Weekly Reckoning: Checkon Yourself Before You Reckon Yourself Edition

weekly-reckoningIt’s a reckon every second around here.

WENCHES WELCOME HERE Local vanity project owner Jason Hall is in hot water this week after an ad for event staff at Kitschbomb Stonehall Castle asked for applicants’ measurements. Hall seems to be under the impression that his reputation as a landlord is making him a target for ire, rather than the fact that he asked for women’s exact measurements.

FINALLY, SOMEONE WITH THE RIGHT IDEA Slate’s Daniel Engber takes a look at the state of the world and decides that the best solution is to eradicate all of the mosquitoes. What a great idea! Even if they’re not showing up to the party with Zika and malaria and chikungunya and that old dengue fever, they’re still making off with our blood and leaving nothing but itchy bumps behind. Let’s whip these welters.

I’M STARTING TO THINK THAT FLINT IS JUST DYSTOPIA’S TEST LAB You think that lead content in Flint’s water is a disgrace? It’s so much worse than that.

Y IN THE SKY January 28 marked the 30th anniversary of the Challenger shuttle explosion. Jason Kottke has a round-up of stories on the disaster.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: CETAPHILE? I’m aware of how tortured and ridiculous that pun is, but these are ridiculous, torturous times. Especially when you discover that Justin Trudeau wants to ratify the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, or CETA.

Exploring Utopianism In Saskatchwan

UtopiaIn 2001, MacKenzie Art Gallery curator Timothy Long put together an exhibition called A Better Place that looked at the concept utopianism in the modern world. One source of inspiration for the show was a famous quote by Saskatchewan CCF premier Tommy Douglas which read: “Courage, my friends; ’tis not too late to build a better world.”

Humanity’s utopian spirit, over the centuries, has been expressed in many different ways, from political movements and revolutionary communal settlements to fictional scenarios in novels and movies and even, in the case of the MacKenzie exhibition, visual art.

On Wednesday Jan. 20, Alex MacDonald will be giving a talk called Exploring Utopianism In Saskatchewan at the Prince of Wales branch library. MacDonald is the author of a 2007 book published by the Plains Research Centre Cloud-Capped Towers: The Utopian Theme in Saskatchewan History and Culture (cover image above).

The talk goes at the Prince of Wales library at 7 p.m. You’re asked to register on the RPL website.

Trumbo

Oscar buzz is building for Bryan Cranston’s performance in this biopic about American screenwriter Donald Trumbo. As a member of the Hollywood Ten, he refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947. After spending some time in prison, he was blacklisted from working as a screenwriter in Hollywood during the height of the Red Scare in the 1950s.

Undeterred, Trumbo continued to work under a pseudonym and ended up winning Academy Awards for Roman Holiday in 1953 and The Brave One in 1956, while also scripting many other well-known films.

Trumbo screens at the RPL Thursday Jan. 14 and Saturday Jan. 16 at 9 p.m., Friday Jan. 15 at 7 p.m., and Sunday Jan. 17 at 2:30 p.m. Jorge interviewed director Jay Roach in the latest issue, and you can read that here. And here’s the trailer.

Tale Of Two Privacy Breaches

In September we published an article on a report by Saskatchewan Privacy Commissioner Ron Kruzeniski related to the case of Saskatoon health care worker Peter Bowden. Bowden, you may recall, worked in long-term care in the Saskatoon Health Region, and last spring brought his concerns to the legislature about under-staffing and the generally poor conditions for seniors at the care home where he worked.

The concerns were hardly earth-shattering, as they’d been previously expressed by numerous families and health care workers in different locations throughout the province. Problems had even been identified in the government’s own CEO Tour report into long-term care facilities.

Nonetheless, Bowden soon found himself caught up in controversy after Premier Brad Wall’s Chief of Operations and Communications Kathy Young released details of allegations of workplace misconduct against Bowden that surfaced after he appeared at the legislature.

The privacy commissioner’s report found several instances where Bowden’s privacy rights had been violated. But because of the limited scope of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, he was unable to sanction Young and the premier’s office because they, along with MLAs and cabinet members, aren’t subject to the act.

