Archive for July, 2011

Kai Nagata’s “mad as hell, and he’s not going to take this anymore!”

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Kai Nagata meet Howard Beale.  Kai Nagata used to work for CTV at the network’s Quebec City bureau.  Howard Beale is fictional.  He was played by the late Peter Finch in the 1976 movie Network. They both have their rants.  Howard Beale’s rant was a one-liner.  Kai Nagata did not have an editor for his rant and it ran on for some 3000 words.

But if you think the Beale character was pissed, you should read what Nagata has to say.  Rife with youthful idealism, Nagata scolds both CTV and CBC for their management of what they think is news and their political biases.  He regurgitates all over the recent Will and Kate show on both networks and questions the gushing excesses.  You get the feeling that the subservient treatment of the royals was the final straw.

We were particularly amused by his comments about the clash of cultures between CTV News and its new Bell Canada bosses.  Konrad von Finckenstein and his Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) cohorts were warned of what would happen if they allowed the Bell Canada takeover of CTV.  This is just the start.

Regrettably, there is nothing really new in Nagata’s rant.  He only had about ten months in Quebec City and one tends to question whether he really had enough experience to be in that position.  His complaint about the sexualization of television reporters is hardly new.  Again we wonder if he felt he had somehow passed the sexual measurement by his bosses.

What Nagata complains most vociferously about is the directions of the Harper government.  While we can hardly disagree with him about that, we wonder what that has to do with his job in Quebec City.  The Quebec National Assembly will hardly be a front-line effort by CTV news while its friend Mr. Harper is running the country in Ottawa.  If anything, Quebec would be a good place to work and gain experience for that period.

The only concern in that last statement was something Nagata said in his rant that still has us puzzled.  He said about his posting to Quebec City that it is a good place to learn French.  We simply cannot believe that CTV News would send someone to report from the National Assembly who was not completely fluent in both Canada’s official languages.  Nobody is that pretty on air!


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Chronicling Canada’s angst in Afghanistan.

Monday, July 11th, 2011

They sent Toronto Star reporter Rosie Dimanno to Afghanistan to report on our Canadian troops.  She is no Rudyard Kipling but she was the best available.  She told us that our soldiers acted like soldiers.  They killed and were killed.  She shed a tear for those who left their blood to mark their passing.

Rosie discovered that Canadian soldiers know how to be soldiers.  She honours death and puts down peacekeeping.  She spreads the Harper government propaganda.

But we did not need to join her in her travels to know that she is wrong.  For the past two hundred years, nobody has marched up the Khyber Pass to glory.  The Brits, in their red coats, marched to Afghanistan and died.  The Russians, with their brutality, died.  The Americans searched for Osama bin Laden and died.  There is no honour to be gained in Afghanistan.  There are opium growers and warlords.  They are neither good friends nor worthy enemies.

Canada went to Afghanistan to please the Americans.  Canada went at the cost of soldiers lives.  It is hard to accept the cost.

When Canadians went to fight the Boers with the Brits, when they joined in the salient at Ypres, when they were the cannon fodder for the raid on Dieppe, took arms for the United Nations in Korea, they answered the call.  Through world wars and police actions, Canadians have more than proved themselves as warriors.  We hardly needed to add the dust of Afghanistan to prove anything to anybody.

The Harper government played up the soldiers’ efforts to build schools, to help the women in a land that defies time and the training provided its police.  All of it is for naught.  Memories fade fast in a land without conscience.

When the last soldier is home, Canadians will also forget.  There will be no monuments, no battle flags and no day of remembrance for Afghanistan.  We achieved nothing.  We gained no honour.   We let soldiers die for nothing.  Can we remember shame?


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Who makes these ridiculous liquor regulations?

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Liquor service in Ontario is a kind of local option confusion.  Take the recent Ribfest in Babel.  If the responsible party is the municipal government, we are annoyed.  If the responsible level of government was provincial, we are doubly annoyed.  It has been our experience that the municipal event planning people in Babel are not particularly expert in that function. They tend to be less than thorough in considering the ramifications of their events and rules.  The provincials have fewer excuses for their errors.  They are deserving of more lashes.  These are the people who trumpeted through the news media earlier this year that they had eased the liquor rules for out-door events in Ontario.

If this is easing the rules, check this out.

Ribfests are a common summer event in towns throughout Ontario.  There is a caravan of vendors selling barbequed foods to the public.  This involves a range of products besides pork spare ribs.  Whatever the product, you are guaranteed that you will end up smeared with the sauce and flatulent from the beans they sell you with the barbeque.  What you need with it is large amounts of beer.  It washes you down as well as the messy barbeque.  Luckily, the event organizers have learned to provide copious amounts of paper towels.

