Saturday, December 18, 2010

December 18

This is not the type of thing I usually write about, but...

This is one the few photos of my dad that I have, standing outside the Alberta Legislature in his RCAF uniform. Hard to say what the year is, or how old he is. I barely had any time with my father, and never got to know him at all. On a blistering cold December 18th day he died, and that was it. The memory images of that day are bizarre and frightening and come around now and again.

I think about him all the time, and more so at this time of year. Not that it would help, but I know next to nothing about what he did as a young man or what he was like. And none my elders who knew my father have ever shared anything. And of course I often think about what our lives would have been like if our families had been better or luckier.

As you can imagine, it's not hard for me to understand why many find this time of year full of mixed emotions. Please recommend this post

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Life is Bigger than Politics

News was released today that former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein is suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. This is a horrible disease that has no cure and robs the body and brain of oxygen. It doesn't have good outcomes.

It got me thinking about people in politics, their legacy, and the way political biases sometimes get in the way of appreciating simple issues of life and death and family and loss.

When Richard Holbrook died my Twitter stream lit up with many comments. It was very polarized. Detractors were glad Holbrook was dead, accusing him of being a party to genocide and so on. People who liked Holbrook idolized him. Both sides were exaggerating and posturing. Politics as usual, and certainly an example of free speech that many elsewhere do not have. But the historical debate about Holbrook's effect on world events is not going anywhere. It will still be here next week.

My thoughts about Holbrook were not really political, just that he had a family who was devastated by his unexpected death. And to have to deal with that in the context of a furious public discussion seemed horrible to me. There are no relevant politics in the immediacy of death. Yet there is an unlimited future down the road to analyse and debate. Patience may be a virtue at these times.

Back to Klein. Premier Stelmach said some nice words about Klein. But he also said:

It is a wonderful time to reflect on Ralph’s wonderful accomplishments.

Actually, Mr. Stelmach, no it isn't. It's not a time for politics at all. And believe me that would be a highly charged, polarized reflection.

It's hard for me to refrain from saying something negative about Klein right now, but to be honest it's not all that important in the broader scheme of life and health.(I've written about Klein many times in the past. I was rarely very nice.)

There will be decades and decades to talk and argue about Klein's legacy. Maybe that time is not right now. Life is bigger than politics. Families and their grieving are important, and we should think about them too. Please recommend this post

Friday, December 10, 2010

Consequences in Lala Land

When I read stuff like this, I fill with despair and even fear.

These men crave followers and attention so they offer cures for everything, but with next to no professional skill or credentials to deal with mental health problems. To make it worse, emotionally incapacitated people are taught not to question the Church's authority, and to believe in miraculous cures that never occur. It's malpractice, but they get away with it because no one wants to persecute a Church.

And if you happen to be gay AND depressed you'll be thrown into an indescribable hell hole.

I put them in the same category as those who think you can cure depression with vitamins, reiki, magnets, or countless other quackeries. They can do great harm, up to and including suicide.

Becky's story is doubly tragic. First she lost her father, who probably believed he could pray his illness away. If only I had stronger faith, he probably told himself, right up until the end. The second tragedy is she doesn't seem to get it. At all.

Jesus doesn't cure depression.
Prayer doesn't cure depression.
There are no miracle cures for serious illness.
Depression is not caused by sin or lack of faith.

A family physician knows the proper protocols and tests to figure out your physical and mental condition. And they know the treatments that are most likely to be effective.

Trust me on this, Elmer Gantry can't help you. Please recommend this post

Friday, December 03, 2010

Open Letter to Dr. Elizabeth Cannon

Please consider faxing or emailing this open letter to University of Calgary President Dr. Elizabeth Cannon. This is regarding Dr. Flanagan's comments on CBC re Julian Assange.

I recommend including your own cover letter with your own thoughts to minimise the perception of spamming.

Also, please be respectful, she is not responsible for Dr. Flanagan's comments.

Contact Info:

Fax: 403-289-6800
Country code: +1
Email Elizabeth Cannon: president @ Please recommend this post

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Flanigan: Diminished Expectations

I'm still taking in the Tom Flanagan's comments about assassinating Julian Assange. What amazed me about the comments was how casual and glib they were - as if another man's sub-judicial, illegal killing was academic. The snicker chilled me.

He apologized the next day for his glibness and said the right things about the rule of law, due process and so on, but these things sometimes take on a life of their own, even after apologies.

There are some angry people out there on social media and I believe their anger is justified. It makes me happy to know this isn't going away quietly. But what should the consequences be? There are a number of people who would have the University of Calgary fire Dr. Flanagan. Others propose censure or reprimand. (See Kris Kotarski's Facebook group here, which proposes censure.)

I doubt requests to fire will succeed for a number of reasons. Among them, academic freedom (see screen shot), his tenure, that the comments were not made as part of his academic duties, and that political correctness will likely prevail at the University.

Nonetheless I think the University should hear from its Students and alumni on this issue. Also, the general public. A University's values should reflect the community, which is generally open minded and progressive.

Right wing academics and culture warriors have been peddling the idea for years that universities are just full of corrupt lefties ruining the minds of young people, stifling free discussion, and are a general menace to society.

Yet when University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill published a somewhat inflammatory explanation of the 9-11 attacks, the University accused him of academic misconduct and went to great lengths to have him fired. This kind of thing was quite common in the Bush era.

I wonder how establishment Calgary would handle an academic going on the CBC and glibly suggesting the Pope be assassinated because of his birth control policies in Africa. I think that would set off a nuclear bomb of pious outrage.

The end result of this incident is more diminished expectations about public discourse. And that's something that Preston Manning, the founder of the Reform movement kept warning us about, which is also full of fabulously rich irony.

Update: Dec 2, 2010, 11:50 am MST - change some wording for clarity.
Update: Dec 2, 2010, 15:00 pm MST - grammar edits.
Please recommend this post

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Future

Canada's new Governor General David Johnston aims a C7 assault rifle at the perception that the Monarchy is archaic and ridiculous. For the next while it will be all about guns, soldiers, hockey and cheap donuts. I Miss the Haitian lady.

