Monday, February 27, 2006

Jesus of Montreal

No, not the film (although I've never seen it which is weird given it's probably CanCon or something). 19 Quebec priests (including one who has spoken out in the past) have written to La Presse criticising the Catholic church's stance on same sex marriage.

Personally I try and stay out of what the Church thinks, because in the main I don't think it matters unless and until they try and impose that view via the law. Sadly that is all too often the case. It will be interesting to see how the hierarchy reacts.

La Presse's main article (Google translation here)
The original letter in French (Google translation)

Fox News - you couldn't make it up (but they do)

Seen at Opinio Juris.

O Captain my Captain

Two captains in my thoughts - Mats Sundin of Sweden and the Toronto Maple Leafs and (it seems) Robbie Keane of the Republic of Ireland.

First - Mats. Not my kind of captain really, but in my short hockey-following spell he's all we've had. Pretty different from the "blood, guts and guile" employed by Manchester United - Robson, Bruce, Cantona, Keane (we have yet to see Neville G exhibit guile). My wife regales me with tales of Doug Gilmour - who sounds like Robson in putting his body on the line but never making it to the ultimate prize. In any case, Mats and Krusty the Klown have been tearing it up in Torino and returning with gold medals. He's 35 now - a bit late to acquire a taste for championhood but even if the Stanley Cup is beyond us in 2006 I wish he would show some rage once in a while... unSwedish I suppose. God knows he has a lot to rage against if he took a notion to, since there are more passengers in the team than on the TTC and even Domi looks like his fire is dimming somewhat.

Now... Keane. Wikipedia helpfully points out that Roy and Robbie are no relation. We didn't need the help. Roy may have never followed through on musing about playing in Europe but if handed the opportunity I imagine he would have done more with it that Robbie's brief spell at Internazionale. Instead of doing his best to hang in there and learn from the Dutch and Italian greats at the club, he took the option of returning to Leeds. Some might say he hadn't much choice with the managerial change to Tardelli but Steve McManaman had the same dilemma at Manuel's beloved Real and he decided to hang in there and ended up with the winning goal in a European Cup final. Keane could have matured in Italy and instead read his own press at Leeds. Now he's not sure of his game at Spurs. This is the captain of Ireland, apparently.

Apparently it's all sweetness and light in the Irish camp. Staunton says "I'm the boss, I'm the gaffer" and people don't laugh at him to his face. 120 year old assistant Sir Bobby babbles away happily. Chirpy Chappie Mick Byrne is back - and kissing Damien Duff apparently. Apparently DD is "more relaxed" which given his usual demeanor means comatose. Even set against this Alice in Wonderland picture the appointment of Keane is bizarre. Not since the Spice Boys have we seen an Irish player display as much petulance as Robbie on a good day. In some ways Staunton has been abandoned by the more senior squad members who have chosen their job over their country and given the fiasco of the last several campaigns who would blame them. However, passing over Shay Given who has equalled the heroics of his fellow Donegal man Bonner is inexplicable unless he refused it and I find that hard to believe.

Ironically - Staunton's first game is against Sweden and Celtic's beloved Henrik Larsson. Some slightly divided loyalties at Lansdowne on March 1st I'd say, though Celtic shirts are less likely to be welcome in Dublin for a while.

Sam Sullivan spins Torino around

There were three standout moments in the somewhat tepid closing ceremony to the Torino Olympic Games (compared to say, Sydney) - the costumes on the former Olympians carrying out the Olympic flag - only in Italy, the guys being blown into the air by the giant fan - looked even crazier than skeleton racing and finally the acceptance of the Olympic flag by Mayor of Vancouver Sam Sullivan.

Sullivan became quadruplegic at 19 after a skiing accident. He had a socket built into his wheelchair so he could wave the (huge) Olympic flag as is traditional - apparently he practiced in deserted parking lots at night. (I still think a Canadarm would have been cool though). Boy did he ever wave it and the crowd went nuts. The Politic has some media reaction.

The Governor-General (hot, as always) seemed to be enjoying herself immensely - was sceptical at first but she certainly beats her predecessor for public appeal (and looks and dress sense). I wonder if VANOC will be worried about Bryant Gumbel's comments on the Winter Games - they should start by having the GG around a lot if some other CBCer hasn't taken the job by then. I hope I'm there to find out in person - although that's the kind of thing you always promise yourself when watching the Olympics.

As for the rest of it - hated the even more stupid than usual Franglish mismash of O Canada (albeit superbly vocalised by Ben Heppner) and wondered how long it will take Avril Lavigne to disappear now that she's decided she wants to be just another blonde tartlet.

Keep Howard's trainsets running, buy a condo

Transit Toronto picked up the Star's piece on Howard Moscoe, the TTC Chairman's plan to force condo developers near subway stations to purchase metropasses for their residents.

Now, some condo developers do offer one year of metropasses as a sales incentive. However, the ongoing budget crunch has seen some pretty dubious tactics from city council where the existing development levies are being supplemented by extra squeeze - money for a park here or a public square refurbishment there - which of course the local councillor can take credit for. The TT article asserts that condos don't pay development levies as it stands - but they do, and are supposed to pay for city infrastructure including transit.

One would think the saving grace of this is that the money raised will help out the TTC because it's going direct to them - instead it will just allow the city to cut its direct subvention to the TTC while adding more riders to the hard-pressed system and cause resentment at being getting a stick rather than a carrot (like tax relief on metropasses).

Public space

There's a lot of ongoing handwringing in Toronto about public spaces (usually in NOW but sometimes in Eye and the Star).

I agree with some of it - the current newspaper boxes are a disgrace to the city and a hindrance to the partially/non-sighted citizenry. PATH is indeed confusing and I have yet to find some of the passageways the PATH map claims exist despite looking many times. I sympathise with guerrila gardeners and it emphasises how poorly the city looks after the bits of green they are supposed to tend. The campaign to remove road-facing fencing does add to the open culture I found when arriving in Toronto as opposed to the almost mandatory front walls in Irish housing estates.

However, the same people that oppose corporate advertising (which has, it's fair, completely colonised places like Yonge and Dundas) also oppose bylaws to restrict every scobe with an inkjet and a pot of glue to plaster posters for every lame band or service in the city all over the nearest flat surface - post boxes, hydro poles, bus shelters, you name it. Sauce for the goose - if it's free speech for one it's free for the other, and at least the corporates pay for the privilege which keeps a shelter or two open I guess.

Some say "the TTC loses its brand image when you plaster iPod wraparounds on it" but want free ads for all sorts of crap and to turn TTC vehicles into psychedelic nightmares - forgetting that the last major transport company to try this reversed the process when the public backlash was personified by Maggie Thatcher and her handkerchief. Their objection to the TTC's 7 cent per journey revenue from advertising is a question of pricing not whether we should have it at a time when fares are, er, "rocketing".

I do think the TTC has one major plus - their buskers have to go through auditions. But why should this be limited to the ears? Those pushing for a major refurbishment of TTC stations on the University line should start by pushing for "easel space" at TTC stations like King, Dundas and the Danforth line where there are great expanses of unbroken tile, and in the case of Dundas in a rather dodgy shade. Naturally I'm a "I don't know much about art but I know what I like" chap so inspiring stuff like portraits of the recent Olympic medalists on a stirring Alpine backdrop would be very nice :) However, no fingerpainters or other muppets - our public space is valuable just as the TTC values our ears.

Not only could the artistic talents feed some starving artists of which I'm sure we have many, but the work could literally expand our subway stations...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The price of democracy

The price of a democratic society is often unpalatably high - in terms of what society pay must to preserve it and in terms of what some societies will demand of their citizens to exercise it.