What the organizers do not seem to understand is the thirst generated by the large amounts of spicy barbeque sauce.  They have determined that you can buy just two plastic cups that can each contain just 5.5 ounces of beer.  The two plastic cups are not even the equivalent of a bottle of beer.

But that is not the silly part of the story.  There was a long line up at the only entrance to this event from the main street.  The city had put up a huge fence around the entire city square.  There was also just one exit—at the other end of the square.  An event supposedly open to all had suddenly become restrictive.  It seemed that the reason for the delay in passing people through the single gate was proving that they were of an age that they could legally buy an alcoholic beverage.  Those passing the test were issued a wristband imprinted by the city.

When a garrulous senior objected to waiting in line,, he was told that he also needed the wristband.  “Why,” he asked, “does someone who is obviously three times the age of majority have to have a wristband?”  The security guard’s answer was that those are the rules.  And that is bureaucracy rampant!


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“Na na na na, hey hey, goodbye!” to the royals.

Friday, July 8th, 2011

It is a catchy tune: Na na na, na, hey hey, goodbye.* It is a fitting goodbye to the young royals who dropped by on their way to honeymooning with the Americans.  Many thought they were here to shore up the stumbling British monarchy in Canada.  If that was why they were here, they failed.

They are obviously a very nice young couple.  The fact of his parentage aside, they deserved to be treated as any young couple wanting to see some of this wonderful country.  They were polite, gracious and willing, they could not be better ambassadors for the family trust back home in England.

But, no matter how the news media gushed over them (if you can countenance CTV’s Lloyd Robertson gushing), they failed.  They brought nothing with them but their well-scrubbed looks and smiles.  They took nothing away with them but fleeting memories of their whirlwind tour.

The gullible among us think this prince and his princess are part of a fairy tale wherein they live in some far away castle as the next king and queen.  They are not.  To the chagrin of royal watchers, the present Queen is not waiting for her eldest son to die before her.  Nor is it appropriate to assume that Charles will graciously abdicate in favour of his oldest son.  That might only happen over Camilla’s dead body.

It is to be regretted that some anti-monarchists in Quebec went out of their way to give the young couple the finger.  That was unnecessary and rude.  There is a solid body of opinion in Canada that we are long overdue to eliminate the monarchy from our country, coins and our $20 bills.  “The Queen, in the right of Canada” is antiquated and long out of style.  It is hardly pertinent to the majority of Canadians.

But you should not initiate an orderly change by assuming the monarchy does not exist.  How we replace the monarchy is the question that needs to be studied.  And it needs to be studied, openly and carefully by a constitutional conference in which all Canadians can have their say.

The people representing us at a constitutional conference need to be elected to that role.  Two or three people per federal electoral district might be logical.  They will need time.  It will not be cheap.  It is necessary.  When they are through deliberating, there will need to be a referendum so that all Canadians will have their say.  It is only at the completion of this that we will or will not rid ourselves of the encumbrance of England’s royals.


* The copyright for this song is confused because of the different arrangements and lyrics used by the various groups of artists who have recorded it.  We apologize for not being able to recognize the musicians and lyricists.

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Will the timorous want Tim Time?

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

The pundits are calling for Tim Time.  They believe that the Mike Harris acolyte, Tim Hudak, is the natural successor to Dalton McGuinty if McGuinty’s two-term government falters and falls this October.

But pundits have been wrong before.  Who would have believed that a walking candidate for a heart attack such as right-winger Rob Ford would become mayor of Canada’s greatest city?  Who expected Jack Layton’s NDP breakthrough in Quebec to produce a majority government for Conservative Stephen Harper?  With those other right-wingers in office, does Tim Hudak qualify for a trifecta bet?

Hudak winning under the circumstances would be unusual.  Ontario voters have never been inclined to want the same party in power in both Ottawa and Queen’s Park.  Nor are Ontario voters noted for their right-wing leanings.  They tend to go with the flow.  They go to the best bet for economic stability and growth and they respect leadership.

And leadership is the problem for the Ontario election in October.  You have to look to Andrea Horwath, Tim Hudak and Dalton McGuinty for leadership.  Some choice!  That is all you have got.

Andrea Horwath is taking a reasoned, left of centre approach that is all over the map and confusing voters.  Tim Hudak is a trained pit bull and he considers it his job to ravage Liberals and anything they propose.  The voters are starting to know what he is against but they have no idea what he is for.  Instead of showing any leadership, McGuinty is playing it low key.  His strategy seems to be that he can be just conservative enough that people do not have to try Tim and that he is socially conscious enough that they do not have to switch to Andrea.  If the contest gets down to who can be the most boring, McGuinty is the front runner.