The government promised to fix the loophole in FOIP, but no legislation was put forward during the fall session so when that will happen is anyone’s guess.

Wall apologized to Bowden afterwards, and repercussions as far as Young’s “lapse of judgement” (as the premier characterized it) were limited to him removing her from the file. The government’s relatively mild response stands in stark contrast to a recent situation in Nova Scotia where Premier Stephen McNeil’s chief of staff resigned after it was alleged he had improperly disclosed the personal health information of a Nova Scotia citizen.

The circumstances of the case, which you can read about here, are different than in Bowden’s case. But the principles at stake related to privacy are the same, and the non-response of the Wall government is just more evidence of how much work needs to be done in Saskatchewan to take the issue of privacy and freedom of information seriously. The original FOIP legislation was passed in 1991-92, and it hasn’t been updated since then. So it would seem that it should be a priority when a new government takes office after next April’s election.

Sunday Reading: Harper’s Reverse Firewall, Killing Kennedy

On Friday the Ottawa Citizen published a great column by editor Andrew Potter on what it was, exactly, that Stephen Harper was trying to do. Potter’s conclusion in a nutshell: the former prime minister wanted to permanently cripple the federal government, preventing it from attempting any Big Socialist Plans. Potter argues that Harper developed this plan after his 2001 “Hey you guys! Let’s build a firewall around Alberta” letter:

Harper also probably realized, even as he was drafting the letter, how little the province could do using its own powers to protect itself from the sorts of things that Liberal Ottawa was inclined to do. Because here’s the thing: To someone with Harper’s ideological convictions, what is truly offensive about Liberal-run Ottawa is not that it controls the Mounties or the CPP or collects Alberta’s income tax. It is that it is inclined to use its capacities to engage in large-scale, centralized social planning (or social engineering, to use the invidious terminology).

And so Stephen Harper probably realized that to properly protect Alberta from an “aggressive and hostile” – that is, socialist – federal government, he would have to go to Ottawa. There, pulling directly upon the levers of federal power, he could build a firewall from the other side. And it could be a far stronger and more effective firewall than you could ever build from Alberta, while having the virtue of being pitched as a principled and patriotic vision of Confederation.

Makes sense to me. Brew a coffee or tea, pull a chair up to the Internet and have a good Sunday read.

Continue reading “Sunday Reading: Harper’s Reverse Firewall, Killing Kennedy”

Tom Lukiwski: “I Did Not Call The NDP Candidate A Whore.”

I’ll assume you’re up to date on Lukiwski Video Controversy 2.0? If not,  watch the clip above. There might (or might not!!!)  be a Bad Word at 1:41.

So: according to this  CJME story, the Moose Jaw-Lake Centre-Lanigan MP describes the publication of this video as “obviously an attempt to smear my reputation [with] something that I did not say.” Is Lukiwski accusing the reporter — who quit her job over the Moose Jaw Times-Herald’s current reluctance to publish the story — of attempting to smear him? Maybe she’s the one who should pursue legal counsel.

Regardless, Lukiwski has said interesting things before and judging from comments I’ve read, many Twitter and Facebook users don’t accept his explanation. What about you? What do you think? “Whore” or “horde”?

Coyne, Ambrose & Edmund Burke

20151111_085123 (2)I was catching up on my reading last night after we put our 48-page Best of Regina issue to bed. It hits the streets on Thursday, but in last Saturday’s  Leader-Post I found this curious amalgam of text and image addressing the future of the Conservative Party of Canada.

On one hand, you’ve got a column by Postmedia’s Andrew Coyne that reads, in part, like a PhD thesis on the history of conservatism in western society. You can read the whole column here, but here’s an excerpt:

By “conservative,” of course, I mean “conservatively liberal,” for we are all, right or left, inheritors of the Western liberal tradition. And while there are divisions within the conservative strain of that tradition, what unites them, it seems to me, is a belief in the need to limit arbitrary power.

The Burkean might put more emphasis on the constraining wisdom of tradition, the libertarian might stress individual choice and autonomy, but what is common to both is an unwillingness to assign great or discretionary power to some over others: whether such power is concentrated in state or private hands, whether its purposes are malign or benign – perhaps especially if its purposes are benign, for people do the worst things for the best reasons.