Photo via Globe & Mail

Please recommend this post

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Night Marxism

Given all I've been reading about wiki-leaks, I can't help but thinking we would have been no worse off with Rufus T. Firefly as our leader. We've always been at war with Sylvania.

That and the unbelievably quiet revelation that former Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor was the de facto CIA station chief in Tehran under the Joe Clarke government.

Come back Mrs. Teasdale, we need you

Twitter Please recommend this post

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Holy Biased Poll

I realize website polls are primarily for entertainment and shouldn't be taken seriously, especially not on a hyper-conservative radio site.

But this poll really stuck out as having a totally meaningless, poorly worded and biased set of choices.

There is some context to this. The "bureaucrats" bad, PC Government good theme has been coalescing all week among partisan conservatives.

The messaging will get heavier this coming week, blaming anyone and everyone - except the Tory Government - for the latest Health Care crisis.

CHED will use their talk radio shows to push this pro-Tory view. Guaranteed.

Update: Last time I checked 77% of the respondents believe the "bureaucrats" were to blame for this political crisis.

Please recommend this post

Friday, November 26, 2010

‘In Memoriam’ for murdered Mexican anti-mining activist refused by Calgary Herald

According to a press release from the Council of Canadians:

An ‘In Memoriam’ classified ad to be run on November 27th on behalf of the family of murdered anti-mining activist Mariano Abarca Roblero has been called "unsuitable" by the Calgary Herald, though several other Canadian newspapers, including the Globe and Mail and the Edmonton Journal, have agreed to print it.

"We are confused about why the Calgary Herald would refuse a paid ‘In Memoriam’ on the anniversary of the death of Mariano Abarca. Former employees of Blackfire Exploration, a Calgary-based firm, are in jail in Chiapas, Mexico awaiting court appearances related to his murder. We sincerely hope the Herald is not simply trying to avoid controversy from a local company," says Rick Arnold, coordinator of Common Frontiers.

Sickening if true. I look forward to a time when the Calgary Herald just doesn't matter anymore.

Read more. Please recommend this post

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Calgary Herald Opposes Basic Democracy

To no one's surprise the Calgary Herald wrote an op-ed wholly justifying the Senate's vote down of Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act. It seems so twisted, to me I can only summarise it in point form:

  • The bill would cause irreparable economic harm while at the same time mandating unattainble C02 reduction goals. Unattainable, yet catastrophic.
  • Millions will end up out of work and we'll be standing in soup lines.
  • Ideological climate change denial trumps any consideration of basic democracy.
  • Stephen Harper had no choice but to appoint Conservative partisans to the Senate because no other province would hold fake Senate elections like Alberta.
  • Canadians will freeze in the dark, will have to stop driving, and will have turn down their heat by 40%.
  • Our estimates and statistics were very carefully checked by Lord Monckton.
  • For rhetorical purposes, the oil sands and coal based electricity do not exist and do not produce C02. All reductions are on individuals.

Ok, I made the part up about Monckton. But would you have doubted it if I hadn't said so?

As Harper's era comes to an end, and the rest of the world starts tackling climate change without us, the status quo will be defended by liars.

Please recommend this post

When a Witch Weighs the Same as a Duck

Ed Stelmach's communication style is oblique and opaque most of the time. Opaque in the sense of being impenetrable by light. Today he all but confirmed that Stephen Duckett would be relieved of his duties as the Alberta Health Services CEO. At least that's what I read among the grimaces and incomplete sentences. I'm not surprised. Health Care is the most dysfunctional file in the Alberta Government and has been in constant churn since the end of the Don Getty era.

Duckett will be paid contract severance and we are obligated to pay to move him and his family back to Australia. (View his contract here.) On top of that, he may be able to sue for wrongful dismissal. While the cookie thing was certainly unprofessional I'm not convinced it is grounds for termination. On the other hand, the current condition of the Health Care System strongly suggests he either failed in his job, or just could not effect any good changes because of politics. In either case, I strongly suggest he was looking for an early exit anyway. It's not pleasant for a CEO to have no real control, and to work in a gong show environment.

Really, it's a failure of the whole top level bureaucracy, from the Premier downward. It's a strange feeling for me to agree with Danielle Smith on something, namely that the super board concept is a failure and needs to be disbanded. Of course, the Wildrose general philosophy about health care is very different from mine. Still, put that dog down.

One thing that did bug me, was the way Albertan's treated Dr. Duckett right from day one. Edmonton tends to be a little inward looking and Duckett wasn't really welcomed as an outsider. Furthermore, there were constant gratuitous references to his Australianness which were irrelevant and seemed xenophobic. The op-ed cartoons referencing Crocadile Dundy themes were sort of lame.

The PC Government has been fairly consistent for a long time. No matter what bad thing happens they'll use the wrong Yardstick, and the hammer will come down on the wrong person.

Please recommend this post

Monday, November 22, 2010

Link Byfield "Resigns"

Link Byfield resigned his position as one of Alberta's senators-in-waiting today. I was hoping at his press conference he might have explained why his friend Senator Bert Brown participated in a shady vote down of a House of Commons Bill, passed by an elected majority. It's extremely ridiculous that Bert Brown can never be removed from his position, which he was appointed to for life by Stephen Harper. There is no bill Parliament can pass to force a term limit on Bert Brown or any other Senator.

Alberta held Senate elections in 2004 and three people were elected to serve 6 year terms as senators-in-waiting. Upon expiry this year, Premier Stelmach declined to hold another election and instead extended their terms. Regardless of what you think of this fake Senate reform, it's worth noting that Stelmach has zero regard for any kind of political reform.

The fact that Byfield is a Wildrose Alliance executive, and a candidate for them in the next election explains why Premier Stelmach was not willing to give him a tonne of free publicity with a senator-in-waiting election. The pattern by now is very clear. Ed Stelmach puts his party ahead of every single public issue, no matter what it is.

The senator-in-waiting act is a Provincial Statute that has no meaning outside of Alberta. It was invented by Ralph Klein as a PR stunt to shore up the right side (Reformers) of the PC Party. The Senate is a national body defined in our Constitution Act. All Senators are appointed by our Head of State, on the advice of the Prime Minister, who traditionally may ask for a recommendation from a Premier. This is High School curriculum knowledge, but seems on the decline among voting adults.

