Canadian Honky-Tonk Bar Association

Rejoice, you have a voice, if you’re concerned about the destination, of this great nation,
We represent the hardhat, gunrack, achin’-back, over taxed, flag-wavin’, fun-lovin’ crowd!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Definition of Irony

Irony in the dictionary should just be changed to this story.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Sports (Part I)

I call this Part 1 as I have too much to write about in just one post. I said in the comment section that I will be posting on what constitutes a sport since I said shooting gun is not a sport. I need to comment on the stupid Bryant Gumbel racist comment. I need to talk about the Winter Olympics and a reflection on Canada's performance, which I will leave until we finish our events.

So now the comprehensive list on what is, and isn't, a sport. If you think I'm wrong, leave a comment, but chances are you are just wrong.

So to address what is a sport, I'll start by giving some examples of sports that no one, in their right mind, disagrees with: hockey, basketball, football, soccer, rugby, tennis, baseball, cricket, handball, squash, racquetball, table tennis (no one would disagree with this one if you actually see professionals play), cross country skiing, track/marathon running, bike racing, speed skating, swimming, lacrosse, volleyball, badminton, and Aussi rules football. I probably missed a ton in there, but you should be ale to get the point with any of these. There can be a lot of physical exertion, combined with some level of skill and strategy.

The other common theme of all of these sports is that is completely objective who wins. There is no doubt who won the football game, it is the team that scored the most points. Yes, a referee can get a call wrong, but you look at video replay and come up with an answer if the ref was got it wrong or not. This is not to say that all judged events are not sports, if you can properly assign a score that will consistently be given by different judges under perfect viewing conditions, then I will argue that it is objective.

Which brings me to my first event that I will say is not a sport: figure skating/ice dancing. You cannot call anything a sport that your uniform and music get judged based on artistic merit. I understand it is a very physically demanding competition, it just is not a sport. The new judging system maybe is a step in the right direction, but it still matters what the freaking participant is wearing! This isn't a beauty pageant, if you want to be a sport, act like one. Now that figure skating is not a sport, gymnastics comes into question. Here is the big difference for me: male floor routine = sport, female floor routine = not a sport (this is not sexist, the events are different, if females did the male version it would be a sport). When females do the routine, it matters how they work to their music and how graceful they are between athletic moves. For the male version, only the athletic moves count. You can then assign difficulty and judging criteria based on completely objective actions instead of how "pretty" the thing looked.

Golf is a sport. I hear people say it isn't, mostly because they either think a) it is boring or b) you can be out of shape and do it, it isn't physical, etc. The boring argument is irrelevant, I just hear it all the time, and if you want to argue it, you are stupid, period. On the physicality of golf, I think it requires a tremendous amount of skill to play well. It is a different type of sport than hockey to be sure, as under normal conditions a golfer will not be gasping for air after their round. Why golf qualifies as a sport is that it takes incredible control of strength and agility to hit the golf ball. You have to alter how you are going to swing depending on what the lie is (ie. uphill, downhill, the ground conditions, etc) so it is not just one repeatable action over and over. It is true that you can have a beer belly and be a good golfer, but the best golfers all have personal trainers and work out daily. To swing faster you need to be stronger, and swinging faster has benefits in many areas of the game. Winning at golf also is completely objective as the person with the best score wins, so it does follow all the rules up until now.

The other thing that can make a sport is reaction time and quickness. This is why I will allow someone to consider auto racing a sport, in that they control the car and react to the other drivers. I agree it is borderline, but I am also told the amount of G-force a typical racer feels will also completely tire someone out that is out of shape. I have never seen a fat race car driver, so I will accept this to be a sport. Horse racing/jumping/riding, however, is not a sport. It is a sport for the horse, not for the human. Anything that requires actions that are outside of human control I don't think I can count to be a sport. With cars, humans build them, if they don't work, it is human error at least. If a horse doesn't run fast enough, or buck hard enough, or whatever, it is not due to the skill of the human. It is a competition, not a sport. This also eliminates fishing and hunting, as some people consider these to be sports. If people want to have an extreme hunting competition where the people have to hunt other each other, it is gruesome, but it is a sport. I pretty much pissed off all rodeo fans, too bad.

