Gwynne Dyer: Germ Changer

They teach you in journalism school never to use the phrase “…X has changed the world forever”. Or at least they should. Covid-19 is certainly not going to change the world forever, but it is going to change quite a few things, in some cases for a long time. Here’s eight of them, in no particular order.

1. The clean air over China’s cities in the past month, thanks to an almost total shutdown of the big sources of pollution, has saved 20 times as many Chinese lives as Covid-19 has taken. (Air pollution kills about 1.1 million people in China every year.) People will remember this when the filthy air comes back, and want something done about it. India too. Continue reading “Gwynne Dyer: Germ Changer”

City Of Regina Rescinds White Power Holiday

I bet you didn’t even know we had a white power holiday. Well, we did! October 14-20, European History Month. A month to celebrate Europeans! Real Europeans. You know.

It is both the bad news and the good news at the same time that city officials also didn’t know we had a white supremacist holiday week. And it is decidedly good news that, now that they’ve found out, they’ve committed to cancelling it. But there are two things I want to draw attention to in CKOM’s story!

They Mayor’s office, assuming it was meant to celebrate the contributions of European civilizations to Canada, granted the request.

“I thought this was very much an innocuous request to have a proclamation,” Fougere explained in an interview Tuesday.

The request was made by the Nationalist Party Of Canada. What the Mayor didn’t realize, at least not until News Talk Radio informed him, is that the Nationalist Party is a white supremacy group.

Okay, first, it actually explains how this holiday came into being that nobody at City Hall connected the white supremacist movement to a group calling itself The Nationalist Party. I don’t even know how to joke about that! The premise is the punchline. Also:

“We were hoodwinked on that one,” Fougere admitted.

And apparently nobody’s told the mayor that, you know, probably don’t invoke the mental imagery of hoods when referring to white supremacists.

All racist-ribbing aside, it’s obviously good that the city’s going ahead and rescinding the proclamation, and though Fougere told CKOM he’s taking full responsibility for it, that’s probably an unnecessary gesture. Unless a greasy-haired, pale (and probably non-Aryan) man pressed the request directly into Fougere’s hand from his own clammy, creepily agile hand directly preceding a council meeting, a few people at City Hall had to totally blank on what “European History Month” means.

Six In The Morning: A Smorgasbord Of Garbage

Six in the Morning! 1 THE DEATH OF “BIG POTASH”? Okay, confession: I just wanted to use the phrase “Big Potash,” because it’s funny to me. And because things that are not funny and are instead sobering include the breakup of Eastern Europe’s largest potash conglomerate, which has so far caused Canada’s potash companies to see a substantial drop in stock prices and Australia’s BHP Billiton to reconsider expanding its Jansen mine. Cool times for the Saskatchewan economy up ahead.

2 NORTH CAROLINA SUCKS North Carolina’s Republican legislators have been busy for the last few weeks infuriating progressives by turning a typical racist bill about preventing “Sharia law” into an omnibus bill that puritanically restricts abortion and developing a draconian voter registration bill that essentially spits on the grave of the Voter Rights Act. Then they passed those bills and danced about it and the governor tried to make good by, no shit, giving a protestor some chocolate chip cookies. What a bunch of horrid assholes.

3 ACTUALLY, SCRATCH THAT, AMERICA SUCKS Cool, it’s really cool that a whistleblower can be prosecuted and sent to jail for potentially over a century. Keep in mind that Bradley Manning’s prosecutors did not successfully prove that he was aiding the enemy, which can pretty much only mean he wasn’t committing treason but rather behaving as a whistleblower, and Manning somehow still might wind up in prison for two generations. Cool.

4 LOOK I DON’T USE THE WORDS “REPRESSIVE STATE APPARATUS” LIGHTLY A witness to the shooting of 18 year-old Sammy Yatim says that, while Yatim looked “crazed” and was behaving in a menacing way, the knife-wielding teen never actually threatened his life, despite later being shot nine times by a police officer. As the Globe & Mail points out, uh, maybe situations like this do not always have to end with a series of fatal gunshot wounds, and so maybe Canada can stop pretending like it doesn’t have a problem with police abuse of deadly force like the rest of the global northwest does.

5 REGINA IS A GREAT PLACE TO LIVE I can’t figure out why there are two articles smooshed together into one article here, let alone why this seems to be in the sports section, but it means I only have to link to one page if I want to talk about Mayor Fougere talking about relieving traffic congestion downtown and the roadblocks facing the construction of a new indoor skatepark to replace the one that is being closed to make room for the new football stadium. And here is what I have to say about both those articles: AAARGGHGHHHGHHGHGHGHHG. (The best part is when a Cathedral resident complains about parking around Cornwall Centre when he could just go for a 35-minute walk at the literal absolute most, and then Vanessa Brown writes “Residents like Carlson are the type of people Mayor Michael Fougere has in mind with his latest proposal,” which seems like the most brutal criticism anyone could make of this shithole city’s dingus residents.)

6 THE WHITE MENACE MUST BE STOPPED In the wake of the Huntington Beach riots following Sunday’s US Open of Surfing (and in the wake of conservative talking heads in the States predicting, incorrectly, that the Zimmerman verdict would end in race riots), here’s Gawker’s Cord Jefferson calling for a frank discussion of the white culture of violence. I know a lot of folks who aren’t fond of Gawker but here’s what their writers look like at their best: funny, biting, brave, politically incisive, and right.