Then to illustrate the article you’ve got what can only be described as a glamour shot of newly appointed interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose dressed in a black leather something-or-other standing against a black fabric background of some sort with dramatic lighting. I’m not sure under what circumstances the photo was taken, other than that, as the caption notes, it was at a Toronto hotel on Friday.

Anyway, it just seems like a curious juxtaposition of visual and textual messages. But I suppose in our current political/media climate anything is possible.

How Trudeau Do

This is just too good.

It’s embarrassing anyone disagrees with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s insistence on a minimum 50/50 male-female cabinet but they do, apparently. Not a big fan of picking on different generational cohorts* but… I guess maybe Canada really needed younger people in government. I didn’t vote Liberal this time (hugs to my dear friend April Bourgeois), but maybe the best party did win. We’ll see!

*Unless I’m trolling Barb.

Ezra Levant Is An Asshole

Click this link and you’ll find a blog post on Rebel Media by noted Harper attack dog Ezra Levant castigating Prime Minister elect Justin Trudeau — or “Trust Fund Boy”, as Ezra calls him — for authorizing the expenditure of $10 million to “redecorate” the prime minister’s official residence at 24 Sussex Drive.

I have never seen the residence. But every report I have read about its current state has said it is in desperate need of significant renovations — first, to preserve its structural integrity; then to provide the people living and working there with a habitable environment (without central air, for instance, the residence is cooled in the summer by heavy window air conditioners that are destabilizing the window frames and making the house extremely drafty in winter) and finally; to provide a proper venue for the prime minister (whoever that might be) to host official national and international functions on behalf of Canada.

I’m not even going to link to any articles proving this point, because it’s just common knowledge. Except for a dick like Ezra.

Election 2015: A Halfassed Postmortem

staika

cdnelxncircleIt’s day two of Trudeau 2.0 and I’m still hungover. Holy crap: epic election bender. Considering how surprising and epochal Monday night’s results were I wanted to craft a comprehensive think piece for the blog covering all I’ve learned from this marathon campaign. But I suspect all I’ll be able to squeeze from my inflamed and throbbing brain box are a few opinion turds.

Here goes…

Continue reading “Election 2015: A Halfassed Postmortem”

Fewer Than Half Of Us Voted For The Blue Meanies

Blue Meanies-2
Ha ha ha, you suck Meanies

The Conservatives didn’t win the country 24 hours ago but they DID win Saskatchewan: 10 out of 14 ridings (71.4 per cent) and 48.5 per cent of the popular vote. Gross. The good news? That 48.5 per cent is DOWN from the Conservatives’ 2011 win, where the party got a nauseating 56.26 per cent of the popular vote. So that’s good. Fewer than half of us voted for the nasty blue meanies this time.

A couple other observations: NDP support dropped to 25.1 per cent from 32.32 in 2011, while the Liberals went up (big shock) to 23.9 per cent, a huge jump from their 8.57 per cent 2011 popular vote. Goodale led the charge with 23,562 votes for 55.2 per cent — waaay up from 15,842 votes and 40.85 per cent in 2011.

Also, our first past the post system sucked again, giving one party almost 3/4 of the seats for less than half the support.

I got my numbers from Elections Canada and from our (hopefully now semi-safe from political attack) public broadcaster’s 2011 election coverage. Check out the links and leave your observations in the comments if you like.

That’s A Wrap!

After raising plenty of eyebrows with its head office-mandated endorsement of the Harper Conservatives on Friday, the PostMedia chain of newspapers invited further ridicule with a front page paid political advertisement that was carried nationally in the Saturday edition.

The ad, which mimicked the yellow colour scheme favoured by Elections Canada, was from the Conservatives naturally, and warned about the dire consequences that awaited Canadians if they dared turf the Cons and elect a Liberal or NDP led government.

I don’t subscribe, so I’ve yet to see one. But if you click on this Huffington Post link you’ll find samples from across the country. So score another point for corporate media, I guess.

And tomorrow is FINALLY election day!