Two instances of this have come to mind over the past few days. The first was a story in the NY Times (registration required) in respect of mounting fees which States levy on former criminals in order to regain their franchise, lost at the time of their conviction. Those few of the poor that bother to vote are now denied it both by their punishment which in turn becomes a "life sentence" as they are too poor to discharge the fees levied. These States are not just the usual suspects like Georgia but so-called blue states like Connecticut.

The fees seem to be small, $30 here, $15 there but added together come to thousands of dollars. I consider it dangerous to withdraw the franchise for prisoners - any group without a franchise or unable to exercise it is a group which will encounter dire treatment from politicians, to which the mentally disabled can often attest. For the franchise to be withdrawn for a civil debt is surely counterproductive in rehabilitating criminals - but then the people who propose such laws do not seek rehabilitation but humiliation.

The second was of course, the Dublin riots. Needless to say, Indymedia blames the Guards. What a shock. The Guards are on the back foot from their hopeless handling of the May Day riots four years ago - water cannon not batons would have been the answer and killed two birds with one stone so to speak, some Indymedia writers would have been sweeter smelling for it. As for the Garda tactical deployment on Saturday, obviously they preferred to avoid a Garvaghy Road lining the streets operation but instead hoping to lie in reserve and keep it low key. It certainly would have been preferable to ask the Love Ulster folks not to come on a home Six Nations weekend when policing is stretched as it is. I suppose the last time there was this much rubble in O'Connell Street (apart from LUAS) was when republicans blew up Admiral Nelson in '66.

The principal problem here is that we all thought "Republican Sinn Fein" was a historical oddity by now with a few jeremiahs crying in the wilderness. Instead they seem to be plugging into the deprived/work-shy (you pick) neighbourhoods which ironically were Sinn Fein's springboard over Labour when they went champagne socialist. Here's the wake-up call.

Some bloggers have come up with variants of "she was asking for it", an excuse I thought was last successful in an Italian court and even then it was overturned. United Islander is running a poll as to "in hindsight should the march have gone ahead?" (currently 43% yes 57% no), failing to say on what grounds the government would have prohibited it beyond "we can't protect people from exercising their democratic right to protest". If the government yielded on that ground then other minority groups between start worrying about their right to protest. As Chris Rock puts it "that train is never late". Comparing the Love Ulster crew to Nazis in Jerusalem or KKKs in Alabama, as an interviewee did here, misses the point that short of ethnic cleansing the prospect of a united Ireland means having to face the reality of equal right to protest for all "Irish" people. Best not give them ideas I suppose.

This is our "Denmark Cartoon", and if Ireland wants to pass it then next Saturday Love Ulster should be asked to return, protected by the police and the army as necessary, and every Saturday after that until such time as the parade gets to wherever the hell it wants to go. I don't care that FAIR isn't fair, that it's sectarian, this is indeed Ireland's test and so far we have failed it. To paraphrase a tagline from a local cough medicine - democracy tastes awful but it works.

Final thoughts - can't help but wonder that with the PD party offices being targetted in the riots if some republicans aren't muttering "Reichstag fire" with this protest coming very soon after the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis called for the repeal of the Offences against the State Act and the robust response likely from Michael McDowell. The real error was of course bashing Charlie Bird - obviously these scobes are too young to remember Veronica Guerin. If you want to get repression in this country, bash a pol. If you want to get Stalinism, bash a journo. Expect the ID card train to start pulling out of the station any minute.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

D'emigrants and d'immigrants

Long ago, starting from Famine times, the Irish people went to the States, the UK, Australia and Canada in their droves. In latter years some got turned away and went illegal, some got Morrison visas (which even then were seen to favour Ireland disproportionately over poorer nations). We continued to produce children for export (no contraception) and threw them on the mercy of the rich.

Fast forward past, oh, when Fitzer stopped running the country further into the ground to the 1987 government, Mac the Knife and the proposal of the IFSC. All of a sudden the need to emigrate to find work started, slowly at first, to evaporate. Shortly after that people started to turn up at the doorstep looking to live here, and not just Jeremy Irons and his pink castle in West Cork either. Some of these people were even "coloured". The same colour as the people on the collection boxes adorned the tills in country shops and Trocaire boxes at Easter.

Now, some countries would have taken their newfound attractiveness as an opportunity. God knows, we knew about any immigration system worth talking about and could have, from bitter experience, put one together which mixed decency and the needs of the country in equal measure.

Needless to say, we didn't take that road, enforcing the worst of all worlds with asylum seekers arriving from all sorts of places and dumped in B&Bs with no support and no right to work. Meanwhile legal immigrants ran the gauntlet of the Aliens Office of the Department of Justice and in search of visa stamps pushed from Garda pillar to Garda post (not the officers' real names). The husbands of badly needed Filipino nurses weren't allowed to work and those same nurses are being cheated when they get here by being offered lesser contracts than previously promised, with threats of deportation in the same manner as Brazilian meat factory workers whose bosses hold their passports.

At least then we might have had the good manners to recognise that since we were no longer the poor man of Europe, we didn't really have a sympathy vote and therefore abiding by the immigration laws of countries like the US might be a good idea, especially post 9/11 and the Americans chucking overstayers into jail rather the Aer Lingus to Shannon. Again, that would be assuming too much. On Funferal, Andrew Ó Baoill points out the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, which seeks "immigration reform in the US" and sympathy for the plight of "the undocumented". There's a blog for those illegals who want to tell their story.

For those non-Irish readers who can't parse the language here, "immigration reform" means illegals getting amnesty and "undocumented" means illegal visa overstayer. Back in Ireland, "immigration reform" means signing bilaterals with Romania and Nigeria voiding asylum applications from there and "undocumented" are "'fugees, who get free cars from the government and are taking our jobs and women" (especially dodgy if they are - eek - coloured!)

Maybe it's because emigration is not a major factor in my family, maybe it's the recollection of how tough it was to get through Citizenship and Immigration Canada to achieve legal status here and maybe it's the hypocrises outlined above, but I find myself with little sympathy for the illegals. The Americans are entitled to control their immigration and if crackdowns come on illegals, the legals will be profiled and suffer for it.

Four medals in a day, another certain, mourning ensues

Don't believe me? Ask the press:
Four medals; one big loss
No, Canada!

The day started off well for Canada at the Torino Games - Chandra Crawford wins the cross-country sprint, the least favoured of the three Canadian entrants. Hiccups later on the morning - "Jasey Jay" Anderson disappoints again (should get himself a good Irish name, J.J.) and the womens curling team is beaten the semi-final but retains a shot at bronze. Then the mens curlers win their semi, guaranteeing silver. Cindy Klassen gets 2006 medal no. 4 (first time for a Canadian) in speed skating (gold), Kristina Groves following her for silver and the womens short track relay take silver too. Canada has surpassed their Salt Lake City 2002 medal total and the games aren't over yet.

Pretty good for a day's work? Not when disaster was around the corner. CBC and NBC tv executives are probably jumping off bridges - the US and Canadian hockey teams were eliminated in the quarters, by Finland and Russia respectively, killing any hope of a decent audience for the later stages. Naturally, news spread fast. Any talk of how more diversity in the medal round is good for the game, as when the US women's hockey team were beaten by Sweden in their semi, has disappeared. Wayne takes the blame and cries, although the only thing he can arguably be blamed for is not getting Pat Quinn to put his name on the teamsheet instead of any of the non-goalies.

The fact is for many Canadians, and it looks pretty bad when you say it aloud, the rest of the Olympics matters not one whit if the (male) hockey team doesn't bring home a medal. Many people watch the Olympics who don't watch general sport, granted, but the sporting devotees see the Olympics as nothing more than a pause in the NHL schedule filled with more hockey.