The Alberta Senate elections are relatively inexpensive, harmless, and give right leaning Albertans a warm fuzzy feeling about political reform. They get poor turnout and the candidates, so far, have only been drawn from the political right. Like everything else in Alberta, you can pick the conservative, or the other conservative. Watch out for the homophobia.

In all honesty, to me they are a meaningless gong show. And for the record, I'm interested in Senate reform as an ongoing issue.

The broader issue is not Link or Ed. This issue is the deteriorating knowledge about our institutions and how they work. I meet people who honestly believe a senator-in-waiting is legally entitled to the next open Senator position.

Stephen Harper and to some extent Klein and Stelmach have worked hard to de-educate Albertans about our national institutions, in particular about how Senate appointments work.

Where this issue goes in the future is hard to say. After the next Provincial election the Alberta Legislature could be divided up among 3 right leaning parties. I think it will continue to be used as a partisan wedge issue.

The next Liberal Prime Minister will not be bound to appoint any of Alberta's senators-in- waiting. Nor will he be bound by any of Stephen Harper's fake Senate reform bills. After all, Canada is founded on a faulty constitution, and other fault lines that seem intractable.

Please recommend this post

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Night Cockburn

I'm loner with a loner's point of view,
I've always been a loner,
Now I'm in love with you

Please recommend this post

Saturday, November 20, 2010

UN Endorses State Violence against Gays

The Social, Humanitarian Cultural Affairs Committee of the UN General Assembly has voted to remove reference to sexuality from a resolution which condemns the use of "extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions".

Shame on the United Nations. And since it was a close vote, shame on those nations that abstained or didn't show up. I realize the UN has little real power, but these kind of resolutions are extremely important. Please recommend this post

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

James Travers: Remembrance,Country

James Travers is such a great writer. Here he says exactly what needs to be said, at a politically incorrect time.

There are many things my father and uncle wouldn’t recognize. They wouldn’t understand a country where patriotism is partisan, where men and women in uniform are used as political props or where death and sports are shamelessly conflated on Hockey Night in Canada.

Every year on Remembrance day there's that one thing that I see or read that just caves me in.

Cross posted Please recommend this post

Monday, November 08, 2010

Queer Ugandans ask Parliament for refugee assistance (Canada)

Since when is it the role of a Member of Parliament to agree or disagree with someone's lifestyle choice. Someone please shoot me, I can't live in this country anymore.

The Commons subcommittee on international human rights – part of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development – heard from the Pride Uganda Alliance International on the plight on queers in Uganda.

He also noted that the influence of American evangelical Christian groups has been widely felt as they try to use the proposed Ugandan law as a “model” for other countries to follow when it comes to legislating against homosexuality.

The mention of these evangelical groups prompted Conservative MP Dave Sweet to try assure the witnesses that not all Christians condone the acts of hate even though “we might not agree with the lifestyle choice,” while Reid said that he felt his parents, who were evangelical missionaries, would be horrified by what has transpired in Uganda.

Bold is mine. One hopes our government will do the right thing. It must be incredibly awkward for the social conservative caucus in Harper's Government, given their close ties to the groups that are exporting homophobia to Africa.

Please recommend this post

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Canadian Veterans National Day of Protest - Calgary Alberta

(a lot of links below, hope they all work ...)

I attended the Canadian Veterans National Day of Protest this morning in Calgary. It was a good event on an unusually warm November day. I was disappointed that more Calgarians did not come out for this. After reading up a bit I was really shocked and saddened by how badly the current government has mishandled Veteran Affairs.

Here is a link to what they handed out at the rally today. There is more good reading at the Veteran`s voice website, and at the event website.

Please sign the petition here.

Here`s a video of the speech by retired Major C.J. Wallace, and under that is a link to some photos at the event.

Canadian Veterans National Day of Protest - Calgary Alberta
Please recommend this post

Health Care WAP Style.

Here's a podcast of CBC Calgary's noon hour show today, featuring Danielle Smith talking about the Alberta Health Care system. It starts at around 25:40. Her critiques of the existing system are mostly right on. Everyone knows that the Stelmach government's management of the health care system is ridiculously incompetent. There are really no words to describe it.

However the Wildrose/Fraser Institutes philosophy presented here is equally as ridiculous. She really gets hammered by a number of callers who see through the BS.

An emergency hip replacement for a senior is not the same as shopping around for new vinyl siding.
Please recommend this post

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Prentice Abandons Ship

What can you say about Jim Prentice? Widely regarded as a moderate conservative, well liked by fellow MP's and a well respected Calgarian. But also, a man with no influence or future in Stephen Harper's highly radicalized political movement.

Two Prentice moments that stick out for me:

1. Voting for same sex marriage. I believe that he was sincere in this vote, mostly alone among conservative MPs. In three elections in Calgary Centre North, Prentice won by wide margins. He took no political hit for this brave choice, which also says something about Calgary.

2. The second moment was the discovery of the wreckage of the British ship HMS Investigator. This ship was sent out in search of the Franklin Expedition in the 1850s and itself was destroyed in an ice pack. In August 2010 Prentice sailed out into ice free water to look down through the water at the wreckage of the Investigator. He gushed, apparently, that it was just like looking through a window into the 1800's. Actually, its probably more like looking into the future where there's no more ice and everything is under water. Prentice expressed no sense of the irony of this discovery given his responsibility as the environment minister. Archeology is made much easier by global warming I guess.

After the elaborate photo-op with the Archeologists it was back to Ottawa to cut more climate change programs.

Please recommend this post

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Batman and the Birth of Venus

Isabel Samaras is my latest guilty pleasure artist. It hits my spot because I love both pop art and classical art. This Batman and Robin piece works in so many ways.

And then there was this homage to Bouguereau and all those birth of Venus paintings, using character from Gilligan's Island. Too much.

Please recommend this post

Friday, October 22, 2010

Billy Connolly for Alberta Premier

Welcome to the Committee to elect Billy Connolly as Alberta's Next Premier (CEBCANP).

This must be an old video, and where do you get one of those Beetlejuice suits.