Six In The Morning: Blood Lizards And Salacious Sexts

6-in-the-morningSext 1 LEADER-POST EDITORIAL BOARD A BUNCH OF SURFACE-SCRATCHERS “While we disagree with the federal government’s insistence it will only help finance a P3 project – the upgrade is after all required because of new federal environmental laws that take effect in 2016 – the city is right to take advantage of the $58 million on offer,” they write, which is sort of like explaining apologetically to a starving person the reasons that eating a shit sandwich is better for them than nothing at all.


3 WEINER RISES AGAIN Anthony Weiner, a carnival barker who learned to speak socialism and is now running for mayor of New York City, had a deeper showing-his-dick-to-women-on-the-internet problem than initially thought, and nobody voting in New York seems to really care, possibly because powerful men behaving badly is totally normal.

4 SNOWDEN DIGS IN For the foreseeable future, NSA leaker Edward Snowden will remain in Russia, apparently on Putin’s proviso that Snowden “stops leaking NSA secrets,” which is a pretty hilariously hollow gesture on Putin’s part.

5 UP FROM THE GROUND CAME A BUBBLIN’ CRUDE I guess the oil sands are, uh, leaking? Whatever that means? (Oh, it means that Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. was pumping a shitload of steam into the ground and shooting watery bitumen up through the surface, which is a pretty normal oil industry practice? Good to know.)

6 BRUTAL BOXER GETS OUTSTANDING OBIT The New York Times’ obituary of Emile Griffith, a gay boxer who, in 1962, captured the welterweight title at Madison Square Garden by beating his opponent so badly that the dude died in the hospital less than two weeks later, is a must-read.

Six In The Morning: Wednesday Blug-day

6-in-the-morning1 GOD YOU’D THINK SOMEONE WOULD HAVE GOOGLED THIS BY NOW Because Regina is a minimum of five years behind the times on virtually everything, it should come as no surprise that the Regina-Qu’Appelle Health Region has just released a study saying that Regina is pockmarked with food deserts – food deserts being, of course, those neighbourhoods and communities with no grocery stores within walking distance. According to the report, which also points out that food deserts contribute to such things as obesity, over half of Regina doesn’t have walking-distance access to fresh groceries. Off the top of my head, that means residents in North Central and the Heritage neighbourhood downtown, but also places like University Park (whose nearest grocery is either the Sobey’s by the University or one of the stores on Vic, neither of which are particularly walkable) and Uplands (the Safeway in the Northgate is likely nearest, but also a hell of a walk for some).

2 LAC-MÉGANTIC KEEPS GETTING WORSE Police have confirmed that there are 15 dead in the aftermath of the train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, and are considering pressing charges. Meanwhile, the nature of the disaster has made it difficult for forensic anaylsts to even find bodies, and the fires were so intense that they could be seen from space.

3 FLOOD SEASON Yes, Toronto – where an infrastructure debate has sprung up at the same time that many citizens remain without power – but also China, where 360,000 people are estimated to have been affected by flooding in Sichuan province.

4 SURELY THIS WILL HELP DISPEL INDIANA’S “FLYOVER STATE” REPUTATION It is now not just illegal but criminal to attempt to have your gay marriage legally recognized in Indiana, and furthermore, it is criminal to “solemnize the marriage,” meaning that it is also illegal for minsters to perform services marrying gay couples. Where this is especially infuriating is that people on the religious right – people who haven’t the foggiest idea how much gay people have contributed to the life of faith ever since humans stopped worshipping polytheistic rock gods – always howl obnoxiously about how the legalization of gay marriage is the government forcing them to do something, and yet here’s a piece of legislation that is explicitly forbidding people of faith within a religion to do something with an accepted, otherwise legally recognized service that their religion would otherwise permit, and those same hollow freedom-of-religion shitheads are dead silent, because they don’t like it when the knife cuts both ways.

5 IDIOT WAPO WRITER CAN GET BENT “Hurr hurr Canada’s senate is bad” yeah well that may be true at least we don’t have a tumblr dedicated to our senators playing it up like clowns for the camera, you maroon

6 THERE ARE NO WORDS, EXCEPT FOR “MISOGYNIST ASSHOLE(S)” Because rape culture neanderthals can’t get it through their thick, underdeveloped skulls that women shouldn’t be blamed for their own rape, anonymous poster-hanging dingbats have put up posters that counter Edmonton’s successful “Don’t Be That Guy” anti-sexual assault campaign by blaming women for their own rape. Honestly, if your life is at the point where you feel the need to get so defensive about having sex with drunk women and women regretting having sex with you that you’re going to put up posters about it, maybe you should take a weekend off and do some serious self-reflection.

Four In The Afternoon: Today Basically Has One News Story

4 in the Afternoon 1 MORE ON MORSI Yeah, what’s happening in Egypt right now is definitely A Thing. There’s more coverage in the New York Times, and the Atlantic Wire is continually updating its coverage. Meanwhile, the Egyptian opposition is partnering with prominent clerics to both support Morsi’s deposition and present a “road map” for the future of Egyptian politics, which suggests that at the very least they’re comfortable with this being Morsi’s last political stand.