But who said provincial politics had to be exciting?

The provincial liberals actually believe that Andrea Horwath and Tim Hudak will cancel each other out and keep Dalton McGuinty in power.  The only question is exactly how many seats he will lose with this strategy?  If Dalton loses more than 16 of his existing seats, he could be into a minority situation.

One of those 16 seats in Ontario that Dalton might be risking is right here in Babel.


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Where will Bob Rae lead the Liberal Party?

Monday, July 4th, 2011

In case you did not think that headline question was rhetorical, the answer is: nowhere.  The Liberal Party of Canada is not Bob Rae’s party to take anywhere.  When his couple of years as interim leader are finished, the party will still be very much in evidence in Ottawa and hopefully across Canada. Rae’s role is to encourage the party to use the opportunity during his time as caretaker to rethink and realign liberalism in this country.  He can help but it would be best for him to do it in a passive role.

The very fact of his previous life as a failed NDP Premier of Ontario will be useful.  His leadership position will help to cleanse the Liberal Party of Canada of the extremes of its right wing.  There is a Conservative Party that will welcome these misfits and the Liberal Party can more clearly define itself on the centre-left of the political spectrum.

The party never needed the Paul Martin’s and his ilk that thought they were smart to campaign on the left and then rule on the right.  The public quickly saw through Martin and his right-wing Liberals and said if they were going to have right-wing government, they would opt for Harper and the real thing.

But there is a desperate need in this country for a party of the centre-left.  That is the opportunity for liberalism.  It is an opportunity for a party with a social conscience, a concern for freedom of the individual, a party of equal rights for all, a party that says business serves the consumer first, that says government serves the citizen first, and ensures that we have courts that deliver justice to the citizen.  It has to be a political party that protects the environment for our now and future citizens.  It has to be a party, not dominated by unions, but that works for fairness for all workers.

Creating this new centre-left liberalism is not going to occur like magic.  It will take some years of hard work.  There will be missteps and confusion.  It has to start with the members of the Liberal Party taking over the power in the party from the Ottawa coterie.  This requires the recognition that the real power in the party resides in each electoral district.  The Leader’s office, with Rae temporarily filling the role, only runs the caucus.  The Caucus chose Rae as interim leader and they should work with him.  The Liberal Party members have a lot more important work to do.

We will keep you posted.


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The Wondering World of Stephen Harper.

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

It is unseemly for adult males to giggle but we recently read an op-ed in which a National Citizen’s Coalition apologist complained that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was no longer conservative enough.  It is important to explain that op-ed is newspaper jargon for opposite the editorial.  This has been the location which larger newspapers traditionally use for opinion articles that do not necessarily reflect the publication’s opinion.

Since we are referring to the Toronto Star, we can only assume that this is not the same opinion as is held by the Toronto Star editors.  Our very best giggle in the article was when the writer referred to the Fraser Institute as “a respected economic think-tank.”  Obviously the Toronto Star’s bureau of accuracy missed that typographical error.

But the article was funnier than that.  The writer assures us that Stephen Harper does not have some sort of a right-wing agenda.  He tells us that is the old Stephen Harper.  He introduces us to a new, kinder, gentler Stephen Harper who only wants Canadians to have the benefits of paternalistic conservative governments for ever and ever.

The writer denies emphatically that Stephen Harper has any intention of using his majority in parliament to embark on an ideological or right-wing crusade.  By this stage, the writer had this reader in paroxysms of almost wet-your-pants laughter.

He sees Mr. Harper as wanting his Conservative Party to occupy the “centre” or “moderate” political ground, a piece of real estate, the writer believes the Liberal Party once owned.  He fails to tell us how Mr. Harper could possibly find it.

A further bit of humour from this guy is that the Harper government will cut the deficit and balance the government’s books only, he assures us, if it can be done in a relatively painless fashion.  He notes that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has told Canadians that he can easily find $4 billion per year in savings.  Hell, what is $4 billion these days?

Mind you, he quotes some of those ‘thinkers’ at the Fraser Institute as saying the government’s plan will not work.  They say that drastic spending cuts are necessary.  They want “real and substantial spending reductions that either significantly cut programs or eliminate them entirely.”

Think about it.  These are the people who brought Stephen Harper to power.   We might not be in the majority these days but we can be proud we voted Liberal.


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Blogs, bloggers and the feed-back they get.

