Entries from April 2008
» Paul Watson: Hero or terrorist?
» One cool bookstore, the Chinese intelligentsia, best comedy ever
» Bidini: China's concrete welcome mat
» Nepal: shining future or end of the path?
» Instant cities, France fights to save the semi-colon, Obama big in Gaza
Entries from March 2008
» Poor Mexican emos, news on a shirt, one angry author, what's the Eiffel Tower wearing?
» High heat on Iran
» The world's most powerful blogs, Starbucks gets caught stealing from the tip jar, Look out! Cyclists!
» Shopping cart races, that's a lot of home-grown terror, turning urine into fertilizer
» The Dalai Lama on Tibet protests
» From the frying pan into the fire
» Torture and hypocrisy
» International Women's Day: Afghanistan
» The TED conference, can a billionaire be 'exploited,' Cambodian oldies
Entries from February 2008
» Algonquin leader faces six months in Ontario jail
» North America's pollution problems, Ottawa's copyright slip-up, Don't mess with Texas students
» New China's catch-22
» Moving environmentalism forward
» Oceans in rough shape, schools for social justice, the copyright battle over Harry Potter, looking back at Wired
» 12 Years of Revolution in Nepal
» Segregation or inclusion?
» Guerilla tree planting, mocking Ahmadinejad, inadvertantly funny headline and Goo goo ga joob
» Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten
» 4th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week
» From pages of a magazine to the jailhouse: Gay men in Senegal
» Weekend links: Bikes can do anything, chopstick accessories, Mom, where do blog posts go?
David Holmes on High heat on Iran
derek on High heat on Iran
David Holmes on High heat on Iran
derek on High heat on Iran
david on High heat on Iran
Obama on High heat on Iran
John Shiraz on High heat on Iran
vk on High heat on Iran
AB on High heat on Iran
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» hockey night in canada
» Ukrainian rhapsody redux
» Surviving Subversion of Family Values
» Turkey Time USA
» Definitely Not the Traditional Way to Marry
» From Iceland with love
» Heroes to the common folk
» Ukrainian rhapsody
» Alberta election: no reason to cheer
» SIN and the law
» Oh Brian. Oh Stevie.
» Canadian Broadcast Copiers
» Calling Herr Doktor Scheize
» Oh Alberta
» Missile Command
» Mob Scene
» Carolyn Parrish. Hero of the Common Folk?
» Changer le pouvoir? Un Utopie?
» Rebel Sell-inspired Question
» Ah, Romania. How We Love Your Beautiful Women.
Not sure how long this will remain up before Canada.com spots the typo.
The hed reads "Bush leaves for overnight trip to Canada in effort to force closer ties".
The opening text: "President George W. Bush left early Tuesday for his first official visit to Canada since he was re-elected in an effort to forge friendlier ties."
(thanks to chris for this)More entries on:
How to mark the occasion of George W. Bush’s first ever official visit to Canada? There’s plenty of talk in the mainstream press about protests and security cordones, but that’s not for me. Instead, I want to get to know the man, understand where he comes from and how he does what he does. Of course, in order to understand George, one must first understand Karl. Has any one individual political career in modern times been so widely accepted as the product of someone else’s genius?
Nevermind the calls to Ban Bush; protestors should be focusing their rage on the real brains behind the rightward tilt of our continent, the less and less shadowy presence of Karl Rove, brilliant campaign strategist and mastermind of no-stickum negativity. Restrain Rove, and you effectively Ban Bush.
Howard Fineman of Newsweek writes a captivating portrait of the “architect” of all GWB victories, including this mists-of-time re-enactment of the first Bush/Rove meeting – straight out of Greenwich village pulp romance.
Years later, [Rove] describes what happened next in the kind of sunlit, slo-mo tones they use in movies. “I’m there with the keys and this guy comes striding in wearing jeans, cowboy boots and a bomber jacket,” he recalls. “He had this aura.” Which is how 22-year-old Karl Christian Rove met 27-year-old George Walker Bush.
It’s… so… beautiful…
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It was fun watching them try to stretch a three minute ceremony out to a full hour last night. It hadn't been terribly well rehearsed, and at one point Sean Majumder came down, kicked three of the celebrity advocates off the stage, and proceeded to kill sixty seconds by rambling incoherently. Anyhoo, some thoughts:
1. The fact that Tommy Douglas won is a bit of a shock. He isn't even the greatest Saskatchewanian, for crying out loud. But
2. It is hard to take seriously a poll that put eco-pornographer David Suzuki in fifth place. That is totally insane -- he's not even the greatest part-time employee of the CBC. Still
3. The fact that he was even in the top thousand, let alone the top ten, should have been a warning about the political biases of CBC viewers. Unfortunately
4. The crowning of Tommy Douglas confirms their rather bizarre fetishization of Canada's health care system. The Canada Health Act was only twenty years old when The Headwaiter killed it this summer, and the elevation of the programme's (extremely) nominal founder to the status of Greatest Canadian simply underlines the fact that English Canada (and this was an English Canadian excercise) has absolutely no coherent political identity and little sense of its own history. Otherwise, MacDonald would have been in the top three, at least.
No wonder the country is such a mess. Of course
5. We could always blame everything on the obsolete, undemocratic, and unrepresentative first-past-the-post voting system which enabled Mr. Douglas to win the title of "Greatest Canadian" while winning what I'm guessing is somewhere between 15% and 20% of the vote.
Best line of the night went to Rex Murphy. When George Stroumboulopoulos argued that Douglas was the source of Trudeau's ideas, Rex said:
"There is a difference between the fertilizer and the tree."
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So Toyota can think of a way to make an environmentally friendly hybrid car so cool and luxurious you need to sit on a waiting list for months before you are overcharged for one, but the makers of KLEENEX® can’t help clean our noses without destroying the planet?