On the quickness factor, combined with other reasons mentioned in the golf paragraph, downhill skiing and snowboarding events are sports. It isn't pure strength, but it requires very good leg strength, combined with reacting to course and making quick turns. I am going to also allow curling to be a sport as there are times when the sweepers will use a lot of strength to get the stone where it is needed, as well as the competition aspect of it. Luge/bobsleigh/skeleton because they take strength at the beginning, then quick reaction as they go down the course.

Another rule: a sport combined with a random act can still be a sport. Biathalon is one of these. Cross country skiing is a sport, shooting at stationary targets isn't, but the shooting doesn't take away from the skiing. The shooting actually does add something here, to do target shooting you have to steady your arm, but that becomes much more difficult as your heart rate is higher from the skiing. Just shooting by itself is, as I have said, not a sport. There is a laid out shooting range, nothing changes from one day to the next, the act of shooting is in no way physically demanding. If you shot for a couple hours straight, yes you will be sore, but that isn't what shooting competitions do. They take a set number of shots, the one with the best accuracy wins. To shoot a gun requires exactly X amount of force, just need to use that force and the gun will shoot just the same. I am willing to accept types of action shooting events to be sports though, or any shooting that requires movement and reaction. Guns are allowed to be part of sports, but just straight shooting of the gun to a stationary target is not a sport.

I am going to, with some reservations, make this list all be considered sports: half pipe, aerials, diving, ski jumping, and the like. You have to be able to get into athletic positions to be successful in all of these, but the judging aspect of them do give me pause to accepting them as sports. But by my previous rule, if you can develop proper judging, they can all qualify.

Question marks: are billiards and darts sports? I have a lot of trouble with these, neither requires a lot of power, but they are both objective competitions that depend on what you physically do.

Anyways, please leave comments, as well as let me know if any more sports need to be judged that I left out. If there is a sport that is clearly just a modified version of a sport listed, consider it to be in the same category of the listed one (ie. luge is a modified version of skeleton).

Monday, February 13, 2006

Levant Has Balls!

Ezra Levant, the publisher of the Western Standard has said that the magazine will print some of the Mohammad cartoons today, according to the Globe. I say good for them! Fine, the cartoons may offend some people, but the magazine should have every right to print them. They aren't showing them on the front cover, so only people that choose to see the cartoons will see them. If you are going to be offended, I have a very easy solution for you, don't buy the freaking magazine! It is just that simple.

The Canadian Islamic Congress said they will seek to have charges laid, against distributing hate crime literature. Well I have a question, I am not religious, so my beliefs are in the freedom of people, does this mean the Canadian Islamic Congress is committing a hate crime against my belief in free speech by filing this complaint?

When Levent was asked if these cartoons could spark violence, he responded, "We're about to find out." As someone that loves freedom, thank you Mr. Levant! I don't think he is publishing these to be offensive, but to make a point that he will not be bullied into not expressing himself. Judging from the comments I have heard the extremist Muslims say, he may receive death threats. I applaud him for, literally, putting his own ass on the line in the name of free speech!

Edit: I just saw that Ezra wrote this in the Calgary sun. Great article!

Edit2: I was about to look into getting a Western Standard subscription, but it seems much of their website is down. I'm hoping it is down due to high traffic, not any malicious act. Whenever their site is back up, I encourage everyone to reward their courage by subscribing!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A letter from the NDP to Buzz Hargrove

Dear Buzz,

Things were so good at the start. Back in 1999, things were going well. You were our best friend, you helped our provincial friends fighting those nasty Harris people. You talked a bit about that funny ‘strategic voting’ thing, but you didn’t shout it. We had little arguments late at night, but we always kissed before going to sleep.

Then you changed, Buzz. You became all high and mighty, and started talking more and more with that charming Paul Martin fellow. I thought we could still work things out, and be together forever. During the 2004 election, Buzz, you cheated on me. Private things like strategic voting that we had whispered about in the dark of night before, you were shouting from the top of your lungs.

You hurt me, Buzz, but I thought our relationship could continue. We kissed and made up, and you promised that we wouldn’t fight ever again.

But you kept talking to Paul. I kept answering the phone at night, hearing heavy breathing, and a hang-up. Whenever you were away, the calls stopped. Why didn’t you tell me you wanted to be friends with Paul? I would have understood.

Then you cheated on me again. Right out in the open, you gave him your letter jacket! You couldn’t just keep it in a no-tell motel, you had to flaunt your cheating in front of the world.

I got mad, Buzz. We said some things, and you tried to patch things up. But, you spent a lot of time with Paul, and I realized that, even if you say you love me, your heart isn’t with me.