I think he would make a great Premier. How could we do worse than what we have now? Please recommend this post

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

God's Word on the Election

Jim Blake is the Calgary based head of Concerned Christians Canada, an Evangelical pressure group with political ambitions. Jim is none too happy about the election of Naheed Nenshi as Calgary's new mayor.

He starts off by quoting the prophet Hosea:

They set up kings without my consent;
they choose princes without my approval.

This verse is often quoted by dominion theology advocates. Democracy is displeasing to God unless you elect the one God wants. Or the one Jim and his friends want. It gets confusing. Don't laugh it's not funny. These guys are walking in and out of the Prime Minister's office and laying hands on your MP.

Jim get's to the meat of the matter:

Well we will all have to be very watchful of City hall now. Many of the worst aldermen have been re-elected and now with a Mayor who clearly has stated that he is a Muslim and an open supporter of the "Pride Parade" and therefor [sic] "alternate lifestyles", things should be very interesting.

Yes, they will be interesting. This is one little sign that my vote for Nenshi was well placed. I'm alway fascinated how one person's spiritual path turns them into a small minded bigot.

Aside: At the bottom left of the blog post there's a poll asking you to evaluate Ed Stelmach's performance. It's very strange that Alberta's worst Premier gets such a high rating from this group. Don't God's people have any discernment these days?
Please recommend this post

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

D-Bag of the Year Award


Congratulations to Naheed Nenshi for winning the Mayor's job in Calgary. Now we know obnoxious conservatives can be defeated in Calgary. Next task: Alberta PC's.

Please recommend this post

Monday, October 18, 2010

Calgary's Next Mayor

Tomorrow morning I will vote in the Calgary Municipal election. I have not missed a municipal vote in Edmonton or Calgary since I have been an eligible voter. Some times I wonder if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

I have been conflicted for a while about who to vote for mayor, but right now (12:30am) I am strongly leaning towards Naheed Nenshi. We have been led to believe that this is a three way race between Barb Higgins, Ric McIver and Nenshi. While I'm very wary of partisan story lines, the polling has been very clear that Nenshi has strong momentum and closed a very large gap between himself and the other two.

This is one election I would never bet on. The polling has been wacky to say the least. All I will say is that tomorrow I think a lot of pundits will be very surprised at the outcome. Some may have to change careers.

Higgins and McIver are non-starters for me, for a list of reasons that aren't all that interesting. I had hoped to see more women in the mayor's race. I was disappointed with some of the sexist commentary that went on discussing Ms. Higgins personality and platform. Higgins weakness was her arrogance, and refusal to engage or debate. But people framed it completely different than those same qualities in a male candidate. We have a ways to go.

The truth is I liked Naheed as a candidate early on, but I also liked Kent Hehr. When Hehr dropped out of the race I really didn't see another candidate that resonated with me.

At the same time I was asking questions in my head, being a skeptic of political claims and promises. I generally don't like euphoria based politics. Enthusiasm is great, but at some point it becomes cult-like, and the true believers become difficult to talk to. All of the candidates ideas fell down from heaven and can't be questioned. Bleh.

The Calgary Sun's endorsement of Nenshi has been troublesome, and I'm not 100% sure I want to vote for someone who earned this endorsement. I tend to think these things are negotiated by the campaign managers, but maybe it came out of the blue. Subsequent columns at this paper make it obvious that they believe Nenshi to be an acceptable substitute for McIver. In other words, they expect Nenshi to be a slash and cut fiscal conservative. The endorsement means the Sun saw Nenshi as far enough to the political right to be acceptable to them. That worries me a lot.

I realize this has been a little incoherent. Barring any last minute revelations from visiting Angels (or a sex tape) I guess I probably will vote for Nenshi. Whoever wins will have a huge challenge managing the expectations of the next 3 years. I would not want that job. There are huge capital projects, rising costs of what we already have, and an anti-taxation sub-culture. Good luck. Calgary will need the smartest Mayor available.

Aside: I was completely disgusted with the race/religion baiting of the Calgary Herald during this campaign. I completely repudiate this nonsense as being in any way relevant to the Calgary of the future.

Edit, October 20, 2010: Changed "next 4 years" to "next 3 years". Duh. Also, fixed 4 (four) typos. Please recommend this post

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


A quick thank you to the 153 Toronto Elitists who voted to discontinue Bill C-391. This vote was a smaller side-show in a broader battle that will no doubt carry over into the next election.

For me the low point was the heckling of Scott Simms. This descent into ignorance has been around for a while and we will have to deal with it. Our political culture needs to change, one way or another.

James Travers' piece is also worth a read.

But now, the Audries:

Please recommend this post

Saturday, August 07, 2010


Aretha lays it out for Matt Murphy. The Best scene from a musical ever.

The moral seems to be that if the boys show wanting to get the band back together, don't tell your SO. Please recommend this post

Friday, August 06, 2010

Destroyers of Cities

Near the end of Ray Bradbury's classic novel Fahrenheit 451 the main character, Guy Montag, leaves his city for the countryside and joins up with a band of exiled hobo/intellectuals. While sitting around a fire talking they see the sky light up as the city is destroyed. In Bradbury's imaginary future world there is never ending war and sudden destruction.

The group's leaders Granger, has a soliloquy near the end of the novel that kind of nails it all together:

"Now, let's get on upstream," said Granger. "And hold on to one thought: You're not important. You're not anything. Some day the load we're carrying with us may help someone. But even when we had the books on hand, a long time ago, we didn't use what we got out of them. We went right on insulting the dead. We went right on spitting in the graves of all the poor ones who died before us. We're going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we're doing, you can say, We're remembering. That's where we'll win out in the long run. And some day we'll remember so much that we'll build the biggest goddam steam-shovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in and cover it up. Come on now, we're going to go build a mirror-factory first and put out nothing but mirrors for the next year and take a long look in them."

Mirrors, not bombs. Please recommend this post

Love Your Enemies


After more than 30 years in business, the Fayetteville Women’s Clinic in Arkansas closed its doors on July 30. The clinic had more than 500 patients and was “one of only two places in the state where women could have a surgical abortion.” While it focused mainly on obstetrics and gynecology, it also performed 700-800 abortions each year.