That Ovechkin scored the winner will resuscitate the Crosby boosters, as many bloggers have already noted. I would have not have selected Crosby, he may be an outstanding player but he has yet to engender team spirit in Pittsburgh (as the recent targeting of him without repercussion showed) in contrast with Ovechkin who has fired up a poor Washington side as much as one guy can.

Pat Quinn's dubious season with the Leafs, Janet Jones, no lucky loonie in the ice and Steve Moore's vendetta against Bertuzzi (who was in the penalty box when Ovechkin scored) will all play prominent roles in the bar stool and pundit post-mortems. As for Sundin - he seems to be finding his goal touch for Sweden. He better not lose it with his luggage on the flight back to Toronto.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

John Waters and gobshite liberalism

Eamon Dunphy's podcast this morning (Newstalk 106 Tuesday 21st) had Irish Times journo (and "songwriter") John Waters on in the guise of a newspaper reviewer. During his chummy banter with Dummers (at 39m50sec according to iTunes) he came out swinging against the Irish Examiner poll which claimed 51% of surveyed Irish people supported "some form of gay marriage". (United Islander has also written on this today)

According to Wikipedia Waters has previously expressed views against extending the term marriage to gay partnerships, but professed to support civil partnerships. His initial annoyance seemed to be with the Examiner article lumping in all sorts of gay partnerships as forms of "gay marriage". From a journalist it's amusing that he would take offence at a sub-ed lax headlining, surely he's been at the Old Lady long enough to have had it happen to himself.

The amusing thing was that he decided to tell us what was natural ("heterosexual marriage is a tautology") but his real problem was with the reference to adoption in the article:
The Irish Examiner/Red C survey on attitudes to homosexuality also reveals that exactly half of Irish adults would be happy to allow gay people to adopt children on the same terms as heterosexuals.
Waters described this as "gobshite liberalism", "madness" and "fundamentally ignorant":
If you're a woman, you can adopt, either in a partnership, or in a marriage or as a single mother, increasingly. If you're a man, you can't. Theoretically you can, but in practice you can't. But not alone that, but if you're the father of a child, whose mother, unmarried, whose mother puts that child up for adoption, you have no right to claim to adopt that child at all. You can't. The mother can hand the child away to another couple.

And in effect now what the Irish Examiner is calling for in this survey, what the tendenciousness of this survey is that, that child of that man, theoretical, hypothetical man, can be handed to a gay couple across the street [DUNPHY: Incredible] by a mother that doesn't want it. [DUNPHY: That's incredible]

This is the kind of gobshitery that is actually passing for intellectual debate in this country. [DUNPHY: It's terrible] It's really time we began to wake up to what this agenda is really about and we have Niall Crowley of course, your old friend [DUNPHY: eh, yeah the Equality Reform...]
Waters tailed off at this point, reminiscing chummily with Dunphy about the latter having used a "six letter word" against the Equality Authority chairman. Sadly Dunphy while occasionally entertaining and incisive gives a free pass to his many chums (McGuinness and Fisk, for instance).

When is Waters going to get it - when you deny rights to somebody you end up denying rights to yourself down the road - if Dan Savage can promote "straight rights" (legislation opposing gay rights often has repercussions for straight people) you'd think John Waters could see that the ultimate end of treating people with equality will be justice for fathers - whether gay people or fathers get justice first seems to cause him great distress because he seems to feel gay people will get rights and then the equality drawbridge will be pulled up.

Finally - later in the same podcast, Paul Anthony McDermott goes to bat on matters adjoining the appeal of Wayne O'Donoghue's sentence by the DPP (although speaking obliquely, despite many attempts by Dummers to get him to speak directly on the case) - I have written previously about his remarks on evidence.

St Clair is saved...

saved from the NIMBYs that is.

The Divisional Court handed down its reserved decision (PDF format - hat tip Spacing Wire for the link) in the rehearing of the attempt by Save Our St Clair to derail the Streetcar Right of Way project. SOS' antics have cost the city millions and created disruption for the locals by interrupting the construction. The Ontario Muncipal Board's thumbs up to the Transportation section of the 2002 Official Plan a month ago seems to have demolished the last doubts.

Biking Toronto has more analysis but hopefully this will be the last bump in the road - for streetcars to work they must be able to move efficiently - indeed the clustering caused by traffic congestion and consequent lost travel time is one of the reason people criticise streetcars!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Decisions decisions

Transit Toronto notes various discussions about transit this weekend, including a Star article on TTC riders attitude to pregnant and elderly fellow commuters and the Globe on cutting the TTC's 33 Forest Hill route to help plug the TTC's deficit. In other news, Gord Perks is back in Eye and on the attack after his election defeat, although unlike other candidates he never actually abandoned his soapbox during the campaign, unlike Global TV's Peter Kent for example.

Matt Blackett runs Spacing magazine and the associated Spacingwire, and he comments on the Star's article in a "nothing to see here, move along" kind of way. To be honest when I read spacing wire I agree wholeheartedly on some stuff and want to puke reading others, like his kneejerk response to the launch of Porter Airlines and this latest (short) reaction to the Star article.

There's a lot of things that women and men tell each other "you wouldn't understand" (with men it's usually sports related) but being pregnant is unarguably a single sex point of view. Several pregnant or recently so friends have told me of being ignored by TTC riders while heavily pregnant. Now this is arguably just as anecdotal as MB's reaction but there is a general lack of civility and general cop-on by people with backpacks and hanging around in doorways preventing people getting by.

The Star does get the male thing down though - half the time we're in our own little world and honestly not noticing, and the other half in dread of either (a) being rudely refused or (b) having a "false positive" in assuming the other party to be pregnant - even the neighbouring female rider in the Star story witnessing a rare seat give-up did not assume pregnancy despite the pillow. Matt - get pregnant and get riding and let us know how it goes for you.

The 33 Forest Hill issue is interesting - it's basically a commuter route but for schoolies and maids. Service has been cut back to 20 minutes headways on weekdays and could probably be cut further to hourly (like 162 Bridle Path) except for the "rush" periods of the route. Maybe if their maids couldn't get to and from work their employers might pause on the way to their downtown parking spots and think about how transit is vital to the city... fat chance!

As for Steve Munro's "well if you remove 33 then all the elderly are left with is Wheeltrans" - by the looks of things the cost/ride is probably equivalent to Wheeltrans and if the elderly residents qualify for it they should use it rather than having to make their way to a stop and wait 20 minutes. While the actual cost of operating marginal services is one thing, there is also opportunity cost - the bus could be operating on busy routes like the future York University busway. It's actually amazing that some people who can't help but take shots at the Sheppard stubway will defend weird little bus routes like this to the death - and aren't little routes like this what community buses are for?

[UPDATE: Steve Munro has his own blog post here on this subject - but the post's quite long and it's quite late so it may be a while before I post on it]

Meanwhile Gord is sticking it to McGuinty about his "politics is about what's possible" in respect of transit and electricity supply but is doomed to failure. This is the Premier who imposed a health tax without even holding the line on OHIP covered services. All McGuinty cares about is provincial revenues so he can avoid breaking a new promise after the previous breakages: "no new taxes", "no more Harris cuts in education" and "no coal by 2007, er... 2009, er... 2010". At the same time McGuinty has a responsibility to preserve electricity supply in Toronto and Perks is doing a disservice to his readers by giving any veneer of credibility to Miller's desperate flailing around on the subject. People like Perks and Blackett are rarely there when TTC needs help saving money but are always willing to spend either TTC rider fares or the taxes of Torontonians, Ontarians, Canadians or better yet all three at once.

