Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dear Minister Kenney

Dear Minister Kenney,

A month or so you flippantly assured an audience that everything would be fine with the economy because Stephen Harper was a trained economist. That kind of thing must play well to your uninformed fan boys in Ontario, but many of us scratched our heads. Aside from being completely wrong about the direction of the economy you probably well know that Stephen Harper never actually worked as an economist. I understand his MA work was mostly in the area of political communication. By the way, I have a lot of respect for people who undertake graduate education, that is not really the issue. I think it is another example of ridiculous political language being used to mislead people.

On another topic, Dr. Tom Flanagan, Myron Thompson and Dr. Ted Morton are all Americans who emigrated to Canada. It occurs to me that these three have really not integrated well into Canadian culture.

Dr. Flanagan apparently doesn't know that our forefathers signed legally binding treaties with aboriginal people, or that those same aboriginal people actually value their indigenous languages and cultures. Most school children know this.

Mr. Thompson apparently believes homosexuals should not be allowed to be teachers, that sodomy should be re-criminalized and that capital punishment should be re-instated.

Dr. Morton seems to be an antigay activist who was also one of the principal authors of the Firewall Letter, which I'm sure you're familiar with.

It doesn't seem to me these men have integrated really well into our way of life. I'm sure you'll want to review their files.

I'm sorry to hear your car was broken into. Perhaps the thief was looking for that elusive Canadian identity you think everyone else should conform to. Please recommend this post

Insomnia and Art

I was up late looking at various art on the interweb tubes and came across M.C. Escher's Hand with Reflecting Sphere For some reason this drawing always reminds me of Christmas. Weird how things get wired in your brain. Its one of my favourites among Escher's many works that pushed the viewers perceptions of the spatial.

I find it amazing how he can so accurately reproduce the reflection. Please recommend this post

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Bishop of Death and Ignorance

Via CBC Calgary,

An annual fundraiser held by local Catholic teachers in support of an international AIDS charity is on hold after Calgary's Catholic bishop objected to its promotion of birth control.

For the last five years, the Calgary Catholic Teachers' Association has held a fundraiser during Lent for the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which supports women and children living with HIV/AIDS in Africa, and also runs campaigns to prevent the deadly disease.

More and more you read these stories with an astonishing sense that this can't possibly be happening. This was the same Bishop who obstructed the Gardasil vaccinations of young women because he imagined it would turn them into sluts. (I fully supported parental consent. That was never the issue.)

I'm not sure how much money the teachers could raise for Stephen Lewis, maybe its not all that significant in the bigger view. However there is an issue here of ignorance and religion based cruelty. Death is not an acceptable outcome for some poor person merely because of their choice of birth control or life style. It would be petty and ignorant, and in some cases illegal, for me to let someone die merely because I disapprove of their life.

Religious institutions sometimes act like cults. They need to be turned upside down so authorities can be held accountable for promoting death over life.

If those educators cannot raise money for a more than worthy cause, then I sure hope they are allowed to teach their students about AIDS/HIV both from a social and scientific point of view. We can't afford another ignorant generation.

Link: The Stephen Lewis Foundation

Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me. Please recommend this post

Wild Rose Anthology.

Another great Anthology of short stories written by Alberta writers. The collection is edited by George Melnyk and Tamara Palmer Seiler both academics and authors based at the University of Calgary. Nice to see the U of C get noticed for something other than pro-war think thanks.

The contributing authors include: Ninoxkyaio, Mary Schaffer, Fred Stenson, Monica Hopkins,Georges Bugnet, Illia Kiriak, Christine van der Mark, Kerry Wood, Henry Kriesal, George Ryga, W.P. Kinsella, Andy Russell, Howard O'Hagan, Sheila Watson, Sid Marty, Thomas Wharton, Rudy Wiebe, Katherine Govier, Cherly Foggo, Sam Selvon, Joy Kogawa, Robert Kroetsch, Aritha van Herk, Myrna Kostash, Hiromi Goto, Hugh Dempsey, W.O. Mitchell, Emma Lee Warrior, and Thomas King.

There's a few authors here that are new to me. Thomas Wharton and Christin van der Mark are authors whose novels I now want to read. van der Mark wrote her first novel Due Season in the late 1940's and was probably overshadowed by W.O. Mitchell who wrote Who Has Seen the Wind around the same time.

I like Alberta and Canadian fiction. They usually hit a sweet spot when they are well written and are set in your own back yard.

ISBN 1-55238-079-3 Published by University of Calgary Press.