The Chief Physician of the Clinic, Dr. William Harrison, is ceasing operations because of his battle with cancer.

An anti-choice group is taking credit for the closure of the clinic noting that:

“It is truly an answer to prayer that abortions will no longer be carried out at this facility. All the glory belongs to God.” [...] How Humbling it will be to see God use the simplicity of prayer, fasting, outreach, and vigil to bring an end to abortion in many more areas, just like Fayetteville?”

I'd like to think that when they were bragging they didn't know about the cancer diagnosis. But they probably did. And that's too bad because it plays into their narrative that God is a monster who throws cancer around at the request of his chosen.

It's a really really appalling attitude, a sick-minded world view, and utterly disconnected from any ethical teaching religion might offer.

Please recommend this post

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

IPhone Consumerism

A small lineup of 20-30 people wait for their chance to buy an IPhone, at the Apple store in Market Mall, Calgary.

It's hard to know where to start.  The whole fan-person, lining up for gadgets topic is so broad and full of side issues we could be here for days.

As a technologist I love gadgets and electronics in general, however this perpetual culture of buy and re-buy as a means of keeping our economy going is something to think about.

Most Technology tends to roughly follow Moores law, where price, speed, and functionality tend to radically improve every 18 months or so.  In some cases manufacturers are getting into one year cycles.

This is both good and bad for the consumer. If you have the means and the interest you can line up every year or so and get a great deal of satisfaction out of the next version.  If you don't have the means, you quickly get left behind.  Your 4 year old flip phone is a key status marker out in the wild.

I remember asking a Rogers Sales Person about why they lock people into 3 year plans when the Phones are only desigined for a much shorter life span. (Both feature wise and in terms of break resistance.)   She stared at me for a good five seconds like I had just asked for sex, then recited the talking point about how great it is to upgrade in the second year.  You should see that "loyalty price" spreadsheet, it's huge.

If you get tired of waiting in that line-up there's a Cookie's By George right around the corner.  Two rich gooey chocolate chip cookies for $3.  There is no Moore's Law for cookies, they'll always be as good as they get.  But picture this, a three year contract requiring you to eat a certain number of cookies in order to get an overall reduced price.

Reprinted from The Last Cut is the Cheapest Please recommend this post

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Who's Suing Whom - Alberta Edition

A 14 year old Alberta girl is being sued by a home owner after the home in which she was sitting went on fire. Fortunately no one was hurt but the house and the neighbor's house were damaged.  It sounds like she's the scapegoat for the insurance companies who see no problem suing a 14 year old for $350,000.  Sure she'll have to pay to defend herself, but I say saddle the girl with a 350K debt.  Send a message to all 14 year olds. Sort of a scorched earth policy. Now if only we could find a way to blame this on the Alberta Liberal Party.

The Alberta Legislature quietly passed Bill 49  in the spring session. This bill prohibits the right of home and business owners and insurance companies from suing Firefighters or municipal fire departments for any kind of negligence. Wrong address? Door chopped in? Sorry, pay for it yourself.  This will save TONNES of cash for the Calgary taxpayer.  We will no longer need to train our firefighters nor invest in  information systems to make sure we destroy the right home. 

A former student of the elite Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School is suing the school for $400,000 because they expelled her. Suddenly, after a school function, they came to realize she maybe wasn't their kind of people.  And all it took was the hearsay evidence of a relative of Peter Lougheed who may have seen something in a washroom, involving groping or something.  I tell you, this Tory elitism and moral staunchness is really something.  The funny part of this story is that private schools in Alberta are heavily funded by the public. (Well, maybe not funny.) So when it settles, you may get an additional tax bill. Your contribution is deeply appreciated. Now get off our lawn.

The Bank of Montreal is suing former customers, employees, and anyone else they can find after discovering one of the largest mortgage frauds in Canadian history.  Apparently they are also suing Calgary CPC Member of Parliament Devinder Shory. I didn`t know who he was. After reading some of his QP gems in Hansard I`d say he`s not the brightest bulb.  But which of them are?  I tell you this Tory elitism and moral staunchness is really something.

We conclude with the sad tale of Ihor Broda. The Edmonton Lawyer and former would be Alberta PC MLA, has finally been disbarred by the Law Society of Alberta for numerous citations of misconduct. I only mention it because we were discussing law suits, and well, it would be hard not to mention it.

I tell you, this Tory elitism ... Please recommend this post

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rights vs Tactics

Earlier in the evening I was getting angry as reports began to emerge about Coulter's speaking engagement at the University of Ottawa being cancelled. To be fair, the earliest reports were kind of hysterical, citing a violent mob of 2000 protesters. I should have known better than to take certain social media streams seriously, especially in the early stages of a story. After all, I'm a Gemini not a Scorpio. Scorpio's are well know for their dishonesty under pressure.

I still don't totally know what the tone of the protest was. Violent? Intimidating? I rather doubt it, but the truth will come out. At first I was thinking that mobs are poor tactics to counter bad thinking, even hate speech. Shouldn't we as liberals and progressives operate on a different level?

Then I started thinking about our rights and freedoms in a broader sense. Under sections 2a,b and c of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the students were entitled to free expression, peaceful assembly and freedom of association. Now I see that those students were right to get in Coulter's face and let her know what they thought. It was a perfect demonstration of free speech and what most Canadians think of the trash of the far right. I would give anything to have been in that protest.

The problem is that conservatives will poodle hump this leg for some time to come as yet another example of liberals being violent, against free speech, and generally demented. It's bullshit of course. Coulter has said so many violence-inducing things that you could not list them all in one place. Yet the QR77 talks shows and the Calgary Herald hate speech advocates will be all over this, framing it as a problem with the "left".

So my problem is weighing those bad optics and expected distortion against the fact that the students exercised their free speech in a beautiful and effective way.

I'm proud to be a support of rights and freedoms. Less proud to be from a city where media pundits support Coulter, not because of free speech, but because they like what she says. Please recommend this post

Buy a Condo Screw a Waitress

About to do my Rage Enabler thing again... Avert your eyes @b... on Twitpic

This is a Condo ad in Calgary. Somebody posted it in my Twitter stream today. If you can't read the text:

A $20,000 downpayment is easier than scoring on a 4 minute 5 on 3. And way easier than scoring with your waitress.