Bumbling along

This post used to say "Try ul rather than li - might be a bullet point?" which is a lesson to me not to post on comments and post to my blog simultaneously. And it's not like they look similar either... oh well!

Bit of a symptom of the weekend really - back to back losses for the Canadian men's hockey team against Switzerland (Tobler0wned?) and Finland, the dawning realisation that unlike a large chunk of "Dallas" I'm not going to suddenly be in a shower and realise that Steve Staunton as Irish soccer manager is all a dream and lastly the crushing defeat at Anfield - not the scale of the result but the significance of it for United's season, for the disaster that is United's playing staff and for Alan Smith's future. I missed it on telly and I'm glad I did because hearing about it was depressing enough. Nice to see that the workshy scouse plague left us with the moral high ground with their "serenade" of Smith though - at least they realised their mistake when he was stretchered off. (Last link requires registration)

Smith might have come to us from the hated Leeds, but so did Eric (who had his problems too - I remember some little problem with Lee Chapman... allegedly) and neither of them could be faulted in the commitment department which simply can't be said of a significant number of players. Surely even Sir Alex in his "double-Glazered" state can't let Solskjaer out the door now and Rossi must be given his head and several like Richardson who just aren't good enough given P45s. Of course, who cares about the fans? United could end up with no silverware but 2nd in the Premiership which means dollars for the Glazers.

Meanwhile in Torino, Canada's women have made off with all the goals and left the men with none. Sure the Finns played an excellent trap but they managed to find the back of the net twice due to Canadian puck-watching and standing around. They were unlucky with the Martin Gerber "save" that wasn't the previous day but that was one of those things. In any case Don Cherry says don't panic and since he is delighting in being fairly prophetic at these Games (especially given he's prophesying from six time zones away) I feel scared to doubt his admonition that these games mean nothing until the medal round gets started. Meanwhile the NHLPA are moaning about the World Cup. They should be soccer players with FIFA rules on international matches which happen a lot more frequently and see how bad they have it then.

Friday, February 17, 2006

More power playing

Last month I wrote two pieces on the power supply in Ontario, here and here. Since then, the proposed Toronto portlands power station is becoming a bigger fiasco by the day.

David Miller is still pushing back at the Portlands Energy Centre 550MW power station, given the thumbs up by the province this week. He has to, since his fellow NDPer Peter Tabuns is making it a cornerstone of his MPP campaign. If Miller wasn't in danger of being kicked out before, failure to help out Tabuns would lead to more Churley style hissy-fitting. Indeed, at the recent public meeting, some speakers opposed any plant at all which is unsurprising given Hizzoner's recent damascene conversion to having one. This is what happens when you promise to turn an existing industrial zone into parks and fluffy bunnies and ignore the City's actual needs - especially when you haven't gotten a badly needed park sorted out already.

There are several unanswered questions about Miller's reasoning:
  • Why will his 300MW plant be able to come to an agreement with Enwave to resell co-generated steam when Portlands could not?
  • How will that steam be efficiently co-generated when the power station requirement is for peak load not base load?
  • How many toonies will it take to break Great Lake Studios lease on Miller's preferred site, the OPG owned Hearn Generating Station - especially when the City's loose cannon, TEDCO, was involved in the deal?
  • Where is your published plan regarding the ability of the City of Toronto to continue to absorb 100,000 more people and their electricity needs annually (based on StatsCan's 4% growth rate for Toronto between 1996-2001). If you don't have a plan - get out of the way of those who do.
  • Does Toronto Hydro management consider the power station a viable investment or is this another politically motivated use of TH like the "outsourcing" of Toronto lighting, the dividend raids and the $900m loan which every year is threatened with being called in when the City budget won't balance?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Send Jeremy Hinzman back

Jeremy Hinzman is one of a number of American military personnel who have come to Canada since the so-called "war on terror" began. At present he is appealing an Immigration Tribunal decision that he does not merit refugee status since he would not receive cruel or unusual punishment for his desertion. Judgement has been reserved by the Federal Court judge hearing the case.

He voluntarily enlisted in the 82nd Airborne Division in 2001 (he is now 26 so he was fully adult at the time) and served one tour in Afghanistan in a non-combat role but his request for "conscientious objector" status being refused (since he wanted to pick and choose which conflicts he would fight in rather than be non-combat in all circumstances) he was reassigned to his previous combat role as an armoured mechanic. He had attended meetings of the Society of Friends but this made his application for selective objection rather than a more understandable objection based on religious pacifism even harder to understand.

The left-wing media in Toronto love Hinzman, especially touting his similarity to Vietnam draftees that Canada sheltered decades ago. The difference is of course that these people did not volunteer and did not want to join the army at all. Is the war in Iraq illegal or immoral? He has the right to think so, he has to right to refuse to fight and refuse illegal orders but only when those orders are refused and soldiers are courtmartialled in the US will some traction build up against the US occupation - hiding out in Toronto for the rest of his life might work for him but it is not a principled stand as he claims it to be.

If Hinzman is truly a principled person, he will return to the United States and face the consequences of his actions. It will not be a pleasant experience, but standing on principle rarely is. His case may also deter people from signing up for the military who don't realise what they're getting into, and will throw ever more light on the fiasco the Bush Administration has created since the fall of Baghdad.

Australia - you can keep him

Much angst has been expended in the Canadian media that Dale Begg-Smith, 21 year old Canadian born gold medalist at the Winter Olympics, declared for Australia in his late teens as their regime facilitated his dot-com business. He also claimed funding favouritism by the sports authorities towards French-Canadians. The Toronto Star reports:
"The French-Canadian guys get so much funding," Begg-Smith told the Vancouver Province last year. "You're better and they're getting the funding and I'm like, 'Why?' In business, I deal with all that crap. In sports, you shouldn't have to deal with that."
His internet ventures have made him a millionaire and driver of a $300,000 Lamborghini but was after his win he was evasive as to the nature of his business. Now we know what that business actually is.

He's a spammer. His companies are accused of facilitating spyware. Here he is discussing his software on a computing bulletin board.

There have been calls for the IOC to yank his medal - but disgusting as it is activities like this are (generally) legal. Hopefully the exposure his gold medal brings on the industry will lead to better measures against these "entrepreneurs" who take advantage of lax security models in programs like Internet Explorer. Which is why everybody should get Firefox.

His website is mysteriously down. However, the Wayback Machine is most helpful here.

Fret no more Canada - celebrate Marc-Andre Moreau's fourth place instead.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Sportsmanship

Leaving the sordid Bertuzzi-Moore-Danson triangle behind for something far more positive.

During the Winter Olympic women's cross country team pursuit, Canadian Sara Renner's ski pole snapped. Nearby Norwegian official Bjornar Hakensmoen gave Renner one of his poles. The Canadians stormed back for a second place finish 0.6 seconds behind, while the Norwegians finished fourth. Despite the Norwegian claiming that he had only done what all the officials had agreed to do beforehand, and the Norwegian Ambassador to Canada (having received goodies at the embassy from various thankful Canadians) passing it off as only the natural reaction, the fact is that many would have not acted quite as quickly. Indeed some Norwegians muttered about how much help a Swede would have been to a similarly afflicted Norwegian.

All the same, in an all too cynical world, I raise my imaginary hat to Mr Bjornar Hakensmoen. Well done, sir.

