“Meh” to Attachment Parenting

About a week ago, I attended my first pre-natal yoga class. We started by rolling ourselves into a sharing circle and took turns describing our pregnancy experiences. Stories of puking, leg cramps, the creeping chill of panic as labour dates approached. So far so good.

Then we began the chanting portion of the class.It wasn’t the chanting itself that bothered me. I can respect a good chant, even if I can’t always bring myself to fully participate. It was the content that caught me off guard.

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Tax Credit Deadline to be Extended

Tourism, Parks, Sports and Culture Minister Bill Hutchinson announced today that the deadline for applications for the Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit would be extended from March 31st, 2012 to June 30, 2012. The Ministry claims that this is because “government listens to film producers.” Government has notified industry representatives, and took the opportunity to remind them that government is about to force a seismic shift in how their business is done. They “reiterated government’s interest in many of the opportunities believed are available to the film sector for the development of a less transient, stronger industry base in Saskatchewan.”

Six in the Morning

1. The Hunger Games star Wes Bently (he also played Chris Cooper’s son in American Beauty) has issued a release showing his support for the Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit. Given that he’s in the middle of promoting one of the biggest blockbuster of all time, it’s a pretty nice thing to do.

2. Regina’s economy grew by 6.1 percent last year, the highest growth of any city in the country. It’s expected to decrease to 2.7 percent in 2012, but that’s still the fourth best in the nation. In a couple of years it’ll be interesting to see how the film tax credit cuts affect these numbers.

3. Syria has accepted a peace plan drafted by the UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, but opposition fighters are skeptical. As the paper was signed, more people were being killed, now stretching into Lebanon.

4. In sad, awful news, executions surged last year, especially in the Middle East, where they were up by 50 percent.

5. Defence Minister Peter McCay is wrapping up a two day meeting with his US and Mexican counterparts. McCay will be announcing new measures today about new support on the “fight against narcotics.” Sounds a bit like rebranding.

6. Ooooh, look, it’s the world’s tiniest puppy!

Brad Wall On the Film Industry

About 150 supporters of the film community showed up at the legislature today to show their disagreement with the government’s decision to end the Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit (SFETC). Meanwhile, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall met with four prominent members of the film industry to talk about the cut.

After the meeting, which went about an hour longer than scheduled, Wall spoke with the press.

First off, Premier Wall clarified (as he did throughout the press conference) that the SFETC is actually a grant. “The tax credit comes as a grant,” he said. “As soon as production starts there’s a calculation on the production, on employment, and money is paid. That’s a grant.”

This is what Premier Wall described late this afternoon as a possible alternative to the SFETC:

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Hunger Games Doesn’t Satisfy All Its Audience Members

Although The Hunger Games broke records this past weekend for the best box office returns for a non-sequel, raking in $214 million worldwide, and the reviews are for the most part positive, not everyone is happy. Who isn’t happy? Racists, that’s who.

The website Jezebel has compiled a bunch of tweets from self proclaimed “fans” of the books whose experience of the movie was marred by the casting of black actors. For example, the fact that the 12-year-old character Rue is played by a black actress “ruined” the movie for one bigot. It made her “less innocent” for another. One young racist tweeted “EEEWWW rue is black?? I’m not watching.” The list goes on.

The astonishing thing, other than the blatant racism, is the unselfconscious ease with which these kids pressed “send” on their bigoted tweets. One at least had the sense to recognize that he was racist, but then followed that admission with the sentence, “When I found out rue was black her death wasn’t as sad.”

Trayvon Martin‘s killer is still free and racism has entered the digital mainstream. It seems that the U.S. is far from being the post-race society it thinks it is.

Anti-Prostitution Laws Swept Aside in Ontario

The Court of Appeal for Ontario today struck down as unconstitutional a few of country’s anti-prositution laws. Arguing that the state is placing its citizens in danger with its laws,  the unanimous decision legalizes both brothels and the hiring of security and support staff.  It also makes it illegal for pimps to exploit prostitutes for financial gain. The law against communication for the purposes of soliciting was kept intact, a decision two of the five judges dissented in their written decision.

The court heard reams of arguments from all over the map. Some feminist groups sided with religious organizations to try and keep the laws in place. A lawyer for the Attorney General argued that it wasn’t the state that was endangering prostitutes, but the act of prostitution itself (implying that it’s their choice.) A few conservative groups brought up the issue of morals, that the state will be encouraging people to act immorally if these laws are withdrawn. This argument seems especially outdated. The days when a strong, shared sense of morals (Sex outside of wedlock is bad! Paying for sex even worse!) takes priority over women’s lives is, hopefully, a thing of the past.