Yeah. Great marketing. This must have come from the creative class that I keep hearing so much about. Also I think it's down payment. I'm not sure I ever would have found this funny or interesting, certainly not now. Other people will though.  Ann Coulter is coming to Calgary soon. Please recommend this post

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Springsteen is a Classic.

Normally, I wouldn't blog about someone like Glenn Beck.  As a Canadian I find him kind of a waste of time. Probably most American's do too. For most people who are reasonably intelligent these kind of people are low value targets. Sort of like Monte Solberg or Charles Adler if you need a Canadian reference point.

However, attacking Bruce Springsteen and his iconic song Born in the USA struck a raw nerve.

(Young Turks Video)

I wasn't overly interested by Beck's recent attacks on the social justice teachings of Jesus.  It was funny in the sense that he dragged a whole bunch of pundits into an argument about a person who probably didn't exist, and if he did exist likely didn't say those things.  The social teachings of Jesus as presented in the Sermon on the Mount, for example, are insipid.  They seem to be established religious teachings, or proverbs, that predate the time of Jesus. They can be viewed like a set of minimum expectations for a society. And yet here were are 2000 years later still arguing with Jesus' followers about the basic rights of people.

Beck's attack on Born in the USA hits much closer to home and rings a bell about the feelings many of us had growing up. The singer asks a very powerful question about where his country went wrong by referencing poverty, hopelessness, urban decay and the pointless and tragic Vietnam war.

Growing up in Edmonton I was certainly not sent off to war and had a remarkably lucky life. But I  remember vividly driving through the industrial waste land and urban sprawl of Edmonton late at night with my friends and being afraid of the future. What the hell were we supposed to do with our lives?  Songs like Born in the USA were very meaningful. They were rare anthems that rose above the emptiness of pop music.

Beck "gets" the lyrics a few years later than everyone else and determines there is some kind of America hating going on. Call out the flying monkeys. Too bad.  History will rank this song as an American Classic, ranking with the best songs of Woody Guthrie or Bob Dylan.  Kids in school will study the lyrics 100 years from now.  Beck's insanity, not so much.

Note: Background on Ronald Reagan's imbecilic references to Springsteen in the 1984 re-election campaign, here. Please recommend this post

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Twisted Narrative of Calgary West (Redux)

Poor Donna Kennedy-Glans has been reduced to writing 3 paragraph op-eds in the Calgary Herald, bemoaning the fact that Rob Anders is the preferred CPC candidate in Calgary West and not herself. Throw in a gratuitous and probably offensive reference to the Berlin wall and you have yourself a real howler.  And yes, of course the euphoria of the Vancouver Olympics means  that all Canadians want her to be the MP for Calgary West.  Because democratic reform of a  dysfunctional CPC riding association equals broader democratic reform, right? Wrong.

Here's a news flash for Anders, Kennedy-Glans, and the Calgary Herald. I don't care one single bit what happens with the Calgary West Conservative riding association. It's completely irrevelant to me and I wouldn't care in the least if your grade nine soap opera fell into a  deep dark hole and disappeared forever. Reform or don't reform, I do not care.  I'm still going to fight  for an electoral change, and that's the only change that counts.

The old guard of Calgary West repudiates and smears Kennedy-Glans by calling her a liberal and a feminist, as usual, using those labels as pejoratives.  If she was serious about being a feminist she wouldn't be in the Conservative party in the first place. So the labelling, whether accurate or not, means very little to me given the sexist retardation of the Party as a whole.  This party will smear anyone that doesn't fit in their plans. They would smear Ronald  Reagan if he showed up and had the nerve to challenge their little boy's club.

I don't want Kennedy-Glans OR Rob Anders as my Member of Parliament. I want another party to represent my riding. I want to see a culture shift that makes it possible to elect an adult from an adult party. It may not happen on the short term, but it's important to keep trying.  The arrogance of these people can only be cured by having them sit on the sidelines learning how hard it is to be out of office. Who the hell cares about how their board works.

We need a serious media fix on this issue. We need new media that will coalesce and run over the old school Tory media and not be afraid to leave tire marks. The idea that the contest in Calgary West is only between Anders and the nomination challenger of the day is a big fat piece of propoganda. Smart people know better. Start speaking up. We need to hear stories about other people and other parties that are active in changing the sick political culture of Calgary, and this riding. Please recommend this post

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Violence Against Women is not Funny

Making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter is another sad attempt at humor.

Read this blog post go to the Facebook page,  click Report in the bottom left corner, and select racism/hate speech.

Now back to eating popcorn and watching some more of Alberta veering off to the right.

Thank you.

Update: Sorry, wrong link.
Please recommend this post

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Facebook Rage Onion Ring Version

Peer pressure and social media can be a force of intense trivialisation.

So now I'm supposed to join 2-3 facebook groups per day to satisfy the demands of being a good network member.  After I join and click the button, then what?  Sit around and wait for messages, updates, witty banter. Do I have to do anything? Show up anywhere? Help organize something? Of course not it's just Facebook.

Here's an idea I came up with. Put down the mouse and go do something useful in the real world.  The one where you actually have to show up instead of clicking on an event you don't really plan to attend.

Making an onion ring more "popular" than Stephen Harper implies that a) you have too much time on your hands, and or b) you can make people do almost anything on Facebook regardless of how trite, meaningless and time-wasting it is. Onion ring popularity is the activist's version of Farmville.  Pardon me for believing that everything on Facebook is an onion ring contest and nothing is really serious.

Call me when someone starts a group called living in the real world is more important than how popular an onion ring is. Please recommend this post

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hitler,the Holocaust and casual Humour

I've watched the German movie Der Untergang (2004) twice now, and I'll probably watch it again. Its a powerful movie that knocked me on my ass, and left me in tears.  It tells the story of the fall of the Third Reich and the final days of  Adolph Hitler in his bunker in east Berlin.  The movie was difficult to make in Germany given their sensitivity to such a topic.  Bruno Ganz's portrayal of Hitler is compelling and controversial, and I believe he took a huge career risk in accepting this role.  I had to push away the idea that the actor and the director were trying to evoke some sympathy about Hitler's character. I didn't work anyway, I felt nothing but loathing from the first scene to the end.