Stick it in Tim Danson's ear

I am offering Don Cherry's advice to Wayne Gretzky to another canuck under the cosh. Tim Danson, publicity hound extraordinaire, has filed a lawsuit on behalf on Steve Moore and Moore's parents following Todd Bertuzzi's suckerpunching of him. The statement of claim against Bertuzzi, the Vancouver Canucks and their holding company, seeks $15m in lost earnings, aggravated damages of $1m, punitive damages of $2m and $1.5m for his parents' claim of "negligent infliction of nervous shock and emotional distress".

Now, don't get me wrong, what Bertuzzi did was wrong and some restitution is due, unlike Gretzky who has done nothing wrong except be subjected a thinly veiled charge for "failing to control his wife". In the case of the suit itself, only a lawyer who in my opinion shamelessly exploited the French and Mahaffey families while attempting to radically alter the nature of state punishment in Canada, would lodge this suit the day before Bertuzzi and his fellow Canadians started their Olympic campaign. If only he would take up Texas quail shooting but that's too much to hope for. In any case, Bertuzzi's play against Italy seems to indicate he has not been put off by it much. The previous case taken in Colorado, dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, named Brian Burke, Marc Crawford and Brad May, the latter having outraged the Avalanche so much in respect of his actions towards Moore they went and signed him. Moore's parents were not named in the Colorado suit, possibly because of differences in Ontario and Colorado laws.

The only pity is that Moore, who to my view has been egged on by Danson to forum-shop to Colorado in the hope of destroying Bertuzzi previously, may end up with no career and no money. This will be in the same way that the families affected by Karla Homolka's appalling crimes ended up seeing their "wishes" crushed by the Quebec judiciary while Rosie di Manno and various twits with a column made their word count quotas, not least during the recent release of a film recounting her crimes which thankfully seems to be sinking without much trace.

Win the gold Bertuzzi - shove it in Danson's ear. Steve Moore - fire your leech of a lawyer and settle this case.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Iraqi abuse by UK forces

The UK Iraqi occupation forces have been accused of abuse of Iraqis since the war - this one is not going to be explained away like some of the previous ones (source via United Irelander/blogs.ie).

Video here (from the Screws) - shows kicking and headbutting of Iraqis brought into the compound after stone throwing incidents.

NDP expels Hargrove, Miller next? Fat chance.

The Ontario NDP have revoked Buzz Hargrove's party membership (hat tip Far and Wide again) which he has held for 41 years, an action which terminates his Federal membership. Funny that a week ago the rumour was about that Buzz's membership was in doubt but he claims to have not seen it coming.

NDP executive member and fellow CAW official Mike Shields noted that David Miller's NDP membership is questionable given his endorsement of Liberal candidate John Godfrey if Hargrove's actions deserved expulsion. Paul Martin mentioned Miller (and had the handgun ban photo-op) during the campaign which the NDP tried to explain away. Needless to say, NOW, helped by former employee and now Hizzoner's media flack Don Wanagas, got Miller's excuses in a row during the campaign.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Irish military going forward

At Sicilian Notes, Richard Waghorne has written a long piece on what he sees as the downgrading of Irish military capability, favouring significant increases in funding to enable participation in Petersberg tasks. While this debate is worth having it needs to be broken down a bit to fit in blog posts and maybe that will evolve as it unfolds. I should point out at the start that I have never served in the Defence Forces.

The first principle which I feel Irish people cherish about the role of our military abroad is that we choose to keep our heads down to avoid the need for mutual defence pacts and automatic participation in conflicts. We get to decide where our boots go on the ground, when and why. This is linked is our attachment to primarily UN missions - the multilateral option which has less (but non-zero) chance of being driven by economic dictats than the need for oil. We spent 30 years in Lebanon and there's not much oil there. Richard does rightly point out that debate on this stuff is rarely rational, and the facilitation of US troop movements at Shannon is going to keep it that way.

The second one is that Irish people are not really all that bothered that we don't have a "full scale" military. There isn't the same level of outrage as in countries like the US and UK when we lose capabilities or privatise them (Search and Rescue). Our only jet aircraft are ministerial transports (Gulfstream IV and Learjet 45) - we have no capability for Quick Reaction Alert or Combat Air Patrol or Close Air Support. It used to be said that in 1979 when Pope John Paul II was arriving on an Aer Lingus 747 the "escorting" 1950s vintage Fouga Magister jet trainers asked the 747 to slow down so they could keep up! We have no strategic transport aircraft or sealift to get our troops overseas - we depend on others to get us there (although given the missions are multilateral that's not a showstopper). We have Armoured Personnel Carriers but not main battle tanks. We have patrol vessels, not frigates or destroyers.

Our principal offering remains infantry/light cavalry and the knowledge acquired from previous missions which we share through the UN Training School in Ireland (UNTSI). The Defence Forces website (not Firefox compatible, use IE) shows the current mission commitments.

To get the military to a point where Richard Waghorne wishes it to be would require capital expenditure on a massive scale and a significant increase in the current non-pay military budget. When the PC-9s and Mowag APCs were acquired recently, this was funded by selling military barracks to developers. That source of funds is almost gone - although there is always Baldonnel, which I have felt for years should be disposed of. Air bases and military facilities are frequently used in Canada as de facto regional aid, and the Air Corps should be operating from their own compound in one or more of our regional airports, an arrangement you will see in places like Italy.

Between 1997-2004, the proportion of the Defence Budget devoted to pay and allowances has never been less than 66 percent and has been as high as 78 percent - the capital spending arising from the barracks selloffs and the army deafness has pulled the figure into the low 70s in the last few years. (Defence Forces Annual Report 2004, p.50).

Richard makes mention of the percentage of GDP spent on the military. The first thing to remember is that in many European countries you can compare Ireland to, the military is not fully professional - military service is a requirement in most eastern European countries. This tends to bloat out financial and personnel numbers but isn't a great guide to what can be deployed. Even those countries who do spend more do not have a happy history - the Netherlands (who spend 3x the Irish defence/GDP) received a shaming from their troops performance at Srebrenica and their parliament came close to reneging on a promised deployment to Afghanistan recently.

It is not surprising that military/GDP ratio is low since the rate of GDP expansion has been high and the fiscally conservative nature of recent Irish governments has dictated holding down government expenditure as a whole as a percentage of GDP. I'm not sure if anyone's done polling on this, but I think most Irish people don't think it costs much to run the Defence Forces and they don't want it to cost much either. If money was available would probably think meeting the 0.7 percent for overseas aid target would be a higher priority (or more likely even lower taxes). Additionally, the growth of the left-wing media whores like Indymedia will put attempts to put the Irish defence forces on a par with NATO countries will come under severe fire politically.

Some opportunities were lost - Airbus offered A319CJ when the government bought the Learjet. The CJ (too reminiscent of Haughey?) can be easily changed to a cargo transport which could have supplied UN missions abroad. It would have been popular in the Air Corps too since qualified pilots would have an easy route into the airlines! Instead they chose the Lear which has no great advantage to the Defence Forces being purely a corporate transport.

The retention of three Army Brigades for a standing force of about 8,500 is an ongoing mistake rooted in regional politics (and of course more higher officer posts). Reduction to two properly manned Brigades/Commands should become an imperative, one geared to home duties/Aid To Civil Power and one to overseas duties and the geographic commands should be merged. The Canadian Forces are undertaking just such structural change (Canada Command/Canada Expeditionary Force Command). The Reserve Defence Forces must be given statutory protection from dismissal by employers to ensure their availability on a par with the US National Guard and UK Territorials, but should be primarily an "Ireland Command" duty posting.

Worthy of a separate debate (this one's more about overseas) is the nibbling away at the Defence Forces quasi-civil roles by Garda Air/Water, Revenue/Customs, National Drugs team, privatised Search and Rescue etc. The Irish Coast Guard should be separated from Dept of Marine and fold these functions into a single institution (like the United States CG which had similar origins) rather than more and more little fiefs as at present and should share facilities with the Defence Forces (as the Gardai do at Baldonnel) to improve cross-service co-operation.

