidate or a leadership contestant may contribute to his or her own campaign in addition to the $1,000 limit on individual contributions;

(d) totally ban contributions by corporations, trade unions and associations by repealing the exception that allows them to make an annual contribution of $1,000 to the registered associations, the candidates and the nomination contestants of a registered party and a contribution of $1,000 to an independent candidate during an election period;

(e) ban cash donations of more than $20, and reduce to $20 the amount that may be contributed before a receipt must be issued or, in the case of anonymous contributions following a general solicitation at a meeting, before certain record-keeping requirements must be met; and

(f) increase to 5 years after the day on which the Commissioner of Canada Elections became aware of the facts giving rise to a prosecution, and to 10 years following the commission of an offence, the period within which a prosecution may be instituted.


As necessary as this law is, harbour no illusions about its potential to completely eliminate the influence and practice of big money politics.

Motivated donors can always find a way to get money to the right pockets.

This law will do nothing to prevent unions, businesses and organizations from making disbursements to reliable members and employees with the understanding that the money will go where the boss orders it to be sent.

Expect party and leadership campaign donor lists to be full of $1,000 donations from hitherto unknown and otherwise apolitical donors--Joe on the GM assembly line, Jane the ad agency receptionist, Bill in the lobby group's mail room.

But at least they'll have to try a little harder to buy votes and influence.