No one really knows what happened in those final days.  But many parts of the story are based on the real memoirs of Traudl Junge, who as a young woman in 1941, became Hitler's favourite secretary and was dictated most of his wartime documents. Through some good luck she escaped the final days of the Reich, was debriefed by the allies, then lived a typical life in postwar Germany  in relative obscurity. In her later years she wrote a memoir called Until the Final Hour.  This story about her life seems to be preoccupied with fairly simple questions,  why did the German people adore Hitler so much, and why did they turn a blind eye to the destruction of European Jews. The irony is that as a young woman she regarded him like a father, a man who was kind to her, and she disbelieved that Germany had done anything wrong.

The last part of the movie is very claustrophobic. Hitler is pinned down in his bunker.  Generals come and go and timidly inform the leader that they should surrender to the Allies. Hitler flies into one rage after another and demands that military strategies be executed.  The generals explain that there are no German armies left. Not long after this intense scene showing Hitler's deepest delusions, his suicide is portrayed.

Enter the clowns.

Because this movie was made in the German language the DVD ships with a number of subtitle files.  These files are easy to edit so you can write your own subtitles if you feel the need to make your friends laugh with a little Hitler humor.

The scene of Hitler raving has been edited hundreds of time on YouTube with subtitles showing the Fuhrer raving about the iPod or whatever other trivial topic that would make people laugh.  I saw about ten of these clips posted on Twitter and Facebook last week with the obligatory LOL's and this is funny preludes. Internet memes being what they are this one has gone viral and I imagine it will keep rolling for some time.

Do you remember how liberals reacted when a Utah movie rental company, owned by religious zealots, wanted to rent movies that they had re-edited to be safe for religious zealots to watch?  Of course they were stopped by the courts since they had no right to edit someone else's copyrighted work.  

In this case I believe these Der Untergang spoofs are copyright violations.  Moreover they are taking an incredibly powerful movie and mocking it. Who knew that the Holocaust could be such a powerful platform for social media humor.

Grow up. Stop watching these clips and go watch the whole movie. This isn't cheeseburger cats.

Please recommend this post

Thursday, January 28, 2010

CAPPYYC Rally Afterburn

Disclaimer: My Blog, this post, and my thoughts here reflect my own views and are not associated with the Organizing Committee of CAPPYYC.


We had a post rally debriefing meeting last night. We put together the following statement for our Facebook supporters:

Our rally outside Mr. Harper’s office this past Saturday was a solid success. Over 350 people attended (based on the 357 signatures on our petition as well as the estimates of the police and news crews!) and we had solid coverage from 3 English television networks, one Chinese network and a wide variety of local papers. The tone of the gathering was polite and positive, attendance exceeded our expectations despite the weather, and we are very happy with how everything turned out. Thank you to everyone who took some time out of their day to come out and make their opinion known!

Here is a link to a video of the event,
plus a link to the delivery of the signatures today,

The steering committee had a debrief meeting on Wednesday to discuss lessons learned and the possibility of future events, and we agreed that much remains to be done. We don’t want this issue to fade or to get lost in partisan posturing! As a result we will begin working on events dedicated toward increasing civic engagement and educating people about our system, as well as a second rally to be held close to the actual sitting of Parliament in March. The fact that concern over the erosion of our representative institutions got over 350 Calgarians out in the January cold seems to us to indicate that there is work to be done before the next election!

I thought the debriefing meeting was a little intense as everyone shared their thoughts about the things that worked well and the things we could have done a better job on.  There were a lot of things we could have done better.  Generally, I think every one felt the rally was a great success.  We got a turn out of about 350 people.  That may not seem like a lot, but consider that it was -10c with blowing snow, and we were in the most conservative federal riding in all of Canada.

I thought the Calgary media was really good to us in terms of coverage and reporting the event fairly. I really didn't know what to expect from the media. The 3 or 4 Calgary Police Officers assigned to the event were really nice to us even though we spilled out onto the road due to a lack of room on the sidewalk.

We feel we picked the right location in front of Stephen Harper's constituency office.  I had some off and on worries that the location might not work.

Another thing that totally impressed me was the attitude of the crowd and the atmosphere.  Everyone was really happy and friendly.  Everyone I talked to agreed that it was a fun atmosphere.

While it would not be fair for me to divulge specific comments of other committee members, I can tell you the list of "learn from" issues that I brought to the discussion:

  • Not enough time to recruit volunteers. Five people did all the work, and among us the work wasn't really distributed properly.
  • Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogs has mixed results for generating interest. This may have been due to the compressed delivery time, or we just may not have been messaging properly.
  • I thought people with key tasks should have some redundancy or backup in case they couldn't deliver their responsibility for some reason.
  • If we had more time we could have identified people's skills and interests more and mapped tasks a bit better.
  • There was no real project time line to see where we were in the planning.  Again, due to compressed time frame.
  • Our  petition  should have gone out much earlier. 
  • We should have had some type of hand-out at the event. (There were about 4-5 other groups that showed up and handed out their stuff.)
  • I would have liked to live blog the event, or video stream it.  We didn't have the time or resources

All of our self-criticisms seems to come out of not having enough time and people.  Nonetheless I am personally very happy with the way the event turned out.  And I also am in awe of my fellow committee members for their smarts, determination, and passion.

We now look forward to planning another event that we hope will be even more successful. Stay tuned. Please recommend this post

Friday, January 22, 2010

CAPP YYC Rally Tomorrow

Thanks for all who worked to get the Calgary Rally off the ground, and thanks ahead of time for all of you who are going to show up tomorrow.

Here is a link to our petition document.  It got out a bit late, but whatever signatures you can get is great. We will have lots of places to sign tomorrow at the rally.

Two final reminders:
1. Parking is very limited around Mr Harper's office.  Please try to avoid driving if you can.  There is lots of parking in South Glenmore park, but its a 10-15 minute walk.
2. We still need volunteers.