Possible maybe related posts. Please recommend this post

Friday, March 27, 2009

Edmonton Oilers Fans March Discontent

Its like this every spring for Oilers fans. After the last 2 disastrous losses the Oilers must get at least 6 points in their remaining 8 games to make the NHL playoffs. Unlikely I think.

There are 5 teams competing for the last two play-off positions. It may come down to the last game of the year. It doesn't help that the Oilers play back to back games with the Calgary Flames. The Flames have a lock on their playoff spot but they derive motivation from beating Edmonton, especially if they can knock them out.

A more likely scenario is the Oilers will be edged out by the result of games they don't even play in.

It might be better if they don't make the playoffs. They are due for a major restructoring and its probably time to try some new approaches. When you think about it, all the 80's feel good nostalgia and banner raising, as inspirational as it is, has not done a single thing to improve the on ice product. Please recommend this post

Mob Mentality Trumps Free Speech

An Edmonton comedy club has cancelled upcoming appearances by an American comic who mocked the Canadian military on the Fox Television show Red Eye.

Doug Benson was scheduled to do five shows at The Comic Strip in West Edmonton Mall next month, but owner Rick Bronson cancelled the gigs after the club received some unsettling calls and emails.

"Too many of them were too threatening in nature," Bronson said.

Before Benson and his partner started trashing the Canadian Military on their overnight Fox shock show, Benson should have checked his itinerary for his stand-up act. He was scheduled to appear at a comedy club in West Edmonton. He might have also observed that Edmonton hosts one of the largest military bases in Canada, which is within artillery distance from West Edmonton Mall. Also, lets not forget there are more than a few grieving military families in Edmonton.

I thought that the Canadian response to Benson's clownish show was a bit much. This is what Fox does. They bait people to get a response. In this respect they are not unlike the Toronto based National Post or the Toronto based Sun Media. They are half wits that can't really contribute anything so they push buttons.

The manager of the club had no choice to cancel the act, however it would have made good theatre to see Benson try and manage an Edmonton crowd. This is the ultimate test of every comedian, to win a crowd of obnoxious drunks.

But we'll probably never know since scores of goons in Edmonton made threats of violence resulting in the cancellation. They're probably keyboard cowards, but small businesses can't afford the risk.

So who has a worse pathology? The brain dead TV host or the guy who threatens violence? Please recommend this post

Thursday, March 26, 2009

David Hockney's Lost Seasons

David Hockney is one of my favourite artists and photographers. He had planned to paint a series of four paintings of a stand of Beech trees near his home in Yorkshire England. Each painting was to be done in a season of the year.

The Winter and Summer paintings (above) were completed. When Hockney went to paint the next in the series he found that the stand of trees had been cut down. When I read the story I wanted to weep because I love art, photography and the dwindling number of pastoral settings.

It doesn't seem likely to me that the stand of trees were economically significant. Hopefully the owner got their 30 pieces of silver. Please recommend this post

Red River Rising

In the summer of 1997 I took a summer holiday, my first vacation in a long time. I left Calgary and camped my way down through to Sioux Falls, South Dakota because I wanted to see the Black Hills and visit a friend there. I would say I was probably fairly self-absorbed and disconnected from what was going on in the world. I had no idea of the extent of the Red River flooding that summer, and of the devastation in the Dakotas and Manitoba.

I spent the night in Sioux Falls and left early in the morning intending to drive straight to Winnipeg. I stopped for gas somewhere and found out that an elderly couple had been killed by a tornado the previous night not at all far from where I camped. The dude looked at me like I was a moron when I told him where I had camped. Note to self: Get a good camping radio, or at least check the weather warnings.

I had to pick up a few things so I stopped in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Map. I couldn't believe what I saw. They were dealing with the after math of the Red River flood when a fire broke out in the downtown area. The water problems made it almost impossible to fight the fire and a lot of the downtown businesses burned down.

It looked like a war zone and I didn't stay long. The people there were so distressed and worn out. I learned one thing about Americans. Whether they are red or blue they are one tough people. Ditto for Manitobans.

When I got back to Winnipeg and got an aerial view of the devastation and got caught up on the news I found it really astonishing. Mostly I felt pretty angry with myself for being so aloof and not being able to help in such a situation.