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

There was an interesting comment the other day from a regular reader who said, “Where did that microphone come from?”  She could not understand why the topic was suddenly microphones.  The simple answer was that we had just been at an event where the microphone and sound system were in terrible condition and nobody seemed to know how to handle the problem.

What we realized was that her concern was that, once again, we had wandered from the political commentary for which she reads our blog.  That fits the pattern we have seen in the statistical analysis we get from Google Analytics.  For example, the best read column in the past year was the one on the F-35 fighter aircraft.  It was not the discussion of the attributes of the aircraft that interested people but the political decisions behind it.

That settles it.  Our blog is now just of political commentary.  Most readers seem to have little problem with the liberal bias.  The Provincial Liberal Party here in Babel might argue that but their problem is that we are not writing for them.  When we see them doing the job properly and democratically, we will cheerfully recognize their effort.  When we see Premier McGuinty showing some leadership and liberalism, we will find something nice to say about him.  His only positive attributes at the moment are that he is not Tim Hudak or Andrea Horwath.

In the past year, we have posted something in our blog 365 days in a row.  That is sometimes a chore and sometimes we are posting something just to be here.  That is to stop.  If there is nothing posted one day, it will be because we have nothing important to say.  Posting a new item two or three times a week is an easier schedule for this writer and readers get better quality stuff.

There are also times we are busy working on something else.  Thank goodness some people like our writing enough to pay for it.

We are going to stop the silly little poems.  Nobody has ever admitted to reading them or even chuckling.  We believe that the poem, The man who stood on the side of the road, was the synthesis of Michael Ignatieff’s time as leader of the federal Liberals.  Few agreed with us.  The continuing series of two and three liners were going to be our contribution to Twitter (we called them our ‘twits”), but Twitter has already lost its bloom in social commentary..

We will try for more balance between the federal, provincial and municipal scene.  The current municipal scene lacks the humour of the last council.  Mind you, having the free services of Councillor Prowse as our new chauffeur is a funny tale but we will save that for when council takes July off.

The danger in commenting on the federal political scene is that, too often, discussions of the Harper government’s policies—or lack thereof—come across as rants.  Sorry about that but some people can really piss you off.

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Our Canada, our country, please help.

Friday, July 1st, 2011

It is okay to be patriotic.  It is especially alright for Canadians.  There is a lot to cheer about across our country.  There is much to love about this strikingly beautiful and richly endowed land.  And there are some very good people here.  Many are smart.  Most are very pleasant.  A few are angry about something or other but luckily they are the exception.  After all, if there were not a few assholes around, how could we recognize and appreciate the nice people.

And we certainly appreciate those nice ones.  We smile at the person who holds a door for us.  We thank people who are pleasant to deal with in business.  We wave at a motorist who lets us in to a line of traffic.  We greet people we know well with appropriate hugs or kisses.  Canadians are, in the main, warm-hearted, friendly people.  They are also mostly tolerant.  They do not all go into shock to find out someone is gay.  They generally accept the facts that not everybody has the same birth language, the same religion or no religion.

If we were asked for just one word to describe Canadians, our vote is for tolerance.  We are known around the world for that.  People respect us as a nation for our tolerance.  Americans envy it.  Brits see it as part of our youthful exuberance as a country.  The French deride it.  The Germans do not understand it.  The Scandinavians want us to pay them royalties for it.  In other countries, the struggle to simply survive leaves little time to contemplate it.  Canadians should enjoy it.

But first, we have to deal with some of those aforementioned assholes.  One, we would push to the front of the line, is Mr. Stephen Harper.  Some think the Prime Minister is a wolf in boring clothing.  One thing we know for sure, he lacks tolerance.  He appears to us to be a chauvinist, a careless laissez faire economist, an egotist and he has proved he has no compunction about lying to the Canadian people.  He is a warmonger.  He is mean spirited.  And he has damaged our international reputation.  We should all feel sorry for the people whom he gulled into voting for his party.  Boy, will they regret it!

But, obviously, his government will run its course.  That gives Canadians a window of about four years to plan a better way to run our wonderful country.  That is not much time for the makeover of a country.

What we need is a larger and more vocal movement to endorse a constitutional conference for the country.  The conference would need to be followed up with a referendum.  There is no other peaceful way that we can effect change in how we are governed.  If you think we should wait for the federal and provincial governments to agree on changes, you should live so long!  These governments will not agree to a constitutional conference unless we as citizens force the issue.  We have to cut across party boundaries, political boundaries and cultural boundaries and make politicians pay attention.

Today is Canada Day, 2011.  In 2017, our country will be 150 years old.  Is it not about time that you get off your ass and care?  Is it not time to wave that beautiful flag and say enough is enough?  Let’s grow up Canada.

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