Map Please recommend this post

Thursday, January 21, 2010

CAPPYYC Needs Some Volunteers

We're getting more excited about the CAPP rally on Saturday.

If you're in Calgary and are attending we really could use some volunteers.  We realized that our venue is somewhat sprawling with multiple entry and exit points so we want some people to direct participants to the right location. Its a fairly simple job and we'll buy you all the sugar free bran muffins and green tea you can eat.  Or, cheese burgers and coca cola.  We're not here to judge you.

Drop me a line if you can help out.  And thanks. Please recommend this post

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CAPPYYC Rally Blogger Plug

Calgary's CAPP rally is this Saturday, January 23,2010, on the parking lot directly outside Stephen Harper's Constituency Office.

The address is:

1600 - 90 th Avenue SW
(also known as Glenmore Landing, a popular shopping centre.)

We recommend you not bring your car to the event due to limited parking.  There is a lot of parking in nearby, but not in the shopping centre.  There are maps and transit info on the event page.  We also wanted to avoid causing a problem for the retail businesses around Mr. Harper's office.

If you like walking, the location is about 15-20 minutes from the Heritage CTrain Station.

The rally will start at 1pm and will go for at least an hour, and longer if the participants want.

Because of the right leaning nature of Calgary's Social media, and the completely appropriate  attention shift to the Haiti relief efforts, it has been difficult to get our rally talked about in the blogosphere or on Twitter. If you are a Calgary blogger please help us and blog about this non-partisan event.  There are tonnes of excellent opinion blog posts about the Prorogue so I won't cover that territory here.

We will be presenting a petition to Mr.Harper's constituency office and hope you will help gather signatures. The petition asks that Parliament return in January. A PDF version of the petition and signing sheets will be available sometime today.

A link an image of  one of our posters is here.

Our press release is here

Follow the organizers on Twitter.

Thanks to the Calgarians who have supported this event, and the organizers who have worked very hard.

Tell your friends. Please recommend this post

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I have a copy of The Well Educated Mind by Susan Bauer.  It’s another book of lists suggesting what books you should read to have a better knowledge of the so called western canon.  But the author goes  beyond just listing books and explains how to critically read literature, a skill that I was never taught anywhere in my education. Yet, when I got to university it was presumed I would know how to read Plato with no problem.  (ed. You bitter?)

A third edition of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die will be out in March 2010.  I’ve written about this book a number of times and I still think it’s great.  The blogger Arukiyomi has updated his spreadsheet for this book. The spreadsheet has a full list of the books so you can keep track of what you've read, plus links into Amazon for each book. You have to see this spreadsheet, its monumental, and evidently they put quite a lot of work into it. I still figure I would have to read about 5 of the listed books per month to get through the list.  Unlikely, given half my time is spent with a vicious online gambling addiction….
But you shouldn’t not try.

Sadly,  P.K. Page one of my favourite Canadian Poets passed away last week. Canadian post-war poetry was mostly dominated by men.  She competed well against the like of  Irving Layton, Leonard Cohen, Al Purdy, and many others.  She had a very unique voice and style.  She was also a visual artist, under her married name P.K. Irwin. I have a great admiration for all those who wrestle with words and create something lasting.  We see through a glass darkly. Please recommend this post

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Saturday Night Skeptic.

Mr. Deity and the Skeptic:

That touches my raw points on so many levels its actually funnier than the funniness of the video.
Please recommend this post

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Down the Canwest Rabbit Hole

Yesterday’s Canwest story about supposedly missing ammonium nitrate in the lower mainland was short on details and high on irrelevant fear mongering.  I think it was rushed out. Or maybe a night cleaner got on someone’s computer.

Four quick paragraphs to remind you who to fear and loathe:
VANCOUVER — Up to two tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which can be used to make explosives, has gone missing on its way from Alberta to North Vancouver, the Vancouver Province has learned.
Kinder Morgan, a pipeline and energy storing company, was transporting a huge amount of the chemical compound in one-tonne cubes, but two cubes did not make it to their final destination in North Vancouver.

Ammonium nitrate has been used by the Taliban in Afghanistan to make explosives.

Col. Mark Lee, who heads NATO's effort to stop bomb-makers in southern Afghanistan, was recently quoted in the New York Times saying, "You can turn a bag of ammonium nitrate into a bomb in a matter of hours."
Around the same time the Globe & Mail wrote the same story except they included more facts.  The main fact was that the RCMP and the company believed the missing chemicals to be a clerical error. The RCMP believed they had no probable grounds to believe the stuff was missing, and certainly no reason to suspect a terrorist plot.

Canwest quickly re-wrote their story after the clerical error clarification and over-wrote, with the same URL, the original story quoted above.. Down the memory hole.

It’s not that I trust the RCMP in particular, I just think if I were a journalist I would be skeptical and lean to the clerical error explanation in the absence of any proof whatsoever of a theft or a plot.

But Canwest wasn’t done humping my leg. In the final story they couldn’t resist throwing in a pointless reference to the Oklahoma City bombing. So now in return I get to throw in a pointless reference to white hyper-patriotic opus day Catholics.

We know how dangerous ammonium nitrate is, and the thought of a few tonnes going missing made me very nervous. Especially when you consider that there has been sporadic bombings of oil and gas facilities in Alberta and B.C.  It may or may not be helpful to point out that the so called En Cana bomber is likely a rural land owner, demographically likely to be a Harper voter. (Zing)

I must stop reading these people’s junk.  My left eye has been twitching for two days. Please recommend this post

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Calgary's Rally Until Now Noticeably Lacking

I was surprised to learn Calgary, Alberta was one of the few cities in Canada not organizing an anti-prorogue rally.  Ok, I wasn't really surprised I was just being polite.

Although I loath facebook it is somewhat useful for organizing groups and events. Please join the group I created attempting to organize a rally in Calgary. If it falls on dead ears, at least we tried.  Sorry, typo, I meant deaf ears. I was thinking of brains.

What we need now are ideas, facebook tips, admins and joiners.

If you can think of any other social media sites we could supplement this group with please let me know.

In the meantime a little Bruce Cockburn:

Please recommend this post