In summary -
* Irish overseas commitments will continue to be performed solely by the Army for the foreseeable future - Navy supply missions don't count and the Air Corps will never be able to commit enough equipment from other duties to make them count.
* The Defence Forces must continue to evolve out of garrisoning, border duties and politically motivated structures and overseas duties must have its own command. The Reserves must be protected to ensure the capability is there when needed. Duplication between military and civil enforcement should be rooted out.
* There's enough UN needs out there that we don't have to go looking for NATO/WEU ones. Ties with countries supportive of UN missions and undergoing similar evolutions (e.g. Canada) should be encouraged especially where they can provide complementary capabilities in airlift, sealift, air support and heavy armour.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Got tired of waiting for someone to tag me...

pretty sad I know... but I did want to have my little place in the blogosphere :)

Gender: Male
Age: (1-18; 19-30; 31-45; 46-60; 60+) 31-45
Nationality: Irish
Country of residence: Canada
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual (married)
Do you have a disability? No.
How would you describe your political philosophy? Fiscal conservative, social liberal
Level of education (primary; post-primary; third-level; graduate; professional) Bachelor's degree.
If you were to vote on party lines which party would you choose (Ireland)? FF or PD
If you were to vote on party lines which party would you choose (UK)? Tory or LibDem
If you were to vote on party lines which party would you choose (USA)? "Reagan Democrat"
Where do you stand on the EU? I support a Common Market/Europe of nation-states model rather than a Federation.
Did you support the invasion of Afghanistan? Yes.
Did you support the invasion of Iraq? Yes. I had no confidence in the UN (esp. France) doing anything about Saddam.
Do you continue to support either or both of those conflicts? Afghanistan yes, but it's woefully under-resourced in terms of civil government and weaning off poppies. Iraq I supported given the information provided by the US/UK. This has turned out to be lies. Iraq needs to be federated or split to achieve any lasting solution since the Iraqi parliament seems to be worse than Stormont if that's possible.
What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing Irish politics? Persuading all levels of government to lift their eyes above the parish pump.
What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing European politics? Making subsidiarity a reality rather than a screen for encroaching federalism.
What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing international politics? Poverty
Are you, have you ever been, and do you ever wish to be involved in politics in a party political manner? I was a member of FF for a year (1991-2) but left after the coalition with Labour. I would not rule out becoming involved again (in Canadian politics) but have no active ties or aspirations.
Who would you have voted for in the past US Presidential Election? Kerry.

Good luck, wintry Micks

Saw the Irish Winter Olympic team carry in the flag in Torino for the Olympic Opening Ceremony. If you looked at the RTE Sport main page you'd never know it, just a headline about suspended skiers. Naturally they were dwarfed by the Canadian contingent, who looked like they were going into space. Cue even more complaints about their "budget" Hudson's Bay outfits.

If you can afford to fly, thank Freddie Laker

Sir Freddie Laker, former boss of Laker Airlines/Skytrain, has died at the age of 83. His death is notable as he was one of the first pioneers of airline deregulation and no-frills flying, and suffered an early form of the British Airways dirty tricks campaign they later subjected Virgin Atlantic to.

Prior to his involvement, transatlantic flight was the preserve of the rich but Laker offered flights at one third of the flag-carriers fares. The oil crash of the late 1970s killed off Skytrain but sowed the seed for the later Southwest and Ryanair wars against US and European legacy carriers and their high fares.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

TTC price hikes hit the poorest hardest?

The rapid rate of the TTC increases are being felt primarily at the cash fare end. While TTC types struggle to keep metropasses below $100, the cash fare is now $2.75 - and the poorest in society may have difficult affording $21 a time for 10 tokens and almost certainly have problems raising $99.75 once a month. More affluent riders can afford the Metropass discount plan and save that way. The way cash fares are being hiked you'd swear they were cigarettes or liquor...

At the same time it seems that fake tickets and tokens are costing TTC a packet. Time to switch to smart cards - soon! Although Ducharme seems sceptical, comparing it to credit card fraud - well where does that leave TTC's own metropass?

Royson James, who has been more and more sceptical of Hizzoner, much to the rage of the mayor's cronies in the Toronto media and blogosphere, points out that TTC commissioners who raged against necessary fare hikes under Lastman are quietly acquiescing under Miller.

Isn't it okay to be bald in sports?

Apparently Jose Theodore of the Canadiens has tested positive for propecia, a masking agent, and the story is it's because of hair loss products. (If he is taking drugs it doesn't seem to be helping him much). Apparently it's doctor prescribed so that's okay then. Funny that his doctor doesn't have a copy of the banned list when my brother used to carry a card with the IRFU banned list when he played junior rugby in Dublin.

US skeletoner Zach Lund also seems to have hair problems. This seems to be quickly replacing cold medicine as one of those "whoops, you mean it has drugs in it" scenarios we see every Olympics.

Come on Jose - embrace the Messier look. Didn't hurt him did it? Because it's not as if you'd ever take drugs, obviously.

Arise and follow

I've just finished (very belatedly, it was a Christmas present) RTE's excellent four part series "Haughey" following the life and career of "the Boss". I was a bit worried it wouldn't work in our DVD player/NTSC TV but it was fine and the picture/sound was excellent. Naturally given the subject a fourteen part series wouldn't be enough but there was quite enough to be getting on with.

The programme is very well made but what distinguishes it is the cast of characters that appear on it. P.J. Mara is predictably memorable but valuable detail is provided by his private secretary in the 80s. Padraig Flynn's sheer drive first to protect Haughey and then to oust him is almost shocking. Haughey's children Conor, Eimear and Sean all appear, and perhaps this is why the Celtic Helicopters affair didn't appear that I recall, and that his mistress Terry Keane was not only a gossip columnist but the wife of the Chief Justice. Dermot Desmond says he'd give him another million if Haughey asked him.

It wouldn't be complete without some Scrap Saturday - in fact some of the tiresome flashbacks and repetition would have been better being replaced by more of that, like the one where "Eamon Dunphy" and "David Hanly" debate Charlie and where he got his money from years before the mainstream media found the bottle to do so openly.

The usual suspects appear - Reynolds, McCreevy, O'Malley, Tony Gregory and his old "flawed pedigree" enemy, Fitzer (happy 80th birthday by the way - it was only a couple of years ago I saw him charm the pants off UCC students a quarter his age after the Philosoph's Nice Treaty debate.)

I wonder will CBC have the bottle to be as frank when it comes time to make "Mulroney", and will the subject matter be much the same, given Karlheinz Schreiber's latest allegations?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Ablonczy and O'Connor

It must burn the opposition parties that this NHL betting probe has popped up just as they hoped to get their teeth into Emerson and Fortier, and now O'Connor.

Apparently some of the Alta. MPs are burned about Diane Ablonczy not getting the nod rather than the traitor and the senator. Instead Harper anoints the "gorgeous, pouting" Rona Ambrose (does very little for me actually, too much pouting, too little gorgeous, but I guess when you consider the alternatives...).

Also some nonsense from the Star letters page about the West having too many ministers, when by population Alta/BC/Man/Sask are only slightly over-represented - hat tip Far and Wide.

So what does that add up to? If Ablonczy failed to make cabinet, it wasn't because Fortier or Emerson were in the way, but Harper, Prentice, Solberg and the aforementioned Ambrose. Personally speaking she looks like a pretty good mind veiled by a vocal tone that puts teeth on edge. Between this and the defector and the Senator, apparently Alta. CPC party members are leaving in disgust. For where - Reform again? Talk like this reinforces my view that the Reformers do not truly see Harper as a Westerner but as an Easterner, ready to assume the Mulroney mantle along with his advisers.