I can’t live like this, Buzz. I changed the locks, and gave your things to that nice Bill fellow down the street. You and he can be very happy together now, now that Paul is gone. I never want to see you again.

Without Love,

The NDP.

Want another case against the long-gun registry?

If the thought of personal property being taken without proper compensation didn’t turn you off the gun registry, and the wasted billions didn’t do it, maybe an anal cavity search will.

To give an executive summary of this story, a man was hunting small game in a field next to a school, with the landowner’s permission. A faculty member at the school called 911, slightly frightened by the man wearing fatigues and carrying a firearm. The police dispatcher informed the police that the situation was “guy in fatigues with big gun in the schoolyard”. The cops swarmed the hunter in his driveway, being forced to his knees and receiving an anal exam from a police officer, in front of his children. The rifle in his car was legally stored; the police then illegally entered his house and charged him with illegal storage for a disassembled rifle and some ammunition.

Let’s look at what went wrong, here. The dispatcher sent a fairly ambiguous and misleading message to the line officers. “big gun” might mean anything from a target pistol (those things are fairly large), to a fully automatic military assault weapon. The police, caring for their life, assumed the worst. No problem there – our men and women in blue need to have the ability to protect themselves and others.

Then the takedown and arrest. Ok, making sure he doesn’t have a gun on him is one thing – but when the report is of a “big gun” – how does the anal cavity search help? Hard to hide much up there! Next, the police entered the house – and there’s the major overstep. According to the news report, the police arrested him when he pulled into the driveway. If he was threatening people at the school, what do the contents of his home have to do with anything? Sounds like a pretty weak search to me.

3 years after having his property confiscated, the judge has ordered it returned. Due to bill C-68, the police have fairly broad powers to confiscate firearms, even from licenced owners. The police may decide that this man might pose a danger, and keep the firearms – hoping for a more ‘friendly’ judge to enforce the prohibition. Sounds like the gun registry is working, and our tax dollars well spent.

Excuse me while I laugh, or vomit. Maybe both.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Final Countdown

This has nothing to do with politics, but an issue that is dear to my heart.

I am sad to say the last episode(s) of Arrested Development, possibly ever, aired last night. So this is just my sad attempt of a plea to Fox or any other network to bring the show back! It has to be one of the smartest comedies on TV, and probably the best current comedy. I encourage everyone to buy the DVD's for all 3 seasons (Season 1, Season 2, Season 3 to come out later) to show networks how much demand there is for the show, it worked for Family Guy after all. I always loved sitcoms, and sadly they pretty much all suck now. The only decent ones left are The Office and My Name Is Earl. We need to keep crap like Everybody Loves Raymond and Will & Grace off the air, bring back AD!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Missing the Point

I was watching CTV NewsNet this morning and they were talking to a representative from the European Committee for Prophet Honouring. I understand the Muslim community was offended by the cartoons, but I don't think they (or at least this representative) understands what free speech means. He was saying that before the violence they had petitions and non-violent protests and the government still didn't do anything. He was implying the government should have actually taken steps to ban these cartoons or come out heavily against them. When people say they need to try and achieve their goals from non-violent means, this doesn't mean to do as much non-violence as you can and then when the government doesn't limit the freedom of their citizens you have the right to react with violence. Protesting should be to trying and get the newspaper to apologize or to get awareness of the issue so that the public will boycott the paper and force publications. If their goal is to get free speech banned in the Western world, I don't think the understand what living in a free society means.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Atheist Reaction?

I found this cartoon really funny, and just for the record I will riot after just 4 blank sheets. Some other good ones here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Aren't We the Party of Freedom?


Why why why why why why are we even releasing an official government statement on this? This issue has nothing to do with the government. Some people have cartoons that offend other people, other people protest, none of the government's business! MacKay said, "Freedom of expression is a legally enshrined principle in Canada, but it must be exercised responsibly." [Emphasis added] There are no "but"s about this. The statement, "Freedom of expression is a legally enshrined principle in Canada," does not need a qualifier. Should the government come out and have to say that we have freedom of expression after every person says every thing that could possibly hurt the feelings of another person?