Election 2015: Joe Clark Of 1979 Vs Stephen Harper Of 2015

cdnelxncircleI was procrastinating last night by watching clips from old election debates. I was struck by three things: how much better suits were in 1961, how much better debates were 30 plus years ago, and by how utterly reasonable conservatives sounded in the pre-CPC days.

Take this clip from Joe Clark’s opening statement in the 1979 leaders debate. Swap out the name “Trudeau” and it sounds like a rebuke of Stephen Harper’s record.

It’s really too bad Joe got kicked to the curb back in 2003 when the Reform-cum-Alliance consumed the Progressive Conservatives. I could’ve voted for a guy like Joe Clark.

Election 2015: My Official Endorsement

cdnelxncircleThis election, I’ve realized that federal politics are all about a futile quest for sincerity, gifts being randomly handed out to your supporters, and disappointment. That’s why I am endorsing The Great Pumpkin for Prime Minister. He’s the other big orange guy you really want to believe will be awesome when he arrives at the end of October but who always lets you down.

Vote for hope. Vote for the Great Pumpkin.

pe611025

Election 2015: You Want To Talk Ethics? Let’s Talk Ethics! [Updated]

harperface2SM

cdnelxncircle

It’s the last day of this marathon campaign and the issue on which Monday’s vote may turn is ethics — specifically, the questionable ethics of our notorious… Dan Gagnier!

*record scratch* Whaaa-a-a? Seriously? Trudeau’s campaign co-chair sending emails to a pipeline company is the scandal that could decide the fate of Harper’s government?

What the living fuck?!?

I have been waiting all election for ethics to become a voting issue. It is the thing that Harper is most vulnerable on. But there were five leaders debates and exactly how many times was the Duffy trial brought up? Was it zero? By my count, it was zero.

So it’s kind of infuriating to have to sit through days of Stephen Harper smugly telling Canadians that the Gagnier scandal proves that the Liberals haven’t changed a whit from the days of the Sponsorship Scandal, while the Prime Minister himself sits at the centre of a vast web of evil, surrounded by shady characters, dubious personalities, liars, villains and felons.

Let’s run through the names of Harper’s sketchy pals, associates and appointees. But I’ll have to put them after the jump because the list is so long…

Continue reading “Election 2015: You Want To Talk Ethics? Let’s Talk Ethics! [Updated]”

Exciting Goings On In The Newspaper Biz

No shortage of drama heading into the final weekend of our oh so gripping 78-day election campaign as both the PostMedia chain and the Globe & Mail endorsed the Harper Conservatives as the best choice to keep Canada’s blah blah blah… blah.

The unsigned PostMedia editorial came from head office in Toronto, and was tweaked to fit the different provinces/regions in which the papers operate. The Leader-Post version even referred specifically to residents of “southern Saskatchewan” in urging  readers to grant the Cons four more years. Can’t get more authentically local than that.

The National Post is part of the same chain, and it endorsed the Harperites too. Political columnist Andrew Coyne is on the National Post editorial board. He would have participated in the discussions around the endorsement decision, but he planned a follow-up column of his own in Saturday’s paper that would endorse a different party.

Word is circulating, though, that the column was killed by higher-ups in the National Post. By any objective definition, Coyne qualifies as a centre-right journalist — but with a reputation for presenting well-reasoned arguments to support his position. So no left-wing media conspiracy bullshit here folks.

While supportive of the Harper government in some areas, he’s been scathing in his criticism at other times. Below is a quote from a column in May about the Conservatives’ contempt for democracy:

If one were to draw up an indictment of this government’s approach to politics and the public purpose, one might mention its wholesale contempt for Parliament, its disdain for the Charter of Rights and the courts’ role in upholding it, its penchant for secrecy, its chronic deceitfulness, its deepening ethical problems, its insistence on taking, at all times, the lowest, crudest path to its ends, its relentless politicization of everything.

Editorial staff at other newspapers in the PostMedia chain had no say in the decision to publish the endorsements, it was all done from head office. So score one for corporate media.