2 WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THAT BC “AL-QAIDA-INSPIRED” PLOT Not much, although the ReverbNation thing is grimly funny to me and about four other people, probably. Is “inspired by al-Qaida ideology” the geopolitical terror equivalent of putting “songs from and inspired by” on a soundtrack CD? Is the ideology here the “When It Started” by the Strokes of murderous terror plots’ Spider-Man?

3 NOT SURE “FIX” IS THE RIGHT WORD But the City of Regina has a plan, at least, for how to deal with its enormous, looming pension crisis. Mostly it sounds like deferring payment on current pensions while clawing back benefits for younger workers, but that is par for the course, now, in 2013.

4 KE$HA UNEQUIVOCALLY OWNS After being spotted wearing a t-shirt from Bay Area avant-pop weirdos The Residents, she seems to have incorporated the band’s tuxedo-eyeball imagery into her current live act. This is just like that time Mandy Moore discovered Jandek, except there was no risk of a cease-and-desist that time, and also no chance that someone who voted for “Die Young” as their grad song might accidentally listen to The Beatles as reinterpreted by a frightening mescaline trip gone awry.

Six In The Morning: Even The CBC Has American News Leading

6-in-the-morning 1 WE ARE NOW MORALLY OBLIGATED TO MESS WITH TEXAS Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis attempted a 13-hour filibuster in the Texas State Senate last night, in an effort to prevent the passing of a hideous anti-woman/trans/etc. bill that would have closed down most of the state’s abortion clinics and forced women into the sort of unsafe, disgusting conditions prevalent sixty years ago – the ones that, y’know, lead to the Kermit Gosnells of the world (EDIT: not Kenneth, obviously, as Barb points out below)? – and that, uh, an overwhelming, indisputable majority of Texans opposed. The bill lost, which is good, unless you’re Gov. Rick Perry, who said of the bill, “In Texas, we value all life.”

In other Texas news, Gov. Rick Perry probably spent much of the day not bothering to consider commuting the sentence for the state’s 500th Death Row execution, a black woman who was accused of murdering a white man and faced an all-white jury. Oh and also, meanwhile, that whole Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in the States? The one the Supreme Court gutted earlier this week, bits about ensuring that racist states who are, a lot of them, still fucking trying to deny blacks, Hispanics, and other migrants the vote, in 2013 have at least some legal hurdles to being horrible racist shitheads? If it didn’t exist, Wendy Davis wouldn’t be in the Texas State Senate, according to Wendy Davis. Shoot every Republican straight into the sun.

2 GOOD ON THE GAYS A pair of Supreme Court Decisions managed to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 at the same time, which rules, because the type of secret homophobe who says “What they do is their business but do they have to do so much of it in public?” is going to get incredibly owned by all the gay people getting married and kissing and shit on TV and in newspapers today.

3 MAN WHO PISSED IN MURRAY’S CEREAL I feel like I keep waking up on Wednesdays and telling people to read Murray Mandryk columns. Dude is on fire lately. Today: the Sask Party’s foot-dragging on any review or amendment to the province’s Freedom of Information and Privacy laws combined with its hurry to push through essential services legislation suggest that “this government’s view of due diligence is being dictated by its political agenda and its need to marginalize even valid criticism.” Oof.


5 MEANWHILE IN AUSTRALIA Toilets flush backward and the female PM who ousted her ineffectual predecessor is, uh, re-ousted in favour of said predecessor. Remember when she, like, utterly ethered the scumbag Tony Abbott? Good times.

6 MAN JUST NAME A POLITICAL PARTY “THE BUSINESS PARTY” AND GET IT OVER WITH Cool new stats on education, from the 2011 National Household Survey. I think my favourite tidbit though is that “The United States, Philippines and United Kingdom are the biggest hubs for Canadian students going abroad to get post-secondary degrees and certificates.” The Philippines! I’m guessing it’s nursing and resource industry-related programs or something? It’s a bit of a curveball but good for you, the Philippines.

Four In The Afternoon: Illegal Edition

4 in the Afternoon 1 BREAKING THE LAW So as of about, oh, whenever you’re reading this, a bunch of new bills have received royal assent and become law. One of those bills is the Harper Government’s Economic Action Plan, which I’m obliged to remind everyone was prefaced by a massive and dumb ad campaign to convince us that this vague and nebulous thing is a good idea as opposed to a bullet point on Tory MP mailouts. Oh and you can’t wear a mask at a “riot” anymore, which is great, because a riot is a very well-defined term both in the bill and in Canadian law and in Western law in general, especially when it comes to [i]the police[/i], who are usually very restrained in their application of force. I mean, it’s too bad if say you’re someone who was instrumental in bringing a brutal teen rape case to light and want to remain anonymous while doing so, but I guess that’s the price we pay for safety, right?

2 BYE, BOB Career politician Bob Rae has quit. Global has a timeline of his life and work to date. Remember when he was the first NDP premier east of Manitoba? I don’t, because I’m basically a child, but still. It happened!

3 LAND OF THE TOTALLY NOT PRIVATE AT ALL ANYTHING The United States government has, according to the director of the FBI, used drones for surveillance on American soil. Hooray! Unfortunately I can’t find the Barack Obama/drone fanfiction I saw once where the President meets his faithful companion, a drone, outside the White House for a tender conversation between old friends, so instead have this Star Trek fanfic where an Enterprise captain uses drones. Very American.