Further along in this unessasary statement, "The Government of Canada will continue to promote a better understanding of Islam internationally, in partnership with Muslim communities." Why is this our job? I don't give a crap what people think about Muslims, Christians, Jews or any other religion, it isn't the government's job to be the public relations department for a religion! If a religion wants to change their image, freaking do it, no one is stopping you!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Barbie, Brison, and Emerson

So, after losing multiple MP’s to the Liberals, we gain one back. Hours (minutes?) before the swearing-in ceremony and cabinet announcement, David Emerson publically switched to the Conservative Party. The former Industry minister gets to keep his perks as the new internatonal trade minister, as well as the minister responsible for the 2010 winter Olympics in Vancouver.

On the bright side, this gives us representation in Vancouver proper – something that was sorely lacking after Jan 23rd. We now can say that we have a representative within Vancouver, a cabinet minister, no less. I suppose he also has federal cabinet experience, something which will come in handy for this government.

That’s about all that I can say positive about this announcement.

It smacks of opportunism. I look back at what I wrote when Stronach went to the Liberals, “To join the Liberals, and take a nice plum cabinet post - smells like bribery.”

I stand by my words.

One of Harper’s advisors must have been taking some strong drugs, dropped some into Harper’s morning coffee, and convinced him to take Emerson in as a cabinet minister. If Emerson had defected and was a backbencher, that wouldn’t have been too bad. If he sat as an independent, no problem whatsoever. But to go directly into a cabinet post – not nice to see. Hopefully Harper realizes his mistake early, and fixes it quickly – heck, take the short-term hit, push Emerson into the back benches (maybe give him a parliamentary secretary spot in order to capitalize on his experience).

Not likely to happen. This simply isn’t a great start for the Harper government. We still have a long way to go, and I’m not trying to say that it’s a lost cause – but, it’s not a good start.

Introducing the Right Honourable Prime Minister

Need I say more?

Another Liberal Handgun Ban

Well, Ontario’s Liberal Government is once again showing their true colours. Attorney General Michael Bryant has now said that if the federal government does not give the provinces the power to ban handguns, he’ll try to find a constitutional back-door. He would only allow the police, military, and ‘Olympic sharp-shooters’ to have handguns. Well… since the military can’t normally carry their sidearms home, and many police forces do not allow their members to carry outside of work… it’s down to just the Olympic sharpshooters.

That has me wondering, how do you define an ‘Olympic sharpshooter’? Are these only people who have competed in the Olympics? That would be the most obvious interpretation of those words, and one that would be fairly self-limiting, in that without giving new people the ability to try out the sport, there would very soon be nobody left in the sport.

This also discriminates (in a way) against those who compete in other ventures then the Olympics. Under this proposed ban, these individuals would not be allowed to participate in their sport – so, eliminating not only a chance for our athletes to shine, but some money coming into the country, in as much as competitions are routinely held in Canada.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – any restriction allowing for only ‘competitive’ shooters will result in the sport dying in Canada. Without the ability for young (relatively-speaking) people to try firing a handgun at the range, how will you get new people into the sport? If only professional hockey players were allowed to have hockey sticks, would you see a Canadian Olympic hockey team in 10 years?

Yes, firearms can be stolen from houses. They can also be stolen from army bases. They can also be stolen from RCMP armouries. They can (and most often are) be smuggled from the United States. Dealing with firearms along will not stop crime. It is dealing with criminals, and to an extent with the root causes, that will stop crime. All that something such as the proposed handgun ban will do is score cheap political points – and result in the same amount of blood being shed on our streets.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Freedom of Speech

I was able to post on offensive Islam cartoons and free speech since it seems like the in thing to do, and then I realized that Greg had already done so. I essentially agree with him. I think it is wrong to publish those cartoons, that is why I will not do so. I do not think it should be illegal to publish them. Freedom of speech should not only apply to things that are pleasant. If you are deeply offended by these cartoons, write to the newspapers asking them to apologize, create a petition for them to apologize, start a boycott of all media that published these cartoons, or simply try to inform as many people as you can that these cartoons are not representative of Islam. The reaction that shouldn't happen is violence. The violent reactions and threats that happened are quite ironic, as they are upset with being characterized as violent people. I know it is only a subset that do this, but this certainly won't make the spread of the offensive ideas like this die down (I'm not saying it makes it valid to depict Muslims as terrorists, just it isn't helping disprove it).