The O'Connor thing bugs me a bit, here's why. Gordon O'Connor was defence spokesman in the last parliament, so if his being a lobbyist for Hill & Knowlton in his former life was a problem it was equally important back then when he, along with Bloc Quebecois spokesman Claude Bachand was criticising DND's apparent attempt to end-run tendering by writing a tender only Lockheed's C-130J could achieve rather than the Airbus A400M (Airbus were a client of O'Connor's) and Boeing's C-17. This is the contract which he undoubtedly intended to give expeditious review of now that he is Minister, thus the leaking of his prior involvement with Airbus in a manner reminiscent of "Yes, Minister", a programme which Gomery II's section on exempt staff is noted to be part of civil service training in Canada.

Gordon O'Connor is an retired one-star and the only other ex-military officer touted for anything was Laurie Hawn, (Lt.Col. RCAF retd.) but he may have fallen victim to the same calculations as Ablonczy. DND has had a reputation for bulldozing aside a succession of ministers and one would hope as a former officer O'Connor would have brought knowledge of military staff protocal as well as political focus - this comment left on another blog doesn't give one hope though:
my roommate (ret'd Lt Col.) worked with O'Connor at the Staff College and told me once that O'Connor wouldn't know a book if you hit him over the head with it...
Finally, Chantal Hébert has an interesting article in the Star regarding the implications for the Liberals of Martin's departure - that business, having joined the Liberal camp with Martin might leave it with him, especially if Emerson and Fortier are influential with their CEO peers in BC and QC respectively.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Fortier and Emerson

Obviously these are the headlines of Stephen Harper's first Cabinet.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, Emerson was headhunted and parachuted by Martin in 2004 along with Dosanjh and Shirley Chan, over the fury of the local Liberal associations. This was plainly done with a promise of a ministry. He obviously had no desire to sit on the backbenches when he could be back coining it in in the private sector. This appointment gives Harper a local stickhandler for Vancouver 2010 which would hang around his neck like a gigantic millstone if the CPC were deemed to have contributed in any way to stuffing it up. One of course hopes nothing of the sort, but the recent $110m over-run (and we're still four years out!) gives no cause for optimism. We have yet to hear precisely who approached whom but either way I doubt it needed much persuading.

Fortier is a different proposition but again is an attempt at getting a bridgehead in Montreal. Good luck with that say I, can't believe how many folk reckon he has a chance in LaSalle-Emard if Martin retires. I think the first rumblings from Reform/Alliance are beginning to be heard as they begin to fear Harper has been assimilated by Mulroney.

In memoriam

For all of those who left us that night 48 years ago.

One cold and bitter Thursday in Munich, Germany,
Eight great football stalwarts conceded victory,
Eight men who will never play again who met destruction there,
The flowers of English football, the flowers of Manchester

Caught in a tap?

No, not the whole FISA brouhaha.

Some time ago Mata Harney said:
"If unemployment were to rise in Ireland because of the slowdown globally, then we just wouldn’t issue the work permits"
Brendan Howlin fired back with a trenchant defence of economic migrants, regardless of petty capitalist considerations:
"Now we see the immigration issue as something that can be turned off when there are economic pressures in the economy. The Tanaiste actually boasts that she can turn off this tap to remove the pressure."
Now less than three years later, his Party's leader (sic), petty capitalist Pat Rabbitte is turning his hand to plumbing.

RTE's report: "a new work permit system to control the numbers of people coming to work in Ireland from outside the State may be necessary. Speaking on RTÉ Radio's Morning Ireland, he said such a scheme should be examined in the wake of the Irish Ferries dispute, although he did not say whether or not it should be implemented. Mr Rabbitte said that while the new diversity in the workforce would enrich Irish society, it should be 'sensitively managed'.

Uh-huh.

Obviously as an immigrant myself I feel Howlin's quite considered Dail speech, quoting as it does Canada's under-resourced but far superior model, has lost its force like so much sensible thinking in Labour with the advent of Pat the Plank. In terms of people who were much better in opposition/backbench than government, PR's up there in the pantheon with Charlie McCreevey.

(hat tip Potatriotique)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Toronto Island Airport and Meigs Field

A lot of the anti-TCCA bloggers and those who comment on them remind us (approvingly) of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's closure of that city's airport, Meigs Field. (Meigs can still be seen on Google Maps - hat tip to Information Echo).

It's worth reminding ourselves of some of the history around that closure. Daley moved in the middle of the night with bulldozers to make the main runway unusable with no notice to the Federal Aviation Administration, the small fine this offence attracted causing the FAA to increase it ten-fold for future offences. Sixteen aircraft had to be given permission to depart from the taxiway, hardly normal or safe practice!

An investigation appears to be be still pending (no sign of resolution on faa.gov) regarding Daley's use of funds from O'Hare International to demolish Meigs. The reconstruction of Northerly Island is being funded by granting a concert stage to Clear Channel - the kind of corporate media giant that would surely chill the Friends of Miller. Daley's actions brought reactions from the local major newspapers, such as the Sun-Times:
"without any advance notice or public discussion, the city vandalized its lakefront jewel, Meigs Field."
and the Tribune:
"the issue is Daley's increasingly authoritarian style that brooks no disagreements, legal challenges, negotiations, compromise or any of that messy give-and-take normally associated with democratic government."
It's hard to believe that Daley, all because of his legacy obsession with the waterfront, is the kind of Mayor people want Miller to be? Is this the Canadian way?

Since I started this post, I notice Information Echo has posted again on this - worth a look I think.

Which NY Times columnist are you?

Paul Krugman
You are Paul Krugman! You're a brilliant economist with a knack for both making sense of the current economic situation and exposing the Bush administration's lies about it. You somehow came out as the best anti-war writer on the Op-Ed staff. Other economists hate your guts for selling out to the liberals. To hell with 'em.

Which New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Are You?

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Sicilian Notes served cold.

Well, from way up in his ivory tower (one sec, I believe he's in UCD so that would make it a concrete tower...) it seems we can rely on Richard Waghorne's Sicilian Notes to bring us the latest and greatest original thinking. He reveals to us that the Prophet Muhammed may have been... wait for it... a paedophile. This refers to the Prophet's marriage to Aisha and her age at time of its consummation.

He references (but does not link to) Charles Moore's column in the Torygraph on this subject in December 2004. Indeed, Moore answered his own question
To me, it seems anachronistic to describe Mohammed as a child-molester.
Pity RW, a worshipper of many things neo-con, couldn't have just taken one of Maggie T's favourite journo's word for it (he even reproduces it!) and not bothered. But he did bother, so...

Moore's concern seemed to me to be whether others could make this claim without prosecution. That he used this example at all brought a rebuttal from Iqbal Sacranie of the Muslim Council of Britain a few days later. Indeed, three months earlier, the same paper had covered the employment by UK Independence Party "star" Robert Kilroy-Silk of an assistant previously disciplined by the party for expressing those sentiments.

Any perceived crime can only be judged against the norms of the time. The norms of that time appear to have been judged by the attainment of puberty by the girl in question.

Even in these "civilised times" there is no firm consensus - having sex with a fifteen year old in Canada is legal, the same sex with the same girl in Ireland makes you a paedophile. Until 1890, only Canadian children under 12 could not give consent, and the current limit has led some to suggest that this makes Canada a target for underage sex tourists.