4 SPEAKING OF PRIVACY Murray Mandryk’s column on the Saskatchewan government’s decision this spring to legislate what’s basically a corporate right to privacy is nuanced, thoughtful, and utterly damning. Go read it!

Six in the Morning: Literature, Ballet, and (Political) Theatre

6-in-the-morning 1 TAKING AIM Yesterday in Question Period, NDP leader Tom Mulcair raked Prime Minister Harper over the coals of the Senate scandals, and all it took was asking direct questions with no preamble. Check out the video, where Mulcair simply stands up and asks, in a calm, level voice, “On what date and at what time was the Prime Minister informed that Nigel Wright had made a payment to Conservative Senator Mike Duffy?” There is, of course, more – Mulcair continued his line of questioning for a while, before Liberal Justin Trudeau had a chance to ask some questions and took time to find his legs – a good summary of which is over on Rabble. Anyway, Mulcair says he’ll be continuing to give Harper the business; if he stays this direct, it’s hard to picture Harper coming across as doing anything but dodging questions.

2 THE CLEANEST SOLUTION In 2011, the Tories learned that several oilsands projects would disrupt water sources if permitted to expand – so they made sure they could exempt oilsands projects from environmental reviews. The system works!

3 WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT For the past week, advocacy group Women, Action & The Media has been compiling instances of memes and posts and images depicting or joking about violence against women on Facebook – which you can view here, and which are definitely worth a trigger warning for violence and rape and humans at their utter worst. Anyway, they apologized, but as Sam Biddle points out, they didn’t really do anything, they just said they’d do something. After talking with their lawyers.

4 THE WRITTEN WHAT NOW “Who even reads books anymore? Grant application DENIED.” –the City of Regina, apparently

5 SCRANTON, NORTH AFRICA I don’t know why terrorist inter-office snarking about expense reports is so fascinating to read but, like, there you go.

6 “IF THAT’S A BASSOON, I’M A BABOON!” Happy 100th anniversary to The Rite of Spring riots, in which wealthy ballet concertgoers flipped shit because of a bassoon solo. Or, well, according to the legend, they did. Usually riots don’t end with an ovation.

Six In The Morning: Here You Are, You Insatiable Whatsits

6-in-the-morning 1 DISPATCHES FROM THE SCIENCE FRONT The CBC learned at the start of the month that Canada’s federally-mandated and -funded scientific body has been ordered to march to the beat of Canadian industry’s drum. And, because Stephen Harper’s science minister is apparently just fine and dandy with sitting and letting his portfolio crumble like a dried leaf (the social conservative tendency to do this, by the way – put in charge of a cabinet portfolio somebody grossly unqualified who has no interest in the thing they’re ostensibly supposed to be functioning as a minister for – is so frequent these days that most ministries in Canada should probably be renamed to the opposite of what they’re currently named), well, that also involves letting us get dumber. We just welcomed a Canadian guy back home from space – where he proved very popular! – but if current trends continue we’ll be lucky if we’re able to figure out how to fart in a bag and let the wind carry it upward til we can’t see it anymore.

2 BOYS CLUB Hey, did you guys know that Google thinks you might be looking for “RCMP Sexual Harrassment” before you look for “RCMP Sex Offender Registry”? That is probably not a good sign, and it’s probably because of stories like this. Anyways here’s another (alleged) reason why that may be: a former member of the musical ride says that she was sexually harassed by her male colleagues and discriminated against because she’s a woman – discrimination that involves the dragging of a new recruit through literal horseshit. If true, this is the fucking worst.

3 SCRAPING BY A third of Canadians live paycheque to paycheque, which is a lifestyle I’m sure I know nothing about. Incidentally, what does “RRSP” mean and what does an RRSP do and what is being alive, even.

4 DUFFYGATE ROLLS ON The Senate speaker will be proposing new rules on travel today, which, like, sure, that’s the main problem. That the rules were unclear and that there weren’t enough of them. Not the confluence of wealth, influence, and power that put a man with deep personal wealth in an office where judgement, not liquid assets, ought to be one’s primary trait; it’s not like that ended with the dude inevitably trying to make the problem go away by using money.

5 SOMETHING IS BROKEN HERE Chief Terrance McArthur of the Pheasant Rump Nakota Nation in southeast Saskatchewan pleaded guilty to sexual assault [i]on a teenager[/i] last month and is somehow still in office. Worth noting how few people on the reserve come to his defence.

6 CAPITAL IDEAS The Leader-Post is reporting that the construction of Capital Pointe has been handed off to a third company. Because I like the idea of saving a fun way to kill some time for the last link in a Six post, this is the spot where I link the L-P’s interactive Capital Pointe timeline, because hee hee! Look at baby Capital Pointe on the second slide! My, how they grow up.

Six In The Morning: Summits And Commissions And Networking And *vomits on rug*

6-in-the-morning 1 SOME JOKE ABOUT PEAK HOUSING, SUMMITS, ET AL Mayor Michael Fougere took to the stage at this week’s housing summit to announce that he plans to establish some kind of special committee on housing, a development nobody could have predicted and which is sure to have a definite and immediate impact on the totally fucked housing and rental market in Regina right now. Plus apparently “[Fougere] also announced he will host another housing summit next year to revisit the rental housing issue.” Yaaay! Okay, sure: in his defence, Fougere has committed to bringing the vacancy rate from one percent up to three percent by 2017, and the committee will be charged with streamlining our bylaws so that it’s easier to build and rent housing, both of which are good things. Now they just have to come to pass.