I do not believe that people have a right to not be offended by anything. If this was true, I probably would have to cut down about half of the things I say. I have a right to say what I want, offensive or not, on this blog. Google, which owns Blogger, has the right to limit what I say on their website. My ISP has the right to restrict the content I access/distribute over their network according to my service agreement (including Rogers annoying block on bit torrent/P2P progams that I hate). The administrator of Blogging Tories has the right to kick me off the blogroll for making offensive comments, just as any political parties I hold memberships in have the right to cancel my membership if I do not comply with conditions of membership. Finally, you, the reader has the right to not read what I write. I am not forcing you to read this, so if I offend you, stop reading what I write. I try not to be offensive because I do not want to offend people, and please let me know if I do say something offensive, but you do not have to the right to tell me what I cannot say.

Part of the reason I am against any laws that limit free speech (and really only why I'm against implementation of the law, I am against the law in general because I respect freedom) is because there is no standard for offensive. If anyone makes any comment that is contrary to any religion, is this offensive? If a Muslim says, "The Jews are wrong," is this crossing the line? I think it is silly if it is crossing the line because if you are Muslim you implicitly say that you believe you are right and other religions are wrong, or else you wouldn't be Muslim. What about if I say there is no god? I am clearly saying I think every religious person in the world is wrong, and even if that offends you, I don't see how I could face any legal ramifications for the statement. Or what about when Christian groups make comments about gay people being sinners? This may raise more questions about whether it is offensive enough to justify the law getting involved, but many would still disagree. The line cannot, and should not, be set. The line will be set by everyone, and the market will react accordingly. If a newspaper offends enough people, it won't stay being published very long, or at least it won't be a mainstream paper.

(On a side note, I have read certain bloggers, who I won't name because I don't want to start a religious argument when I don't think it is an important enough subject, who seem to say that all "anti-religion" or "godless" people do it to somehow rebel against the religious establishment, as if we really did think there was a god and we just choose to ignore it/him/her. I am not religious or spiritual whatsoever. I am not rebelling against anything, there just is no god. Sure, there are some on the radical left that will oppose anything that religious people do, but this is not everyone. As Penn Jillette said on his radio show, "Atheists are given a bad rap from Socialists and Communists.")

I am not hypocritical either, if any Christian wants to make a cartoon of me burning in hell for not accepting Jesus and my lord and savior, go right ahead (but it isn't like you need my permission to do it)!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Danish Cartoons - My Take

The popular thing on most small ‘c’ conservative (and several big ‘C’ ones) seems to be to post the cartoons making fun of Islam, in solidarity with the Danish, French, and other European newspapers who published them. I’m not going to do that. Giving credit where credit is due, I had a good, long talk with a friend last night about these cartoons. She brought up some good supporting points, which I am going to try to outline below.

Let’s look at how different societies look at their prevailing religion. In Western society, predominantly Judeo-Christian in nature, religion is, for the most part, not taken too seriously. We (as a collective society) don’t have too much trouble making fun of our religion. It is mainstream to call somebody in politics with religious beliefs as being on the “Religious Right”, and many use that term as an insult. Papers (and, many bloggers) have made fun of George Bush for his strong religious beliefs.

In predominantly Muslim cultures, they don’t go there. They may call Western society a bunch of apostates and sinners, out to corrupt the world, but they don’t make fun of God, or Jesus (granted, Jesus is also a revered individual in the Islamic tradition). There is a religious tension between Islam and Judaism, however I’ve never seen them go so far as to start mocking Moses.

The cartoons in question depicted Muhammad as a terrorist. News Flash – Islam isn’t all about terror. If you read the Quran, it’s got about as much to do with violence as the Bible. There are those who take brief snippets out of the Quran and use them to support violence – is that any different then Christianity has done over the years?

That being said, the violent reaction to these cartoons is also inappropriate. Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus were burned today – a reaction to the cartoons. That goes a bit too far. While those cartoons were inappropriate, so are the violent reactions. When predominantly Muslim countries were calling for boycotts of all Danish products – hey, that was fine. That’s a good, capitalist way of dealing with a problem (provided the boycott is done by the consumers, and not enforced by the Government).

Another issue can be brought up here – that is the ethics of the media. In publishing these cartoons, the media went across the line from reporting the news to being the news. There is definitely a self-interest on the part of these newspapers to be controversial – those who agree with them will buy more papers, those who disagree will buy papers in order to be angered, and those who are indifferent will buy more papers in order to see what all the ruckus is about.

So, what’s the answer? Perhaps, the newspapers should apologize for their actions, and the rioters should stop, well, burning stuff down. That’s probably a bit idealistic, but hey, if we don’t have room for idealism, then what’s the world coming to?

