Archive for March, 2010

#26-10 – The terrors of taxing television.

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

It would be most impolite for the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to ignore an order under the broadcasting Act from Her Excellency the Governor General in Council. It might even be considered foolish because an Order in Council is in reality an order from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

It can only be assumed therefore that there has been some communication between the commission and someone of high self-importance in the PMO before the CRTC referred its recommendations on taxing cable and satellite companies for local television stations to the courts instead of ‘as soon as practicable’ to the government. It also appears that someone in the PMO reconsidered how it would look for the PMO to order the cable and satellite companies to pay television stations for their local signals. While it would certainly encourage a large portion of the country’s major news media to look fondly on Prime Minister Harper, some might call it buying their support. It looks much less compromising for the CRTC to do the pandering.

Mind you, somebody will have to find a way to muzzle CRTC Commissioner Michel Morin for the new scenario to work. You did not have to be a genius to see that the other commissioners were ignoring their instructions to pay attention to the general public on the impact of taxing them for watching local television. It just took a lot of guts for Morin to issue a minority report pointing out that the public was ignored.

You had to be there to appreciate it. The Toronto hearing room measured about two by three metres. Three or four public participants would be crammed behind a table on one side, opposite an old television set and a personal camera on a laptop computer. The little camera sent the participants’ group picture to the CRTC headquarters and, in return, the participants were sent a picture of the chair and his commissioner cohorts. The quality of the pictures, sound and personal comfort was definitely marginal.

But it was what they could see while giving their presentation that told the participants that whatever they said, it hardly mattered. The sheer boredom on the faces of the chair commissioners while people were speaking said it all. Sure they paid some attention when the industry spokespersons had their say earlier in the week but they so obviously wanted to go home when it was the public’s turn.

You would think that out of 190,000 people responding to their call for input, they would have found some people with something to say. Even just among the 20,000 people who sent in their own comments instead of having the industry people speak for them, there should have been some interesting input.

To be fair, most people stuck fairly close to what they said they were going to say. Their comments had already been read before they were chosen to make a presentation. While the majority report said the speakers were chosen at random, Commissioner Morin blew the whistle on that fiction and said the speakers were carefully chosen. Anybody familiar with how the Ottawa systems work had no trouble being selected to make a presentation.

If I were a gambler—which I am—I would bet with confidence that the courts will tell the CRTC that the commission has the power to force the television networks and cable/satellite people to negotiate. After all, if the CRTC does not have that power, what has the commission been doing for the past 30 years?

And as to why the CBC is being left out of the negotiations, just consider how fond Prime Minister Harper is of the people’s broadcaster.

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Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

The Americans have a new tea party, Canada has the wild rose right,

They’re built on the ignorance that only people with money have might.


#25-10 – The wise men of Babel do Minstrel.

Monday, March 29th, 2010

It is surprising how much a city council meeting resembles the arrangement and style of old time minstrel shows. While this form of entertainment died out about 100 years ago during the era of vaudeville, it lives on in towns and townships, boroughs and cities. The participants at a minstrel show are lined up across the stage. The central figure is the master of ceremonies, who is called the “Interlocutor.” Shush, it is Monday evening in the council chambers of Babel and the show is beginning.

“Mistuh Interlocutor, if you do believe, I has to report that the mayor has taken leave,” said the city clerk from the orchestra pit.

Mr. Interlocutor, from his raised seat, looked down the row to his left. Four wise men there were in their tails and top hats ready for the show. He turned and looked down the row to his right. Another four wise men on his right were ready, also in their tails and top hats. Yes, if there were wise men on his right and wise men on his left, then the mayor was missing. He quickly said a prayer.

“Fellow wise men,” he said in stentorian tone. “Think we can get him on the phone?

“He was going to Europe, last we heard,” the clerk did explain. “But not knowing his exact schedule, he might still be on a plane.”

Mr. Interlocutor was delighted. It was his opportunity to show what a fine mayor he would make if the voters would just take notice of him.

His first duty was to introduce the wise men in their rendition of De Campdown Ladies. They had been getting lots of practice at that number during their paid appearances at the nearby race track at Georgian Downs.

The alto wise man was supposed to lead off an old Stephen Foster favourite for the next number but instead she sang a heartfelt ballad to an open council chair: Some day, my prince will come.

It was about at this point that Mr. Interlocutor found that with the mayor missing, along with a councillor on medical leave, there could be tie votes and he had the embarrassing job of breaking the tie. As unused as he was to having an opinion, it was an easy choice, he opted for another Stephen Foster favourite: Way down upon a Swanee River.

Bringing things back to an upbeat, the wise men followed that with a rousing rendition of Dixie. At this point, the city clerk urged Mr. Interlocutor to do a bit of city business. It seems that the Member of Parliament who spends his time figuring out how to win votes in Babel instead of looking after the riding’s business in Ottawa had come around with one of his oversized cheques. He offered the city $2.5 million of taxpayers’ money if they would build a new community theatre in downtown Babel.

Why the community theatre should be on expensive downtown land was not explained. Nor was it explained why the council had to make a quick decision.