2 MY AMBITION AS A HUCKSTER Speaking of conference summit networking whatevers: Brad Wall is in Pittsburgh right now, promoting Saskatchewan’s carbon capture technology. I wonder if he has the legal right to even bring it up. Ha ha, just jokes!

3 YOU GO, GIRL The Toronto Sun ran a transsexual Sunshine Girl for the first* time in its history and, in a refreshing turn from a Quebecor-affiliated outlet, the editor’s response was literally, “She’s cute and we ran her photo.” In other words: Whatever, who cares! It’s pretty cool how chill the paper’s being about it, and it’s also obviously really funny reading the comments from Sun readers experiencing serious inner turmoil over the whole thing. (*Note: Apparently editor-in-chief James Wallace claims the Sun has run transsexual Sunshine Girls before without anyone noticing, which, alright, cool, dude! But Bangladeshi immigrant Amelia Maltepe is the first one to be recognized as such and is so matter-of-fact about the whole thing that she deserves serious props. Go Amelia!)

4 FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff paid off the $90,000 in housing expenses of ambulatory thumb and terminal bootheel-licker of the powerful Mike Duffy, because of course he did. “Mr. Duffy agreed to repay the expenses because it was the right thing to do. However, Mr. Duffy was unable to make a timely repayment. Mr. [Nigel] Wright therefore wrote a cheque from his personal account for the full amount owing so that Mr.Duffy could repay the outstanding amount,” Harper’s spokesman Andrew MacDougall apparently had the balls to tell the press. I mean, I’ve got a bunch of questions, but my main question is how on earth Senator and former primetime TV host Mike Duffy didn’t have $90,000 to slap into his chequing account, but civil servant Nigel Wright did?

5 B.C ELECTIONS [RELEVANT CLIP] B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark is now the premier of a majority government in B.C., surprising the shit out of everyone, as the fact that she lost her own seat came as a given. For further analysis, check out the contrast between the URL and the headline on the National Post’s story, and also remember that “Oh yeah, the suburbs.”

6 AND NOW, 20 AMAZING QUOTES FROM GUY FIERI’S NEW MEMOIR “It was a lightning bolt of an idea in Flavortown that pranked the un-prankable mayor, Guy Fieri.”

Six In The Morning: Start The Day Off Bummed

6-in-the-morning1 THE CLOCKWORK UNIVERSITY I had to send away my watch for repairs a short while back, and I just got it back a couple of days ago; one of the things that had changed, besides the fact that it now worked, was that the time was slightly out. This morning, when I put it on my wrist, I thought to myself that it might be a good idea to tune into CBC around noon and set my watch to their clock, since it’s nice to have a timepiece on you that’s totally accurate down to the second and instantly accessible. Then I went on the Internet and immediately set my watch to the correct atomic time simply by seeing that more bad news about mishandled spending has emerged in the sordid story of the University of Regina and its embattled, now-shuttered University-Industry Liason Office. Because this kind of news about this specific story has recently been reported with a startling regularity, you see.

2 STREAMAGEDDON! Netflix is going to lose about 2,000 videos, but it’s okay because apparently most of them are trash and they’re moving over to the bizarrely bad idea that is Warner Archive (“Yes, I’ll pay ten bucks a month for as much of the Best Of 77 Sunset Strip that I can watch!” -literally no human ever) and the money train may just keep rolling in unabated for Netflix. Can someone who genuinely cares about tech industry stuff maybe confirm or deny that pulling out of Netflix is sort of like record labels deciding to just sell their own proprietary music format from their own proprietary player and ditching iTunes? Because that’s sorta what it feels like. (And for a glimpse at what we may now be missing, while the Twitter search algorithm still lets us see the tweets, here’s music writer Ned Raggett livetweeting 1974 Joe Don Baker vehicle Golden Needles.)

3 SWEEPING IMMIGRATION REFORM IT IS! Unless you’re gay married, apparently.

4 A POUND OF CURE Mother Jones’ Mac McClelland – one of the best magazine writers going, no doubt – has an incredible piece up that is in theory about her cousin, a parricidal schizophrenic, but is in reality about the sorry state of mental health support systems in America. Of course, that’s America, and Canada’s different, right? And even if Canada were to make moves away from having strong mental health support, they wouldn’t be part of a long-term trend, right?

5 THREE WAYS OF LOOKING AT BANGLADESH “The problem is the browns” -Jonathan Kay, basically. “There are problems in Bangladesh but the conditions global capitalism has either created or tacitly encouraged in the country are partially to blame, and more specifically the failure to date of organized labour to win better conditions for hazardous manufacturing jobs outside of the Global Northwest has created an economy where situations like this are to be expected” -Gawker’s Max Read, sorta. “How can we use this to sell more Gildan ads” -the Globe & Mail

6 PALATE CLEANSER Jason Collins, an NBA center and longtime free agent, came out of the closet recently in an article he wrote for the upcoming issue of Sports Illustrated. The Nation’s Dave Zirin – maybe the single most essential sportswriter working right now – explains why it matters: “More people will explore the parameters of the possible because Jason Collins chose to be a pioneer.”