Right now they are sandbagging around the clock in Fargo, in a desperate attempt to get that few extra feet or inches that will save their properties and businesses. I wish I were there. Please recommend this post

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Libertarian Lobbyist Can't Reason Well

Where, exactly, does the QR77 newsroom find these people:

The city's Plan It Calgary document, which promotes high density residential development in the downtown core as well as some other areas such as the Brentwood and Anderson LRT stations, has come under scathing attack. Randall O'Toole, senior fellow with the libertarian CATO Institute, says there isn't anything in the 50 year plan he likes. The $6 million strategy calls for more residential development in the downtown core partly because it will cut down on automobile use. But O'Toole says driving to work isn't such a bad thing. He says in a couple decades vehicles may be far more energy efficient and produce fewer emissions per mile than transit. O'Toole says people should be able to choose where they want to live - not be told by politicians. O'Toole was the keynote speaker at a Canadian Homebuilders Association meeting in Calgary on Wednesday.

Scathing? Oh, I'm so afraid of the Libertarian Lobbyist.

I live in the Brentwood neighborhood and there is a growing opposition movement to the city's plans to add 10,000 new units in an already congested area. I havent't decided how I feel about this yet. But I definitely don't think of it as a libertarian issue. And it is rather silly to think we can continue to add cars to the road commuting into downtown. Downtown Calgary has no space for more parking and is developing out existing parking locations in favor of office space. Its a weak point anyway, because fewer and fewer people can afford to pay the exorbitant fees to park.

Is it a libertarian priority that we double the lanes of the freeways into downtown every 10 years?

No politician is telling you where to live Randall, that's a fairly obvious lie designed to create right wing hysteria. It will probably work. Godless communists building condo's etc etc.

Its fairly easy to see this is not about political philosophy or freedom, its about lobbying for land developers. Please recommend this post

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Calgary Did Not "Host" The Aryan Guard

Via LetFreedomRain blog:

What does little ol' Calgary and Israel's Um al-Fahm have in common? Both are towns that hosted right wing hate marches, one in Israel the other in Calgary.

This comparison is wrong and dishonest on so many levels I hardly know where to start. Calgary did not "host" the Aryan Guard rally on 21 March 2009. They organized it on their own and were vigorously opposed by anti-racism Calgarians who confronted them.

We have a lot of problems in Calgary, but ugly displays of racism are available in any Canadian city.

This type of comparison makes me think of Doug Benson and Greg Gutfeld talking about our military. Meanwhile, In Um al-Fahm Israeli Arabs are being harassed, denied basic rights (like voting), and being threatened. Furthermore, the Israeli nationalists harassing the Um al-Fahm Arabs are doing so with the approval of the government. Please recommend this post

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Cycle of Hatred

If your going to wear a t-shirt like this, put the cartoon on the front so people can look into your eyes.

What kind of parent would take their kid to write slogans on a tank shell? There goes all our hope that the next generation will be better at making peace.

Please recommend this post

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Anti-Racism Rally - Calgary

Canadian cities are generally not like European or even American cities in the sense that we do not have a long memory of conflicting ideologies waging bloody battles in our streets. During the Vietnam war and the Civil rights movement there was almost constant violence in American cities as protesters clashed with police, or political rallies got out of hand.

I went downtown today add my humble presence to an anti-racism rally not really knowing what to expect, but thinking that Calgary has generally been a really peaceful city. I knew ahead of time that there would likely be a clash between the anti-racism rally and the Calgary chapter of the Aryan Guard.

The anti-racism rally started at Calgary Hall with a strong police presence and a vibrant atmosphere. I would say the crowd numbered around 300 and was demographically quite young. In the meantime the Aryan Guard coalesced their members in the North East and came downtown shortly after 3pm. They began marching from 10st West toward City Hall but got pinned down at the C-Train station at 7th Avenue and 5th Street. At this point they had no where to go with anti-racism protesters and police on all sides.

Eventually the police broke a line for them and they headed north to 6th Avenue. This is when it turned ugly. There was throwing of objects and veteran Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell got injured with the end of a flag pole. A few arrests and other minor injuries.

A bus was brought in and the Aryans were shipped out of downtown.

At the end of it I'm left scratching my head as to where we are heading in our urban culture. And it comes at the end of a week when our buffoon of an Immigration minister thought out loud about how immigrants need to integrate. I cant help it - I think that mentality is a direct play into the hands of racists. Please recommend this post

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ed "AIG" Stelmach

An excerpt from David Swann's latest blog post:

Our member from Edmonton Goldbar – Hugh MacDonald – looked into pay bonuses this week and was shocked to learn that last year about $40 million was given out in bonuses! These bonuses were given primarily to senior government employees like Deputy Ministers and Directors of Boards and Commissions. These are people who are required to work on behalf of all Albertans, not just their Minister. How free can a senior official be if he is getting thousands of dollars in bonuses based on pleasing the Minister? Tens of thousands of dollars on top of salaries of $300,000 to $400,000 per year- and all this at a time when our economy was tanking!

