Archive for March, 2011

Fallis’ first fails.

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Reading The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis was more by accident than design.  Since this first book by Fallis won some award, it has been the rage with Canadian book clubs.  The wife is involved with a fun book club group that picked The Best Laid Plans for its March reading.  Since the Babel library had a waiting list for the book and Chapters did not have it in print form, we ordered a Kindle copy from Amazon for her.

The best thing about Kindle is that you get fast service.  What intrigued us was that the wife was alternately amused and annoyed with the book as she read it.  She had been told that the book was satire.  She did not seem sure.  When she had finished it, she handed us the Kindle and said, “You should read it.  Maybe you and I know too much about politics to appreciate the humour.  See what you think.”

The book gets a mixed review from this reader.  Satirically, it is more in the category of farce.  As an instruction book on running political campaigns, it scores at most a two out of a possible ten.  At the same time, Fallis does show a deep respect for parliament and the need for parliamentarians to understand the rules and procedures.

What he has written is a shallow Canadian version of Mr. Smith goes to Washington. The movie by that name was made in 1939 and was credited with launching Jimmy Stewart into Hollywood stardom.  It still shows up occasionally on late night television.  It is much more entertaining than Stewart’s 1946 movie It’s a Wonderful Life that haunts the television channels every Christmas.

As for Mr. Fallis’ book, you wonder for the first half, what is the point and, for the second half, why you are reading it.  Mind you the ending saves it as entertainment.  A wild ride up the Ottawa River in a home-made hovercraft in an Eastern Ontario snowstorm could have been good for more than one chapter.

Looking at a biography of Mr. Fallis, it is surprising that we have never met. Political Ottawa is a very small town when you break it down into the political parties.  And in that sense, Queen’s Park, during David Peterson’s tenure as Premier, was a village.  We must have passed in the halls.  How we missed him during his stint with the public relations firm of Hill and Knowlton is a mystery.

But politics is like the tides.  Our political career must have been on the ebb, when Fallis was getting his turn in the political wheelhouses.  The only advice we can give him is that, in politics, truth is much stranger than fiction.

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Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Mr. Harper’s found a political crusade,

He is using Gadhafi to make lemonade.


Getting the story in Babel.

Saturday, March 19th, 2011

After more than six years of living in Babel, we still get the Toronto Star delivered seven days a week.  It costs money but it is worth it.  We know the paper, we know the editorial stances, we know the sections, we know many of the reporters and editorial writers and the wife likes the style of the guy who writes the horoscopes.  We also know that the owner of the Toronto Star, Torstar, owns local newspapers throughout the Province of Ontario that are absolute crap.  And that is why we get the impression that largest circulation newspaper in Babel is the Toronto Star.

This is being mentioned because a story broke on the front page of the Star on Wednesday about the Babel Police.  Babel does not make the front page of the Toronto Star all that often.  It had to do with an ongoing human rights complaint that goes back more than a few years.  It appears to combine misogynist orders, police nepotism, sexual harassment, family arguments and other run of the mill policing matters.  And on the plus side, the complainant photographs well.

The twice-weekly local publication in Babel that is owned by Torstar, arrived on Thursday, replete with grocery and drugstore flyers, with a small box on the front page that there was a human rights case against the Babel police by a prisoner who had a miscarriage.  At least the other Babel paper had got a reporter out to interview the complainant—a former police officer who said she had a miscarriage—and provide a story quite similar to the original Toronto Star one.  As the next edition of the Torstar rag is not out until next Tuesday, the best it could do was issue a correction on its website and add the Toronto Star story.

The broadcast media were not to be left out of the equation and they were invited to a news conference hosted by the chief of police and the chair of the Police Services Board.  As the board lawyers had obviously advised them not to say anything, they said nothing that was useful or worth quoting.  It was all the broadcast boys and girls were going to get so they ran with it.

The people who will enjoy this the most will be the lawyers.  The only reason the complainant has a lawyer in these cases is because they want money.  If she is lucky, the lawyers might leave the former constable enough to buy a gift certificate for sensitivity training for her daddy next Fathers’ Day.

What is for sure is there will be a concerted effort to sweep the entire matter under the rug again.  The only thing that the police chief said at his news conference was that the Whitby police would be investigating the matter.  That is a small town investigating another small town and you may be excused for thinking that the only questions asked will be in regard to the size of budget for expenses and the brand of whitewash preferred.

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Now available on Kindle…

Friday, March 18th, 2011

On this WordPress screen previously there has been an electronic copy of the book My American Mother. Those who have read it and commented have found it a fascinating read—albeit a difficult one.  The problem was that WordPress cannot count to 20 chapters without taking off its socks.  The order of the chapters was confused.  We had left it in chapters to make it easy to read and in trying to fix it we decided we might as well do a complete edit and make the book available for sale as an e-book.

It is now for sale in the Kindle store.  And if you check the upper right hand corner of this page, the free electronic copy is gone.  Every electronic copy you buy or convince others to buy earns me another US$3 in royalties.  We do not expect to become overly rich.

Why Kindle?  It is the daughter’s fault. Her inspiration for my birthday this year was a Kindle.  All along, we had expected her to come up with a gift certificate for my first free-fall parachute jump but she surprised me.  She not only presented the Kindle to me but had already initiated it to make sure everything works.  That explains why the directory comes up saying “Kate’s Kindle.”  She out did herself.