A National Post column argues that liberals (and the “liberal media”) think of the sex trade as an occupation like any other, that the women in it are there by choice and whistle proudly to work. Little do these lefties know, the writer Barbara Kay points out, that the sex trade is an exploitative, violent enterprise that should be legally discouraged at all costs. She even talked to a real prostitute who agrees with her! Of course, this representation of the “liberal” viewpoint isn’t completely accurate. She presents an opposing argument in an erroneous light just to strengthen her point. Or maybe she just doesn’t get it. Even “liberals” admit that many sex workers are out there on the streets in a state of desperation, feeding drug addictions or trying to get out abusive homes.

For the Court of Appeal, and for many “liberals,”  it comes down to a question of harm reduction. Women are being assaulted, many are killed. What can be done so that fewer people die? How can the laws be adjusted to help protect people who, although engaged in illegal activity, are still Canadian citizens? Today’s ruling is their answer.

But it’s up to Parliament now. As the three majority judges wrote in their decision, if the government tries to save the prohibitions, it “implies that those who choose to engage in the sex trade are… not worthy of the same constitutional protection as those who engage in other dangerous, but legal enterprises.”

School Board Meeting – March 20th

About 50 members of CUPE, each wearing a white sandwich board and walking in a picket line, greeted attendees of tonight’s school board meeting. It’s what CUPE Local 4643 president Paula Branscombe called an “information picket,” rather than a strike. Members of Local 4643 are in support staff positions in the education system, and have been in negotiations for a year now demanding the same increase in wages and benefits as those received recently by superintendents – 8.63 percent. “We think that we should receive the same percentage increase,” says Branscombe.

Those in support staff positions, including caretaking staff, secretarial positions, Education Assistants and those working in accounts, have been without contracts for 15 months. Branscombe says that CUPE is close to their target as they’re only about a percentage and a half away from meeting their goals. “What they have offered is not far apart from what we want,” she said right before the school board meeting began. But they don’t plan on standing down until the demand of the 8.63 percent increase is met.

ON TO THE MEETING

One of the highlights of the meeting was the board’s budget proposal. “Nothing here that we haven’t talked about before,” said one trustee as the Power Point went up.

In the proposal was a list of challenges facing Regina public schools, including the upkeep of school facilities, supporting English as a Second Language students, meeting the needs of First Nations and Metis students, and increasing parent and community involvement in schools.

Another slide of the Power Point showed that the number of Grade 1-8 students was estimated to go up by 203 students. But, it has been pointed out before, that due to elements such as the Immigration Nominee program, the exact numbers of new students entering the system is not really known. Still, because of this rise, an additional eight teachers will be hired.

Later in the meeting, Dale West, trustee from subdivision 3, cleared his throat, paused, and apologized for getting on his horse again. “Eight teachers,” he said. “We could have as many as 600 new students. We need to get the word out that this is a serious problem, and these kinds of numbers have a serious impact on our budget.”

“I’m riding right beside you,” one trustee responded.

Deputy Director Mike Walter chimed in. “If not for the Immigration Nominee Program, we would have low student numbers.” With the new students arriving, “how do we support them?”

Trustee Carla Beck added her thoughts; “We’re really excited to have these new students in our system. But the problem is they’re coming in at all times (of the semester) due to the program.” The funding model, she said, must change in order to meet these new needs.

Tomorrow, when the provincial budget is dropped, the board will find out exactly what kinds of numbers, and what kind of funding model, they’ll be working with.

Six In The Morning: Orange Crush, U.S. Primaries And Buff Male Dancers

1 SOMEWHERE, JACK IS SMILING Last night, law professor Craig Scott won former NDP leader Jack Layton’s Toronto-Danforth riding by a whopping 59 percent of the vote.

2 JUST ANOTHER SUPER TUESDAY Maybe by this point, it would be best to put Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in a ring together and let them wrestle for the nomination. Tonight, Illinois will choose between the guy who said, “Corporations are people, my friend… of course they are,” (Romney) and the guy who claims, “I don’t care what the unemployment rate is going to be.” (Santorum) Oh, and a couple other candidates as well.

3 JUST AS LONG AS FARMERS AREN’T ABLE TO COME TOGETHER Switzerland’s Glencore, in conjunction with two other companies, has purchased grain-handling Viterra for $6.1 billion, a deal that was seen by government as the least-monopolist choice. Part of the agreement is that head offices must stay in Regina.

4 GO SASK! Another report was issued today about the strength of Saskatchewan’s economy. Not only is there strong growth in the natural resource sectors, but that’s spilling over into manufacturing as well. This is definitely the time to cut social spending.