But the wise men were all dressed up in top hat and tails and thought that going to the theatre was a fine idea. While quite confused on the figures, they agreed to build the theatre for somewhere between $2.6 million for the city or $3.6 million. It depended on whether you were better at adding or subtracting. One thing was for sure, none of them knew much about fundraising which is bad news for people aspiring to political careers.

They wrapped up the evening’s minstrel show and council meeting with a lovely rendering of Stephen Foster’s classic: De old folks at home.

(Note: An elderly viewer told the city clerk later how much she enjoyed the show but she wanted to know why the wise men were not in blackface. “Blackface?” the city clerk said to her, “In Babel, we are much too politically correct for that?”)

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Sunday, March 28th, 2010

After all this time, Michael Ignatieff must be doing something right,

Half the media say he’s too far left and the other, he’s too far right.



Saturday, March 27th, 2010

The American right has turned on its icon David Frum,

But they never really knew, where he was coming from.



Friday, March 26th, 2010

The McGinty government is wily in its ways,

The Cabinet is going to implement Rae Days.


#24-10 – Snake and the Corporal meet Alice.

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Alice has always been a favourite. Her journeys down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass were studiously read and reread as a child. Lewis Carroll would have been pleased. Having enjoyed them again by reading the books to my children, I was delighted to hear that Snake and the Corporal immediately chose Alice as first choice when invited to go to a movie recently with their grandparents.

But they went without me. If you did not read the blog about modern movie theatres, suffice to say that I did not want Snake and the Corporal to know that their gramps throws up when things move to fast on the screen. He has to wait for the DVD version or an opportunity to see it on a smaller screen. Gramma was delighted to take them. I just dropped the three of them off and picked them up afterwards.

They obviously enjoyed the film and the first question I asked was: “Who was your favourite character?

“I liked the rabbit. He was cool.” the Corporal responded.

“Oh,” I answered, “The white rabbit certainly plays an important role in the beginning of the story.”

“Not that rabbit,” Snake corrected me. “We really liked the other one.”

Racking my brains to figure out what other rabbit struck their fancy, I ventured: “Do you mean the March Hare?”

“Yah Gramps. He was funny,” the guys chimed in unison.

This did not seem to be an appropriate time to give the guys a learned discourse on the differences between a rabbit and a hare. After all, the species are closely related. “So what did you like about the March Hare?” I queried. “As I recall, he and the Mad Hatter ended up dunking the dormouse in a teapot.”

This confused them. “Well, no Gramps. They put Alice in the teapot.” the Corporal explained to his obviously addled grandfather. He went on to tell me about how they got Alice to the right size to do that.

This was all a bit disconcerting.

It was obvious that Tim Burton, whose version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland they had seen, had taken liberties with Mr. Carroll’s story. I questioned the guys carefully and they assured me that the Red Queen and, my personal favourites, the protagonists Tweedledum and Tweedledee, had been retained in this telling. I did not have the nerve to ask if the Walrus and the Carpenter had been left out. They just might have been too erudite for Tim Burton’s liking.

Next time, I intend to take my Dramamine, take my chances and take the guys to the movie myself. It sounds like it might be necessary to protect my grandsons from those damn revisionists in Hollywood.

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Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

The wise men have brought community theatre to Babel,

We’ll have to pay and to pay, just as long as we are able.


#23-10 – Obama’s health plan is not Canadian Medicare.

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

With the vote of the House of Representatives on March 22, Barrack Obama achieved more than any president of the United States in the past 100 years. He overcame bigotry, hypocrisy and right-wing idiocy to finally pass a form of health care for Americans. It was a remarkable accomplishment considering the legions of opposition he had to defeat.

But make no mistake, it is not Canadian Medicare that was passed. It is a pale shadow of Medicare. Yes it makes a start at curbing the insurance companies in their abuse of the sick, it takes a few faltering steps towards cutting exorbitant drug expenses, it opens the door to forcing employers to fund employee health plans and it takes the giant step of including another 30 million Americans in health care coverage. And it only costs about a trillion dollars. Americans never do anything small.

What is different is that over the years, the plan will improve. It has lots of room to do that. Cost controls will be its biggest problem. A vast centralized bureaucracy will stifle innovation. It will take intelligent communications programs to reduce abuse. It is just a beginning.

But its greatest failure is that it fails women. It denies them control of their bodies. There will be no abortions on this health care plan. And you need not blame just obstinate, bigoted Republicans for that. It was the ignorant, red-neck southern Democrats who Obama had to have on side that drew the line at abortion being in the plan.

Mind you, if Stephen Harper could ever get a majority government in Canada, his Reform buddies would make short work of women’s rights under Canada’s Medicare. It would be part of Harper’s ‘get-even’ agenda for the pacifist face he has had to wear in the past few years of minority government. You can see why he resents even keeping Parliament in session for the constraints it places on his hard-right instincts.

To President Obama, we send the kudos. It is an imperfect solution in an imperfect world. As we said, it is just a beginning. We wish him well.

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Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Poor Mr. Harper has a ghost that still haunts,

He sees no way to get the majority he wants.