Six In The Morning: The World’s #1 Iditarod Feature Article

6-in-the-morning 1 THE IDITAROD IS LIFE Wowza. Grantland really knocked it out of the park. Maybe the most essential thing to read all week, Brian Phillips’ piece on the annual dogsled competition touches on, like, everything. Admirable for its sheer depth, if nothing else.

2 THING UNIVERSITY DID OKAY, UNIVERSITY GUY SAYS After Monday’s news that the U of R used endowment money to cover overspending in the faculty of engineering, U of R provost Tom Chase was sacrificed by the administration on the altar of defending what is currently coming across as a very bad decision. Gotta say I feel a bit bad for the dude, as he clearly drew the short straw and has to pretend that something wildly unpopular and – as the initial CBC article goes to great pains to make clear – obviously against both the spirit and intent of the donation was a fair and justified and totally normal move. Noticeably absent from the conversation: U of R Board of Governors chair Paul McLellan! If anyone can find me evidence that he and the BoG didn’t see and sign off on the “Project Discovery” report, I will buy them a beer and a shot at O’Hanlon’s sometime. I do not expect to have to buy anyone any alcohol.

3 A MISSION TO MARS? EVEN IF THAT WERE A MOVIE I’M SURE IT ENDS WELL FOR EVERYONE Dudes! I’m just as stoked on Mars as the next person, but a one-way ticket to Mars where you need no prior training in, like, being an astronaut? They’ll just catch you up? “Yes, we know that astronauts are some of the brightest scientists in their field, but hell, if the Ruskies could send a damn dog to die uselessly in space, we can send you to die uselessly on Mars, can’t we, you mouthbreather?” Think I’ll wait for the voyage that has a return flight, thanks.

4 ON TERROR One of the suspects in the attempted Via Rail bombing stood up and told the court that the charges against him were invalid because the Criminal Code was not created by God, which I mean, due process and all, but this does not bode well for the guy. In America, the Atlantic Wire flexed its aggregation muscle and compiled several articles to explain why it’s not so unusual that Tamerlan Tsarnev, a guy the FBI was “warned about,” managed to slip through the country’s anti-terror safety nets.

5 AT LEAST THEY’RE SAFE FOR NOW The Harper Government’s terrible, ideologically-driven bullshit fuckhead idea to close the Experimental Lakes Area research facilities in northern Ontario was dumb as shit and proved only that the Conservatives in the Harper Government – whose science minister is a guy who, at absolute best, has made the bold move of refusing to answer the tremendously contentious, up-in-the-air question, “Hey, is evolution actually a thing?” – hate science, and thinking, and being anything except ideologically rigid and incurious about the world outside of their own hideous skulls, unless the science in question has something to do with carbon capture, a program that is currently not in its “golden age”. Ontario, under Premier Kathleen Wynne, has stepped in to save the project and its forty years of data. Pretty good, especially since it will cost them only $600,000 a year and not the $2 million the Harper Government lied about it costing. We can say that now, right? That the Harper Government literally and willfully lies about stuff on a regular basis in order to mislead the public?

6 AT LEAST THERE’S GRIMES Who is a national treasure.

The U Of R Used A $1.3 Million Endowment To Cover Overspending

If I was an engineering student at the U of R, I’d be pissed. Today, the CBC published a piece detailing “Project Discovery” – the heinous Newspeak name for a review of overspending in the university’s Faculty of Engineering. Turns out research accounts managed by the dean were overspent by over a million bucks, and the university wound up using money specifically donated to fund a research chair to paper over administrative misspending.

“Who’s accountable for this?” [U of R Faculty Association chair Gary] Tompkins asked, noting it was a highly unusual move for a university. “And how could it go on for that many years? That’s the disturbing thing about it.”

The obvious answers are “Whoever read this report” and “Because nobody in the unversity’s administration has to really answer to anybody,” respectively.

Like I said, engineering students oughta be annoyed about this. They pay the third-highest tuition out of all students at the university, and a disproportionate number of international students are working towards engineering degrees at several times the cost of what a Canadian resident pays. On average, a couple hundred thousand dollars of that money per annum wound up being spent on “legal fees ‘for patent and intellectual property work.'”

The faculty has strong ties to the Canadian resource industry, and touts its innovation and competitive program; it’s a shame that all of that has come at the cost of a research chair position.

ADDENDUM: How hard has the U of R’s outgoing VP of external relations, Barb Pollock, checked out of her position? Look at her barely even try to respond to the CBC:

CBC News asked a spokeswoman for the university to describe the nature of the overspending.

“Oh I don’t know. I don’t know. That was three years ago,” [Pollock] said. “I didn’t look into that. It would be research related.”

I was wondering why Pollock – who’s worked at the university for more than a decade and has overall been pretty good at the external relations gig – had tendered her resignation so suddenly. My guess now is that she saw the writing on the wall – over the next several months, with students, faculty, and the provincial media all tightening their scrutiny of the university’s spending, whoever has to deal with the press is in a deeply unenviable position.