Coincidently the wife was looking for a copy of a book that had a waiting list at our Babel library and not available in print from the local Chapters store.  A stroll through the Internet Kindle Store turned up the book she wanted and I bought it for her.  She was somewhat surprised when I handed her the Kindle and said, “Here, you try it.”

She hated the book but loved the Kindle.  We both agreed that it was the perfect solution for bathroom reading: no awkward fumbling to turn pages and the adjustable font size is a delight for us seniors.  Neither of us can figure out what to do with the funny little keyboard on it—it actually allows you to type notes as you read—but I rather think we will not bother.

The key benefit I find is that you can turn the thing off and it remembers your page for you.  It faithfully returns to just the right spot when you want to resume your read.  We have had a life-long thing with dropping bookmarks from books and then not being able to find our place.

It helps that the wife and I are avid readers.  The wife is not sure yet whether this will keep me away from the reduced-price tables at Chapters or if we can afford the Kindle store.  Time will tell but you may be sure I will not relinquish my library card.

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Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Everyone wants to be Irish today,

If we have to, we’ll say they may.


Comment for today.

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Mr. Obama and America fight for democracy,

But not against an oil-rich Gadhafi or Saudi.


A simple error in arithmetic.

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

We all make them.  Maybe we should all be more forgiving about math errors.  Just recently Prime Minister Harper told us that the temporary command centre in Babel last summer cost just $14 million, not the $27 million that others estimated.  Now the politicians are quibbling over the 65 F-35 fighters that his government ordered without an open tendering process.  Will they cost Canadians a total of $16 billion or $29 billion?  It is not as though the guy is a working economist.  As Prime Minister, he has to pick a figure that he thinks the voters might buy.

The one thing for sure is that he and his defence minister know nothing about Canada’s national defence needs.  Of what use is a fighter aircraft that cannot carry enough fuel (along with any armament) to patrol our arctic?  And why would Canadians want a stealth aircraft?  Who are we going to attack?  The only use Canada could have for this aircraft would be for a surprise attack on the northern United States.  And that would certainly annoy the Americans.  (They might not be quite as annoyed if we attacked the southern U.S. but then they would need to use their tanker aircraft to refuel most of our planes for us—we do not have enough refuelling aircraft.)

Not since Mr. Harper last prorogued parliament has he shown us the colossal arrogance of his government.  The surprise announcement that we have already bought this deal makes the definitive statement on why this government must be defeated.  It makes you wonder what school of economics teaches students to send good money after bad.  We had already given the Americans hundreds of millions for them to develop the F-35.  Now that we know what it is, why we are spending billions more?

When you consider the life cycle of a fighter aircraft such as the F-35, $29 billion would be a bargain.  Then, you have to assume that there will be at least a six to ten year lag between knowing the F-35 is outdated and selecting a replacement at maybe $50 billion.  You never win at that game.

Another game that we will never win will be Michael Ignatieff’s election promise to cancel the order for these F-35s.  He will not be able to do that.  We are too locked in to the U.S. procurement cycle.  Maybe we can end up with a few dozen of the much more suitable F-22s though—if he plays his cards right.

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Monday, March 14th, 2011

He wants to cut down on Babel’s New Year count down,

Headliners are expensive said Mr. Williams with a frown

“We can save 50 thou and promote local talent instead.”

With advice like that some locals might call for his head.


Warming up for a federal election.

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Can we please hurry spring.  We would like some nice weather for an election campaign.  And do not look surprised.  For months, readers of this blog have known there will be an election called before the end of March.  It has to be true. MP Dan McTeague told us so.  If he can get the gas prices right, who would question his election call?

While the news media have tried to promote the NDP’s Jack Layton as a spoiler in the possible election, this strategy seems to have fallen through.  Despite his recent health problems, Jack is his old and spunky self and spoiling to get into the election fray.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is certainly ready to take on all comers and there is ammunition aplenty for him to lambaste Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  In turn, Harper is desperately looking for some high ground above the quagmire his party has created for him.  Between, lying and error prone ministers and telling people that things cost half of what is later revealed, Harper is going to have trouble staying on script for the election as the best manager of our tax money.

A particularly interesting local fight might just be the one here in Babel.  The incumbent will have a hard time keeping his seat.  As a big spender of our money, sending myriad mailers promoting his re-election, the incumbent has accomplished nothing in Ottawa for the voters in his riding.  He missed an ideal opportunity last year to create a permanent national command centre in the riding for emergency operations.  He has been so busy trying to ensure his re-election that he has no understanding of how Ottawa works.

Political people in the riding are suddenly realizing that the guy they considered a sacrificial lamb for the federal Liberals in the election is the likely winner.  They are re-evaluating the support they have shown him.

Luckily the naysayers on the board of the federal Liberal association had already quit the board leaving the candidate with his key supporters in control.  That is going to make things easier for the campaign team.  The Liberal candidate is going to surprise people.

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Saturday, March 12th, 2011

Parliament keeps suggesting ways to help the poor,

But Mr. Harper isn’t inclined to help, he’s very sure

By helping the rich getter richer, poverty’ll be beat,

Leavings from their tables are what the poor’ll eat.