While the AIG executive compensation scandal was dominating the news cycle the story of Senior Alberta Tories getting $40 million dollars in bonuses was floating beneath the radar.

Its probably worth noting that these civil servants are vetted very carefully for their loyalty to the leader and to the party. In other words, the $40 million in bonuses is really another form of partisan patronage. Not unlike the lotteries system apparently.

Bad timing when you just announced you can't seem to find a couple of million dollars to make the office of the Auditor General a bit more effective.

Its ok Ed, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I'll continue to pay my provincial taxes so you have enough money to play a third world big daddy. Please recommend this post

Monday, March 16, 2009

New Mini Dinosaur Species Found Etc.

It had razor sharp claws and its teeth may have been the terror of Alberta 75 million years ago — among animals smaller than a squirrel, that is.

The kitten-sized predator identified by paleontologists at the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta is the smallest carnivorous dinosaur ever found in North America. The next smallest meat-eating dinosaur ever found on the continent was about the size of a wolf.

Evolution seems to have produced mini versions of almost everything. It could be some kind of beta testing. Little men. Little dogs. Little Hobbits. Dinosaurs that nibble your ankles. You only get to go big if you can prove your design is effective.

Researchers have named the creature Hesperonychus Elizabethae.

In other evolutionary news, a large python ate a Maltese Terrier and flaunted it to the dog owner as a large coconut shaped bulge in its midsection. Snakes have midsections. While the bereaved women stared in disbelief a dingo made its way around the other side of the house looking for the baby. It surprised me that a Terrier could be taken down like this. This doesn't speak well for their ongoing evolution. I blame domestication. The Terrier probably thought the snake wanted to play.

Please recommend this post

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Palin for President Flash App

This interactive flash app that satires what it would be like if Sarah Palin was President has been making its way around the blogosphere. Its a perfectly good waste of time. Not many things crack me up these days but this is truly funny and creative.

Don't forget to click on the bridge to nowhere. Please recommend this post

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ask Me No Quesions

Wendy McNeil is my latest favourite artist. I love this video and the lyrics to the song which are dark and make me think of a few people in the news lately. She reminds me a bit of Leonard Cohen, although comparing one artist to another isn't always fair.

And she has wickedly toned biceps, probably from playing that accordion.

Please recommend this post

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sure I Read War and Peace...*Cough*

The BBC has conducted a survey of the books most people lie about having read. The top two are George Orwell's 1984 and Tolstoy's War and Peace.

It never occurred to me that people would lie about having read a book. It seems risky if the person you're talking to says what did you think about what Bolkonsky did on page 738? Then you're screwed.

I can sort of understand why people lie about War and Peace. Its one of those quantity over quality things. You read that huge book, wow your smart...lets have sex...

I tried to read War and Peace several times but I found it quite tedious and not a very engaging story. Sorry if you're Tolstoy fan. I generally dislike long novels, the exception being Lord of the Rings which I couldn't put down.

Orwell's 1984 puzzles me a bit more. You can read it in one sitting and its totally captivating. In Alberta most people had to read it in high school as I did. I re-read it a couple of years ago and found it far more interesting. Bush and Harper made it seem more prescient.

Other books on the list include James Joyce's Ulysses and Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary. I tried to read Ulysses but got lost in the plot. Call me a plump stately Buck Mulligan. All that shaving... My excuse for not reading Madame Bovary was my promise to myself that someday I would read it in the original French. Also I read Woody Allen's short story the Kugelmass Episode which kind of ruined it for me.

Try not to lie about the books you've not read. That kind of thing makes me crazy. Please recommend this post

Polytechnique the Film

I was listening to Jian Ghomeshi interview Denis Villenueve about Polytechnique. The main thing I took away from the interview was that the movie will focus on the women and their families rather than the killer. This will probably be disappointing to MacLeans Magazine and Mark Steyn who would have preferred an emphasis on the Murderous Muslim Hordes® swarming on our demographic horizon. Or, how uppity women-folk are these days. Sorry, went off there a bit.

Its not an easy story to tell and the film wont make a lot of money since it won't be shown by many movie chains. There's something about the story of this tragedy that brings out the absolute worst in media commentary. For that reason alone it deserves to be shown widely.

Keep telling this story. Throw it in the face of the mainstream misogynists. Please recommend this post

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Populist Twittering and Courtesy

You may have read the story. On tuesday the speaker of the Alberta Legislature verbally reprimanded six MLA's for use of Blackberry's during question period. The presumption of twittering was presumed.