As for the Globe & Mail, it unleashed a shit-storm of scorn by endorsing the Conservatives, but then calling on Harper to resign to defuse the massive fracturing that’s occurring in the country due to his toxic leadership style. Make of it what you will — but with the Cons having earned the tag “Party of One” because of Harper’s vise-like control through the PMO it’s hard to envision how the party could transition away from him while still performing competently in government.

Election 2015: Dubious Endorsement Scandal Deepens

consortiumshort

cdnelxncircleMaybe you missed it? In the latest issue of Prairie Dog, the paper’s corporate overlords penned an endorsement of Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party. It’s odd because so much that’s appeared in those pages over the years has been highly critical of Harper’s regime and yet there it is. Lines like: “You must elect a majority government led by Stephen Harper,” “Canada needs steady leadership in the years ahead,” and “In Stephen Harper’s Canada, markets talk and hippy bullshit walks.”

Despicable. I couldn’t sleep at night if I didn’t speak out against such corporatist shilling.

But it turns out the scandalous behaviour runs much deeper than merely caving to pressure from the bosses. After some Googling, I’ve discovered that many of the lines penned by Prairie Dog‘s owners were plagiarized.

Continue reading “Election 2015: Dubious Endorsement Scandal Deepens”

Election 2015: Conservative’s Goodyear Brings Misinfo To Science Fight

A hi-tech science gizmo at the Experimental Lakes Area.
A hi-tech science gizmo at the Experimental Lakes Area.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Hope I’m not intruding on your happy family weekend with this blog post which, I’m sorry to say, will only provide more fuel for you inner rage monkey. But I’ve just been listening to the all-party science debate that CBC’s Quirks and Quarks put on yesterday. And I have to share.

Holy crapping Darwin finch. The Conservatives can’t even stick close to the facts in a discussion of science when they’re talking to actual scientists.

The panel Quirks host Bob McDonald put together included Lynne Quarmby for the Green Party (who is a professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University); Marc Garneau for the Liberal Party (who is a former Canadian astronaut); Megan Leslie for the NDP (who is her party’s environment critic); and, Gary Goodyear for the Conservatives (who has weird ideas about evolution and is also a chiropractor).

It’s actually pretty fascinating to hear how casually Goodyear is able to litter the debate with misinformation. It would take hours to adequately debunk every single Harper-friendly myth he perpetuates over the course of the hour. But as I’m heading out the door soon to gorge myself on turkey in a few minutes and expect to be so doped out by tryptophan later on, I only have time to take on one of Goodyear’s howlers.

Continue reading “Election 2015: Conservative’s Goodyear Brings Misinfo To Science Fight”

Another Conservative Shits The Bed

Hello, RCMP? I’d like to report a #BarbaricCulturalPractice:

A Conservative candidate in suburban Toronto is defending therapies that attempt to turn gays straight, having penned an editorial that referred to homosexuality as “unnatural behaviour” and heterosexuals as “normal. Jagdish Grewal, running in Mississauga-Malton, wrote an editorial in the Punjabi Post earlier this year entitled “Is it wrong for a homosexual to become a normal person?” He describes an NDP private member’s bill passed unanimously in the Ontario legislature in June that removed public funding for services designed to “change or direct the sexual orientation or gender identity of a patient.” Grewal writes in the piece that some psychologists blame a “shock” during childhood for causing a person to become gay, but that the change “can be corrected.”

cdnelxncircleOkay, one more time for the thick-skulled nincompoops: people are born gay. They don’t choose to be gay. That’s coming from both medical authorities AND the reported experience of LGBT people. Ignorant ideas like Grewal’s should not. Be. Expressed. Stop it. Conversion therapy is a failed idea and homophobia is barbaric.

At this point, what are we supposed to think about people who support candidates? Are they  racist? Are they homophobes? Are they assholes? I know Conservative supporters will bristle at my harsh language, but what the fuck are we supposed to think? What is wrong with you people? Stop supporting this awful political party.

Also: nice turban, Mr. Grewal. I’ve always been a vigorous defender of the right to wear turbans because I tolerate cultural practices when they don’t impact people who don’t freely share them. Besides, turbans are objectively cool. Homophobia is not.