Six In The Morning: Ambivalence At Length

6-in-the-morning 1 DEFINITELY A GREAT USE OF MONEY Leaving aside the question of whether or not their figure is actually accurate – I can find evidence in the budget books of about a 20% increase in post-secondary funding between 2007 and 2009, and it should be noted that one of those budgets was under the previous government, but my memory was right and PSE funding fell sharply after the tuition freeze expired, sooooo – it’s pretty funny that the government blew $200,000 of what appears to be taxpayer money on signs advertising, uh, how good they are at spending money on universities? Maybe that money could have gone to the universities, guys, this is just a suggestion.

2 DOG DAY AFTERNOON Oh, and the Regina police are still conducting a review of that depressing dog shooting scenario from last month. Maybe the recent New York Times piece on the role portable video cameras play in the application of police force has something to do with this, maybe not.

3 MAYBE DON’T BE UNIVERSALLY REVILED AND THIS WON’T HAPPEN, PT. I Everyone is sharing the eloquent Russell Brand piece about Margaret Thatcher, and they should, because it’s good. I grew up in the ’90s and not the ’80s, though, so I’ve got to admit that I don’t really know what it was like to live in the Iron Lady’s long, truculent shadow. It doesn’t seem like it was very pleasant,* though, especially considering that Britain and its people are still living through the consequences of how she ran her national economy. (*except for posh people)

4 MAYBE DON’T BE UNIVERSALLY REVILED AND THIS WON’T HAPPEN, PT. II Senate GOP leader and Turtle Club president Mitch McConnell was secretly recorded, along with his team, coming up with ways to discredit actress Ashley Judd during that brief period where she might have maybe considered running for Senate in her home state of Kentucky, with the emphasis being on her struggles with depression and her religious beliefs (such as “knowing things about St. Francis of Assisi). Then Mother Jones published the recording. It’s a nasty bit of business coming from a guy whose incumbency is perplexing on account of how many people just hate his guts, but what might wind up putting McConnell in real hot water is the way the tape implicates his taxpayer-funded legislative assistants in the anti-Judd research, which is a hell of illegal concept. Meanwhile, McConnell is likely to find that the first amendment holds. (Side note: McConnell reps have called the taping “Nixonian” in the same breath as they decry the way “leftists” will stoop to anything. Everybody remember famous Democrat president Richard Nixon???)

5 I ALSO TRUST THE OPINIONS OF AGGREGATED YAHOOS Not sure how I feel about the CBC’s RateMyHospital thing. Guys, remember when RateMyProf had a “hotness” criterion? Remember ever reading Urbanspoon or Yelp or anything and thinking to yourself, “God, these people sound like such assholes”? Hospital visits are emotionally fraught experiences, more so than being in a particular university course or eating a meal at an ethnic restaurant where the food isn’t identical to that a different restaurant trading in the same ethnic food, thus confounding your expectations. So people reviewing their hospital experience may have a difficult time being sufficiently dispassionate about it. Hospitals and the healthcare system are also nightmare tangles of bureaucracy, huge and frightening webs that catch money in all of the oddest places, and these kinds of surveys will only ever evaluate the front-end experience (you could even think of them as “standardized,” perhaps) and tell us pretty much nothing about the organization of capital and power in places that aren’t the nurse’s reception desk in a given ward. But hey, maybe naming & shaming particularly shit hospitals will motivate some change in the way they deliver services, who knows, I’m not a doctor.

6 OKAY NOW GO READ SOMEONE ELSE’S WORDS I haven’t read The Interestings yet but it sounds, well, interesting, and Meg Wolitzer is smart, and I like fiction and writing and people talking about those things, and so this interview pretty much runs its fingers along my intellectual pleasure centres the way Jerry Lee Lewis used to drag his across a piano’s keys. Or something.

Saskatoon-Based Scientist Muzzled By Harper Government In HUGE Shocker

I’m surprised, personally. The Harper Government doesn’t like its paid scientists to disclose their research without a crash course in anti-environmentalist spin? This is all news to me:

Waiser wrote two scientific papers for Environment Canada that were published in 2011 that looked at chemical pollutants (such as phosporus and ammonia) and pharmaceuticals (such as trace antibiotics) in Wascana Creek.

Both kinds of pollution were found downstream of the Regina sewage treatment plant west of the city.

Waiser says when CBC contacted her to talk about the research, Environment Canada higher-ups lowered the boom.

“One of the first things they said after reading the two papers on Wascana Creek is that they didn’t want to upset the City of Regina,” she said.

Man, that last bit stings, doesn’t it. Though I guess it stings more if you’re a non-scientist spokesperson or “media guru” or whatever job title at Environment Canada in 2013 means it’s your job to make sure that nobody talks to the press unless they reinforce the Harper Government voter base’s beliefs that absolutely nothing has changed in the environment in the past sixty years and that human culpability in environmental issues is basically nil. Because look how snippy this guy or gal got:

Environment Canada declined a recorded interview, but in an email, a spokesperson said the department won’t comment on “hearsay.”

Zing. Is it “hearsay” when the source on this story about a government scientist being muzzled over her work is the government scientist who did the work? Is it hearsay when it’s part of a larger pattern previously addressed by international scientific journals? I guess it’s difficult to say. At least the Harper Government can take some solace in the fact that there’s no way to gain how much traction this “hearsay” actually has.

harper muzzle

Yep, no way at all. The full interview with Marley Waiser is here. Big ups to CBC Sask for digging up and running this story.