One further point of conflict is that various accounts either confirm or rebut the placement of Aisha's age as 9 (and therefore extremely unlikely to have reached puberty) when consummation took place. RW relies on a single source for this when other sources make her being that young at best improbable and the question of any source being authoritative given later transcription of oral tradition is at best suspect. Call me gullible, but I choose to believe that the early followers of Muhammed would not permit such an act.
It seems pretty clear to me that were to (sic) Prophet born in twenty-first century Dublin he'd be convicted for child abuses and roundly condemned as a paedophile.
But he wasn't born in 21st century Dublin.
Islam is not above criticism and the personal conduct of the Prophet deserves a lot of it.
If proven that his conduct violated the norms of civil and religious society of the time, yes. It is not proven, nor is it likely to be so. Is this to be another Protocols smear, but against Islam this time?

We can only guess at what humanity in 1400 years will make of us - growing animals to feed from them, polluting willynilly, procreating way beyond sustainable limits, enormous wealth differentials, medical care denied to so many in poor (and rich) countries to pay for presidential jets and palaces, assaulting people with hatchets because they are homosexual... how many crimes will I and Richard Waghorne be convicted of in absentia along with the rest of 21st century humankind?

I choose to take (please forgive me) the view of the West Wing's "Joey Lucas" on the US Flag Burning Amendment (mmm... Marlee Martin... ahem) as the basis for my view of the Denmark cartoons. I would oppose, as Rowan Atkinson does, a law to extend the UK blasphemy laws - I would solve the discriminatory nature of the existing protections by repealing them. However, I think it was wrong for the Danish newspaper to print the cartoon - it was quite simply in poor taste without even the "justification" of being funny. Rather than reprinting the cartoon, I feel the other publications who did so should instead have asked the Danes where the hell their ethics went.

Just because "Western" countries have been willing to go along with some fairly disgusting portrayals of Christianity in various art galleries should not mean we should not voice distaste - indeed the freedom to disapprove is as vital as the freedom to express. No beheadings, mind.

Perhaps in his next blog post RW will reveal to us that the Prophet was - dear god - a bigamist!

Peace be upon everyone.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Sick

Flu

Bleh

Two years of flu shots, two years of flu

Bleh...

UPDATE: At one stage I thought I was going to puke and didn't. But the inclination passed when having reached the bathroom I passed out of hearing range of Eamon Dunphy interviewing Martin McGuinness on a Newstalk106 podcast. Funny that.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Oprah - America's last real journalist?

Hat tip to Gavin's Blog for pointing me to Jon Stewart's comparison between Oprah's Paxman-esque grilling of James Frey and the toadying of US "real news" interviewers of their political interviewees. Sorry to use a tired old phrase but "it's funny coz it's true".

Evangelical film hires gay actor, producers are criticised

The New York Times (rego required) reports on a conflict over the film "End of the Spear" which relates the story of missionaries killed by aboriginal Ecuadorians in 1956. The families of these missionaries forgave their killers and converted them to Christianity.

Baptist associate pastor Rev. Jason Janz called on the film-makers to apologise for casting Chad Allen, an openly gay actor, in a lead role as one of the missionaries and also plays the part of that missionary's adult son. He said casting someone who "promoted drunkenness" would be equally heinous.

This has drawn out some even more unpalatable commentary - the president of the Central Baptist Seminary in Minneapolis, Kevin Bauder, said "Granted, we must not overreact. And it would probably be an overreaction to firebomb these men's houses. But what they have done is no mistake. It is a calculated strategy." Probably an over-reaction??

Mr Bauder also described an article quoted the missionary's son that Allen portrays, Steve Saint, as approving of his participation as "baloney" and "damage control".

Ironically, one of the organisations which pops up most frequently in defence of laws and practices which discriminate against homosexual and/or secular citizens, Focus on the Family, sees the message of service as being more important than the messenger. Head of the media review department, Bob Waliszewski is quoted in the Times as saying "But what is the message of the product? And do we at Focus feel compelled to check on the sexual history of everyone in a movie? Did they have a D.U.I.? Did they pay their taxes?" It feels weird quoting FotF approvingly...

It occurs to me that when Muslims do crazy things, other Muslims are called on to repudiate them - with the subtext of "if you're not against them, you're with them". Let's encourage the Baptists show a similar example and call on a prominent Baptist to promote tolerance, to remind Americans and the world that one can sin and yet carry on with one's career.

William Jefferson Clinton, come on down!

Gun club at Union Station

So there's a gun club at Union Station - surprising that didn't come up in the wake of the Union Station shooting but obviously it was a well kept secret - while the membership (formerly for railway staff) is now open to the public you must be referred by an existing member to join. I'm surprised no-one else has picked up on it since CBC mentioned it on the news last night. It will be interesting to see if city council eliminate it from the new Union Station with the pressure on them to curb guns in the city. I can understand how competition shooters feel but perhaps a range could be set up in a more secure location, such as the C.O. Bick police college.

CF Sea King down off Denmark

The Globe and Mail reports the loss of a Canadian Forces Sea King helicopter from HMCS Athabaskan off the east coast of Denmark. The crew are safe and CF plan to salvage the helicopter. It must be hard enough to convince yourself to fly a 40-year old helicopter off a destroyer let alone one that's got a soaking in salt water. The Liberals first killed the EH-101 replacement order at a cost of $50m then ordered the S-92 to create a new fleet type within the CF. No arrivals until 2007 so we keep on flogging these old choppers. Let's see what Harper can do about the replacement of the C-130s, the tendering of which was swiftly becoming another Liberal fiasco.

Slashdot weighs in on NTP vs Research in Motion

Great analysis, shocking spelling - even for an American.
This is just one step in a grand conspiracy by those sneaky canucks to take over the word.

I for one welcome our touque wearing overlords

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Same sex marriage - Globe and Mail counts MP votes

The Globe and Mail is running a story about the likelihood of a same sex marriage vote in this session, and a separate piece listing the declared MPs for and against and those who say "they'll listen to their constituents" or "they were unavailable for interview".

My MP is Jack Layton, and while I have my issues with him, SSM is not one of them. Check the list and find out if your MP is planning to listen to you - take him or her up on the offer regardless of your position for or against! God knows they don't listen much usually.

What now Mr. Mayor?

REGCO, the regional airline championed by Robert Deluce, is one large step closer to reality with the announcement of 10 firm orders for Bombardier Q400 70 seat turboprop aircraft. The airline's plan is still to operate from Toronto City Centre, where at present only private flights operate with the exception of a single Air Canada route to Ottawa operated by 37 seat Bombardier Q100s, which are approximately 150 kilometres per hour slower than the Q400.

This order, valued at $500m but which with the usual discounting will net to substantially less, is good news for local workers who build the Q400 and who pleaded with City Council not to reverse the decision to build the bridge, a decision which David Miller would cost $2 but has so far cost the Feds $35m.

Whether REGCO will be a success is anyone's guess. There is scope for traffic to Ottawa for bureaucrats and business types but beyond that it's hard to say. However I do admire that he is bothering to try, given the viciousness of the campaign waged against him and the Island Airport/Toronto Port Authority over the last few years. I do wonder whether the election of anti-airport NDP MPs Peggy Nash and Olivia Chow and Liberal blow-in Michael Ignatieff (hey, I'm a blow-in so I know one when I see one) had anything to do with REGCO's timing, perhaps that they felt if they didn't move now the NDP would demand the abolition of the TPA from the Tories as the price of one of the Tories' electoral priorities, and inheriting a hamstrung airport the City Council would immediately move to close it. To close a piece of infrastructure which has been around since 1939 would be criminal, especially given the recent success of London City Airport which has operated with a proper consultative committee and stringent noise regulations.