By tuesday night and wednesday it turned into one of those stories that fired up the blogosphere for an interesting debate about new technologies and politicians.

I wasn't really surprised that a few people came out against the speaker and in favor of the MLA's being allowed to use their devices while in the session. At first I agreed then I disagreed. I think anyone who uses a pda or a notebook in a meeting is showing a basic lack of respect for their colleagues. Few companies would tolerate this in a boardroom meeting.

Some bloggers made the argument that the MLA's were consulting with their constituents therefore it was a valid used of technology. The idea that Tory MLA's are such enthusiastic populists that they would be so desperate to Twitter with them during a legislative session is improbable beyond reason. This is not a populist party. They may be talking to their hair dressers, their stock brokers, or perhaps tipping off insider land speculators on upcoming expropriations. Just don't tell me they're talking to constituents or advancing public interest.

They're being rude. Please recommend this post

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Quick Brief Thought On Patriotism

There are times, admittedly rare, when burning a flag, refusing to sing the National Anthem, or vomiting on some famous public monument is this highest form of patriotism. Pick your spot carefully. Make it count. Please recommend this post

Alberta Minimum Wage Raised

Alberta will be raising its minimum wage, from $8.40 to $8.80 per hour effective April 1, 2009. This puts Alberta slightly above the mid-range mark but not by much, and Alberta will fall lower after at least four other provinces implement their planned increases.

This rate is a lot better than the wage during the Klein years. Back then the argument was that you could not raise the min without killing jobs and the economy. This argument was repeated ad nausea everywhere and was generally accepted.

The media in Calgary at least, tends to dwell on the cost of the increase to business without giving much attention to the social factors such as the high cost of living. I honestly don't know how someone would live in Calgary on $8.40 or $8.80 per hour.

I wanted to provide an example of what this increase might mean to a typical small business.

An employer with 10 full time employees at $8.40 per hour, all at minimum wage, will pay 375 hours per week. (37.5 hours per employee.) They will pay a gross payroll of $3,150. If you factor 1.5 for employees contributions to EI and CPP the payroll becomes $4,725.

The same payroll at $8.80 costs $4,950, a difference of $225. So for this company the additional payroll will cost them $1,000 more per month.

To the employee this will mean a wage increase of $60 per month, or about $45 after withholding taxes. It might not mean much to many of us, but if you're in this wage bracket it might mean being able to keep your apartment or not.

Every business is different. Some won't be able to cover the difference and will cut back hours or layoff. Others will cut in other areas. Keep in mind that wages are a business expense that reduces the amount of corporate taxes that are paid. So its hard to say what the final cost really is.

Ain't life wonderful in the big city. Please recommend this post

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Curious About Harper's History Lesson

I'm curious to know when and how Stephen Harper arrived at this curious epiphany about not being able to win the war in Afghanistan.

Was it last Thursday at 3:14 AM? Was it in 1984?

I think it is an important question. When did he know this? Which books did he read? If he knew this before the Conservative Party came to power and escalated the Afghanistan mission then he traded ethics for politic posturing and death.

If he knew before the insufferable General Hillier went all jingoistic then he was negligent in not forwarding those history books to the General to read before he spoke.

I remember listening to General Hillier and thinking what it must have been like to have been a Soldier in 1914 listening to some General blather on about what a great adventure it will be and how you'll all be home by Christmas. It didn't turn out that way then our now.

Hopefully Harper's next historical epiphany will be about R.B.Bennett and the Great Depression. Can't wait. Please recommend this post

More Liberal Bashing of "Albertans"

The Calgary Herald reported today that the Alberta Government was giving about 1.5 Billion dollars in concessions to Oil & Gas Companies to stimulate drilling in these dark times.

In response to this story a liberal blogger wrote the following:

How stupid can Albertan’s[sic] get?

The government in perpetuity has now decided since they couldn’t afford the slogan change on vehicle license plates they would instead keep the oil drilling industry “STRONG” by making the oil and gas, FREE.

This is how common sense works in hillbilly, all conservative, Alberta.

I can't really defend Stelmach's plan's to roll out cash to the Oil Patch. But I do know that the decision wasn't made by Stupid Albertans. It was made like all decisions here are made, by the Premier behind closed doors. I don't know what's meant by hillbilly, obviously an insult to all of us Albertans, regardless of how hard we work to get Stelmach and Harper out of office. We're not all Conservatives here. A lot of us don't support the Tories and their dumb ideas.

When liberal bloggers write smears like this they sound just like Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter.

I tried to leave a comment on the blog but it was never published. Please recommend this post