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Supremes on Judicial Reform

Wow – surprise of the year, judicial appointees somewhat like the fact that they are appointed.

Chief Justice McLachlin said publically today that the existing system is ‘fine’ and should not be ‘politicized’.

What the hell? Appointments by the Prime Minister are never political, right? Nobody is ever awarded for, oh, running for office, not running for office, keeping one’s mouth shut, etc. with a patronage appointment. And, according to McLachlin, there is currently a public confidence that the courts are not political. HAH!

Judges are not subject to any serious scrutiny – the recent appointments did appear before the standing committee on Justice, however were not under oath, nor were they compelled to answer questions. Once it was over – the committee had no say. These weren’t judicial nominees coming for confirmation; they were appointed judges coming for a quick visit. Cup of coffee, quick chat and it’s over – no messy voting required.

Perhaps McLachlin is worried that her credentials would not have stood up to public inquiry. Maybe she is worried that there will be, *gasp*, a requirement for judges to explain their views before sitting on the bench. With a supreme court that has become more and more activist over time (annoying both the left and the right, for example with health care and same-sex marriage, respectively) – don’t we deserve to know where they stand?

Thanks to the CTF for pointing this one out.

I Love Miss Nevada!

This is not a sexist post or anything, I don't even know what Miss Nevada looks like since I didn't watch the show, but she must be the first women to ever say anything intelligent at a beauty pageant in history! I know this is a bit old, but I just heard about it.

Instead of getting the typical question like, "Do you love all the children of the world?" Instead this happened:
In Thursday's interview, Miss Nevada was asked by one of the judges about the
proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.
The facility has to go someplace, and Yucca Mountain is the best-built facility in the country, Crystal Wosik replied.
And if people die?
"We just have to take one for the team," she replied.

I love this quote! Take one for the team, absolutely classic! You can argue the pros and cons of nuclear power, but she resisted the easy politically correct BS answer to come out against nuclear waste dumping without providing any other alternative. It isn't black and white. If there isn't the nuclear waste dump there, it will be somewhere else. Or if they use a different type of power, there are many other issues.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Media Bias? Naaaw

We argue a bit, in my office, about the presence (or lack of) a distinct, well, red tint to the media. Some arguments are a no-brainer – the Toronto Star is the communications arm of the Liberal Party of Canada. The CBC… we won’t go into how far to the left the CBC has gone. Now, the CP – something that I (at one time) thought was fairly unbiased, shows their stripes.

“OTTAWA -- Canada's natural governing party took its first tentative steps toward reconstruction and reconciliation yesterday when defeated Prime Minister Paul Martin named Bill Graham as his interim Liberal replacement.” (emphasis added)

They have edited the story since it was first written and distributed to replace “natural governing party” with “Liberal party”, however at least one media outlet (London Free Press), as of the time of this writing, still has it in the original form.

The ‘Culture of Entitlement’ isn’t just ingrained into the Liberal Party members – it is a part of the Ottawa establishment. Heck, I can’t even claim to be 100% immune – it’s been a long 12 years in opposition. But, I don’t claim to be an unbiased reporter. When I put something up on this website, I give a pretty clear disclaimer that I tilt to the Right. Editorials in newspapers will have the slant of the editorial board of that media outlet – I have no problem with that.

Where the problem comes up is when the “fact-based” reporting shows a slant like the one above. The media has a certain responsibility to provide the facts, and clearly point out when something being said is opinion or conjecture. Bluntly put, the CP screwed the pooch on this one – and owes Canadians an apology for forgetting where the line is in between editorialism and reporting.

Thanks to either orr and SDA for pointing this one out.

Mmmm, Crackberry... aaarrrgh (cue Homer Simpson-style drool)

The Blackberry fiasco in the United States is causing thousands of companies’ IT departments angina. There are estimates that a company with around 1,000 blackberry using employees might pay around 700 dollars per person to switch to another device. Now the US Government is getting involved, with the Justice Department wanting a guarantee that it’s users will be exempt – and, it argues, that means that it would be difficult for a court to issue an injunction shutting down the use of Crackberries in the US.

I can see the addictiveness that has lead to the nickname. I recently bought one of those fancy phone/pda/internet devices. I looked at the crackberry, but after much contemplation, went with the Audiovox unit. Windows-mobile technology, touch screen… it just makes more sense. But, now I can’t put the thing down. I was out with a friend last night, she was trying on some clothes, so I went onto the internet and started taking care of some stuff. So much more convenient then staring at the ceiling and shuffling from leg to leg. When I walked to the cash register when she was paying – my reception died. It was almost a physical sensation.