Six in the Morning: Don’t Click The Last Link First

6-in-the-morning1 MASSIVE BANK COMPLAINS ABOUT LOST OIL COMPANY REVENUES I feel like I’ve been saying this for years, which is especially depressing because I’m only 24, but maybe this is why it’s a really, really bad idea to try and hinge your entire economy and most of your government policy on the withdrawal and sale of resources that fluctuate wildly in price, availability, and social acceptability? Like, if the construction of a single pipeline in a foreign nation is a make-or-break deal for your budget, then holy shit, maybe it’s time you learned the word “foresight.”

2 FLORIDA: WHERE “WHAT IS THIS WATER STUFF?” IS AN ACTUAL QUESTION Remember how Orson Welles caused mass panic with his War of the Worlds radio programme? This is sort of like that, if Orson Welles was a morning DJ, and if instead of people being confused by the presentation of a fictional program on a relatively new medium of mass communication they were upset by science words and forgot that it was April Fool’s Day.

3 MIXED MARTIAL CON ARTIST A Saskatoon man won MMA bouts while on worker’s compensation.

4 BEFORE YOU GET THE WRONG IDEA This NPR piece on America’s disability claims crisis has been around for a little over a week, but man, is it ever worth reading. (Also, layout dork alert: NPR really, really gets how to make a webpage read like a particularly excellent magazine.)

5 EVRAZ PLACE WORKERS MIGHT STRIKE Unfortunately, we don’t really know much more than that. I’m just wondering aloud here, but do you think that when daily papers cover potential strike action, is there any kind of obligation to actually provide context for each party’s claims, or is it just enough to say “here’s the union, here’s the bosses, here’s someone affected by the strike, cool, job done”? And we wonder why private unions’ stock has fallen so much in the last few decades.

6 CHRIS WARE IS NOW ON TUMBLR Goodbye to your productivity today, especially if your name is Stephen Whitworth.

Six In The Morning: SCOTUS Migraines

6-in-the-morning 1 MEANWHILE, IN AMERICA Not looking like a good day for the Defense of Marriage Act.

2 MEANWHILE, IN CANADA Our Supreme Court, having already recognized “the gays” as alive persons, is recommending Canada take a good, hard look at its prohibitively expensive, protracted, antagonistic family law system.

3 MEANWHILE, ON SASKATCHEWAN RESERVES A new report suggests Saskatchewan First Nation reserve schools receive about half the funding from the federal government as off-reserve schools receive from the province.

4 MEANWHILE, IN PARLIAMENT Saskatchewan Conservative MPs are grumpy that they might lose their goofy-ass riding boundaries, because that is obviously such a pressing concern for this province that it justifies being basically the first time some of our province’s MPs have even really bothered speaking to the press. All of the province’s Tory MPs are doing a very good job today, advancing the interests of all people in Saskatchewan

5 MEANWHILE, IN GERMANY The developer tearing down a chunk of the Berlin Wall to put up luxury high-rise condos settled on a compromise between his investment group and the protesters who wanted to preserve this artefact of relatively recent history, and that compromise is “wait a couple of weeks and then keep tearing down the wall to build expensive apartments for the wealthy.”

6 MEANWHILE, IN NORTH KOREA “North Korea has cut a military hotline with South Korea, breaking the last direct communication link between the two countries at a time of heightened military tensions,” so maybe everything above will very soon be moot.

Six In The Morning: Budget-Sized Six

6-in-the-morning 1 BUDGET DAY Sask. finance minister Ken Krawetz did the thing with the new shoes and now today he’s giving birth to a bouncing baby budget. He says it’s “balanced” which is a huge relief cause can you imagine if a finance minister came out of the gate saying “our budget is wildly skewed and we clearly have no idea what we’re doing”? You don’t want a loose cannon like that in charge of public money.

2 IDLE? DO MORE Journalist & CBC host Wab Kinew was in town for the Minifie lecture last night and told journalists to basically try harder, especially when covering Aboriginal issues. Fair point well made.

3 MORTGAGE INTERVENTION So HARPER GOVERNMENT finance minister Jim Flaherty basically smacked the hands of big banks and said “stop that as they lowered their greedy interest rates into potential homebuyers’ cookie jars, and for some reason the opposition meme is “Flaherty is reneging on free-market principles” as opposed to looking at this and wondering how close our economy actually is at any given time to a 2008-style collapse.

4 WE’RE NUMBER 17 OR SO I think, if I’m reading this very official-looking chart right, Regina is the 17th best place to live in Canada. That’s right, get fucked, uh *scrolls to random spot on page* Kitchener? Wow, okay. Sure.

5 SEE YOU SPACE COWBOY Voyager leaves the solar system and now scientists get to find out if it’s in interstellar space or – I actually fistpumped while reading this – a previously undiscovered part of space that comes before interstellar space. SPAAAACE!

6 SOMEONE’S WORST NIGHTMARE Because of how access journalism works, instead of everyone watching as the hammer comes down on the British finance minister’s office for leaking the budget early, some intern at the Weekly Standard is going to get fired for the crime of totally legally tweeting the next day’s front page, which just so happens to contain budget information that was yet to drop. Whoops! The embargo system is garbage.