5 EVIL BEGETS EVIL A prominent US watchdog has issued a statement accusing Syrian opposition fighters of human rights abuses, including kidnapping, torture and execution of those who are known to sympathize with the government.

6 HOT! The Odeon Events Centre in Saskatoon may be in hot water over hosting the slightly tuxedoed, always gyrating Chippendales. In Saskatchewan, it’s against the law to mix booze with this.

Six in the Morning

Retaliation has already begun for a mass murder allegedly committed by an American soldier in Afghanistan just two days ago. Taliban fighters opened fire on a delegation of Afghan officials, killing an Afghan soldier working as their guard. Protests have been raging in the east. It’s not looking good. Also, it’s being reported that the US soldier accused of the horrific attack had suffered a serious brain injury while serving in Iraq, and had shown signs of mental illness as a result. It of course begs the question – what was he still doing in a war zone?

2 Greg Gallagher was appointed interm leader of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party. In this story and photo, you can see Gallagher is looking very good for his age.

3 Many critics are linking the rumours of a takeover bid for grain giant Viterra with the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board. The company already has 45 percent of the grain market, and is going after Viterra quite soon after the destruction of the CWB. Here’s a thoughtful analysis of the bid.

4 Assad’s called an election! It’s sure to be peaceful and free of serious fraud.

5 In the very near future you may have less of a wait for your post-bar cab. More cab licenses will be introduced in Regina over the next few years, starting with six new temporary licenses added this year.

6 Why did a movie about steam punk space aliens, which also kinda look like cowboys, fighting on another planet, flop? This is why.

Four in the Afternoon

1. The BC government has called the picket lines set up by teachers outside of government offices illegal.

2. First he says that Israel doesn’t have a more dependable friend than the US, and then President Obama takes a couple of steps back, hands in the air, promising a sober approach.

3. It’s Super Tuesday! And like angry bees, the attack ads are swarming. This takeover by super PACs are really raising the bar high in American politics.

4. Finally! Both Rush and Mary Walsh are among six laureates for this years Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime achievement.

Happy Birthday, Photoshop!

It’ll be twenty-two years this month since the first version of Photoshop was packed up and sent to Adobe for approval. And oh what strides the digital editing software has helped women make!

Over the last two decades, Photoshop has become an important tool in the restructuring of the female figure, one unhindered by ribs. The anatomy once necessary for a woman to do things like stand or protect her hipbones is now irrelevant. The image landscape is post-gravity.

But, Adobe can’t take the credit. The minds behind  Redbook and RalphLauren catalogs are the real visionaries. Because of them, fifteen-year-old girls now have a hologram of a carrot they can chase as they struggle to become inhumanly toned. It’s the perfect motivational factor- they will never achieve a body that lacks a pelvic bone, and thus will never stop striving.

Or maybe they’ll get wise and learn to spot the photoshop, catching the small, insidious details that shave away at a woman’s hips or make her thighs more twig-like. They’ll hang out in each other’s rooms reading magazines, pointing out shitty arm-reduction tweaks. They’ll laugh at them but also be kind of pissed off. They’ll reject it as a way to gauge the value of their own bodies. And then they’ll share a bag of chips.

Welcome to Heartland!

Welcome to Heartlake City! It has a cafe, veterinarian clinic and, of course, a shopping mall. Because you can’t have a town made for 5-year-old girls and not have a mall. At least that’s what Lego believes.

On January 1st, Lego, the world’s third largest toy manufacturer, launched its new product line aimed specifically at young girls, called Lego Friends.  As outlined in the cover story of Bloomberg Business, Lego spent four years and millions of dollars researching a product line that, as Lego CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorpput it, “(reaches) the other 50 per cent of the world’s children.”

The result? Twenty-nine taller figures with curvy frames, five of which are the line’s central characters. They live in Heartlake, a world that’s all awash in purples and pinks, and their online presence looks like this. Girly!

Lego is spending $40 million to market the new line to young girls aged 5-6, and so far it’s paying off. Sales are through the roof. But there’s been a serious backlash against the product. SPARK, a campaign against the sexualization of young girls, sent an open letter to Lego with more than 51,000 signatures. Critics accuse Lego of selling divisive gender stereotypes to girls, furthering the “princess” effect of marketing to children. Once again, the message is- You like shopping! You really do! And looking pretty is VERY important to you. It’s a message that is sure to expand the imaginations of young girls around the world.

Lego’s defence? They say a bunch of smart people in Denmark did a lot of research showing that this is exactly what girls want. Why object to creating and marketing something directed at girls, giving them what they want in a toy? But it begs the question- Which came first, the marketing department or the girl?

And then there’s this –  an ad for Lego circa 1981. See if you can spot the difference.