But, should the government be getting involved in this? More importantly, does the government deserve more consideration then any generic corporate user? Does governmental involvement, in this case, start to erode that separation between the legislative branch and the judicial branch?

To an extent, I would argue that yes, it does. The government seems to be invoking a special necessity, “exceptional public interest”, in trying to argue their case. They aren’t just saying, “this is gonna suck, if you take away our crackberries” (albeit in much more refined legalese), they are saying, “Hey! We need these things. No, we ‘need’ (wink wink, nudge nudge) them!”

If the Judge rules that RIM has indeed infringed on a patent, then all Blackberries should be shut down. To set a precedent that the Government can condone the infringement of a patent… that could lead to the weakening of the patent system, resulting in a weakening of intellectual property.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Gomery II = Meh.

I’ve had a bit more time to think over Gomery II and… I’m distinctly unimpressed. Some of his suggestions are decent, for example, providing a clear and concise statement of responsibilities to public servants – not a bad idea. Others, like giving some members of the PCO new titles – would be a larger waste of money then, frankly, adscam was.

We are talking about changing some pieces of legislation (requiring the time of our elected representatives to address), throwing out a whole load of stationary, business cards, and the like; probably some new interior decorating (gotta remove the old titles wherever they appeared), changes to various Government of Canada websites, etc. etc. etc. All for the value that, “It’ll make them appear to have more power”. Yeah… no.
Don’t take this to be a condemnation of Gomery – his work in finding the truth behind adscam was commendable – and the country owes him a huge debt of thanks. But… he probably could have stopped there.

Coming soon – Gomery: The Book

Detailed Analysis of Gomery II - 45 minutes after Release

So, I finally saw the second report by Mr. Justice Gomery (Gomery II, for short), and have been browsing it for the past 40 minutes. It’s quite a lengthy (200+ page) document, and in the interests of full disclosure I have been flipping through it very rapidly, and may have missed some minor details supporting Gomery’s recommendations.

One recommendation by Gomery was that Public Servants be given a clear and comprehensive Public Service Charter – much more easily read and committed to memory then the current Values and Ethics Code for Public Servants – a 2003 document of over 5000 words that does not clearly define such things as public interest, impartiality, loyalty, and integrity. This was a shortcoming that was addressed by the Auditor General’s report in November 2003, and has not been looked at by the Government. This isn’t something that is directly mentioned in the Conservative Federal Accountability Act – but, it would be a worthy addition.

Gomery suggests increasing the funding of parliamentary committees, as a method of back-checking things such as the main estimates (which should have, but did not, indicate the amount of money being spent on the Sponsorship Program). This is an ok idea – however, the establishment of a non-partisan Parliamentary Budget Office would go a lot farther, and accomplish the same goal. He also specifically identifies the Public Accounts Committee as needing more funding – again, taking this way from the partisanship of Parliament is, to my mind, a good idea.

He wants to make Deputy Ministers (and senior public servants) directly responsible for their actions to the Public Accounts Committee, while at the same time giving Ministers the ability to overrule Deputy Ministers, with direct oversight by the Auditor General. Not a bad idea – and, that flows nicely with the Conservative’s desires to increase the powers of the Auditor General. He does want Deputy Ministers and senior public servants to be appointed for a minimum of three years, with an expectation of a five-year term, with a public explanation for any change in this policy. That would help Deputy Ministers become very familiar with their job – but, aside from the oversight aspect (which would, by nature, be addressed by the Auditor General) – doesn’t really do much with relation to Gomery’s work. Deputy Ministers would be selected by an open and competitive process.

He suggests that the Public Accounts Committee members be appointed for the length of the Parliament – ok, not a bad idea.

Special Reserves should not be allowed to be managed by the Prime Minister – Good idea – and these reserve funds be required to table a comprehensive report on their actions every year.

Gomery also wants to prevent exempt staff members from being appointed to the Public Service without a competition for three years. That’ll keep the unions happy – and may help to prevent the politicization of the civil service. Exempt Staff would not be allowed to give direction to public servants – well… good idea, but at times the Minister may want his/her exempt staff to take his role during certain projects.

He wants to change some letterhead within the Privy Council Office (PCO) – assuming that a new title will change their power. Sure… He wants to make sure “advertising” means just that – and not be as wide-ranged as it has been lately. Not a bad idea.

Gomery’s ideas for lobbyists, upon a quick glance, are the same as the Conservative Federal Accountability Act. Good to See.

As expected, Gomery came down hard on financial mismanagement by civil servants. He recommended that violation of a specific section of the Financial Administration Act (mainly, from what I gather, reporting elements) be grounds for immediate dismissal.

With regards to Crown Corporations, he suggests that the CEO be appointed, evaluated and (when required) dismissed by the Board of Directors of the Corporation (as opposed to the PMO). The Board should be initially appointed by the Government “on the basis of merit”, and thereafter replacements made by the Board itself.

At the end of this 200+ page report, Gomery gives a timeline – “Within 24 months of receiving this Report, the Government should table before Parliament a report detailing how it has dealt with each of the Commission’s recommendations”.

More analysis later.

Payday Loans – The “Scourge” of the Inner-City

Ok, who hasn’t seen the advertisements for the various payday loan companies – you know, money mart and the like. You go there mid-week, write a post-dated cheque, and walk away with (generally) up to half of your next paycheque. The cheque you write is dated on your payday, and covers the principal of the loan, plus interest (usually around what you would pay on a high-rate credit card), plus ‘administrative fees’. Well, one such company (Paymax Canada Inc. of Winnipeg) is in court today, facing charges of “entering into an agreement with the public to charge a criminal interest rate”

According to the Criminal Code of Canada, you can only charge a 60%/annum interest rate, except where a judge considers that too high. Where these payday loan companies get into trouble is the administrative fees – sometimes as high as 20% of the principal. Anti-poverty groups are up in arms, seeing this as taking advantage of the poor, yadda yadda yadda.

Liberal cheerleaders at the Toronto Star are giddy – one columnist writing, “It's good to see one case of predatory lending finally coming to court.” I wonder if she’s ever heard the term, ‘it takes two to tango’. Nobody is being forced to take out a loan here – they are simply voluntarily using the service.

The rates are high because of the large number of defaults on such loans. They have to charge extremely high rates of annual interest because charging lower rates would not let them do business. Take a $400 dollar loan for two weeks from Money Mart. I went on their website, and the total interest + fees charged for that loan would be approx. $460 or so (I looked at it last night, and can’t get to the website today due to my work’s annoying firewall). That’s $60 in fees over two weeks – or, it would be $1680 over a full year. Legally, all that can be charged over a full year is $666.66, or around $23.80 for the two weeks. If their default rate is, say, 1 in 10 (and I bet it’s a whole lot higher then that), and a $400 dollar loan is average (which it probably isn’t, but – it will work to show the point), for every 10 loans, at a legal rate of interest, they will take in $3814, and pay out $4000… so, they would have to operate at a loss.

Anti-poverty groups dislike what they see as usury – but, I bet they’ll be screaming louder when these places go out of business. Banks won’t go into the short-term, high-risk market – they make good money at what they do, and are adverse to such high liabilities. So, what’s the solution? Get rid of these payday loan companies, and see the lower-income members of society stuck when they have to pay an unexpected bill, and don’t have the money for groceries for a week? Payday loan companies fill a void – they don’t hide how much they charge you for the two weeks (despite the Toronto Star saying, “Most clients — 74 per cent of those interviewed by Strategic Communications Inc. last fall — are unaware of all the fees and charges that are tacked on to their bill.” Um…. If you take out $400, write a cheque for $460, what exactly are you not aware of? They probably can’t itemize the $60 in expenses – but, do they really need to?

So, I dare somebody on the left to explain, if payday loan companies don’t exist (which, if they are limited to a 60% interest rate per annum, they won’t), how not having that resource will be better for the poor then things are right now. If somebody on the right can give that explanation – all the better, because I am quite curious to see how, exactly, it’s going to help.

Support for Separation Falling

This article mentions a new poll showing that support for independence has fallen from 43% before the election to 34% after the election. This is huge. Sure, it may just be in celebration that the Liberals are gone and Harper needs to make sure he makes real change with the fiscal imbalance, respecting provincial jurisdiction, etc. What this shows is that people were wanting separation based on the incompetent Liberal government and not until they left could they feel comfortable in this country. I'm hoping the support for separation continues to fall and gets below 30% once the Conservatives start to implement their policies.