A new Greenpeace campaign, featuring a giant box of KLEENEX® on wheels, is aimed straight at Kimberly-Clark, the soft-paper giant who, apparently, has not been making enough money off our colds and toilet habits to invest in recycled alternatives. According to Greenpeace, K-C is ripping down old-growth for their tissues – to the tune of 190 billion sheets of KLEENEX® brand tissue per year.
Here’s an explanation from the FAQ page on K-C’s own website, Kleenex.com:
I see a paper-recycling symbol on my KLEENEX® Tissue box. Is KLEENEX® Facial Tissue made out of recycled fiber?
This symbol refers only to the content of the carton itself. The KLEENEX® Facial Tissue inside is made from 100 percent virgin fiber and contains no recycled fiber. Virgin fiber is used in our tissue because it provides the superior softness consumers expect from a premium facial tissue product such as KLEENEX® Facial Tissue.
Oh, I see. It’s the rapacious consumer demanding that only virgin fiber be used. That’s fortunate, because if it was just a matter of K-C choosing profit over innovation they’d be looking pretty bad right now.
Of course, if you live in Toronto, the city will recycle your tissues into garden compost, whichever brand you use. Doesn't save the old trees, but it might help a new one grow.
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To the hockey arena at the Universite de Montreal last night to see the Pixies' holy-shit-we're-broke tour. The slight hint of Spinal Tap that was in the air turned into a sneering insinuation when the Datsuns took the stage, three extra-skinny dudes in tight jeans, big hair, and serious post-zeppelin power rawk. Thanks to amps turned up to 11, the Datsuns' set was like a trip to the spa: exfoliatingly loud guitars and bowel-cleansing infrasonic bass drums.
Then the Pixies came out, all four members now fat and/or bald. Kim Deal was in her best Walmart outfit, Frank Black in tiny Morpheus shades.
Deal's mic stand was placed as far stage right as she could get and still be reasonably considered part of the show. It looked like she wanted to be as far from FB as possible, though that may have been simply an attempt to remain outside his gravitational pull. The man can rock, but he's now the size of a small moon.
Anyway, they ripped through pretty much their entire catalogue, like one long continous song. It was great -- lots of strobe, a bit of smoke, and plenty of screaming from Frank Black. Deal looked bored out of her mind, and spent most of the show chatting with the drummer. Her voice still makes me melt.
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Last night, my friend Rolf and I went to see the Laval Chiefs play the Verdun Dragons at the Bell Centre. These teams play in the Ligue Nord-Americaine de Hockey, billed in a recent Montreal Gazette article as "the most violent hockey league in the world". In case you don't quite get what this league is about, the Laval team wears the exact same uniform as the Chiefs in the movie Slapshot.
Surprise -- there were 6000 fans who had paid $15 a ticket to see a bunch of aging former juniors who never made the show, and NHL journeymen who can hardly skate. Boring first period: no goals, no fights, and the teams got booed off the ice. Clearly, the league commissioner came into the dressing room and gave the teams the what for, because they came out flying in the second. At least 15 fights, two full scale brawls. With 0.4 seconds remaining, the Dragons main enforcer punched the Chiefs goalie in the head, sparking utter mayhem. Not only did the goalies get involved in the brawl, but so did the coaches and trainers. There were many ejections.
Third period: Fewer fights, on account of most of the serious goons having been thrown out. Consequently, the fans took it upon themselves -- there were 5 brawls in the stands during the period, with another one getting going in the concession area as we left after the game ended. These events answered the question I'd been asking myself as I walked into the rink, namely, "why are there so many cops in here?"
This game was at least as entertaining as any given mid-season NHL clutch-a-thon. When they are actually playing, the game flows better than most NHL games, since the players aren't very good at defence, plus the league uses tag-up offsides and no-touch icing.
UPDATE: This is too weird. John Lofranco at Maisonneuve appears to have had the exact same experience, one month ago.More entries on:
I posted this as a comment to the original Ukraine conversation, but I think it's important and enlightening enough to post again: the Guardian's Jonathan Steele gives a new perspective to the shades of grey at play in the contested presidential election (or maybe it's not that new and I've just been reading to much National Post coverage of the event).More entries on:
American broadcast network CBS has been getting a bit of heat from the now famous liberally biased media for seemingly covering up the fact that at least two of the female competitors on its hit show, Survivor Vanuatu, are openly lesbian. The reality show (oh admit it, you watch reality tv) is famous for manipulative edits designed to hide key pieces of information in order to heighten the drama of unfolding events. Some critics have recently been suggesting that CBS was editing out the lifestyle choices of Scout and Ami – both of whom mentioned female partners in their official bios on the Survivor website – perhaps to fly under the radar with the increasingly testy FCC, ever on the look-out for violations of family values.
Now it looks more like CBS was merely holding back the info until it would have the greatest impact on Survivor’s middle America core audience, many of whom just recently voted to disallow gay marriage. In last night’s prime time episode, during the typically schlocky “family visit” sequence of the game, three different female competitors were shown in passionate, loving embrace with their “life partner,” “girlfriend” and “friend.” And on Thanksgiving. CBS! You scamps!
That sound you heard last night around 8:40 p.m. was a collective red-state gasp, followed by frantic remote control clicking. Thank goodness there are no lesbians in Nascar.
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Our American friends are celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend, and the traditional "pardoning" of a well-fed turkey happened on the White House lawn. Hilarity on the subject from the geniuses at The Onion.
"Cousin Wattle's (a 41-pound White Holland tom) conduct prior to the pardoning ceremony prompted Justice Department officials to authorize the bird's detention as an enemy combatant," McClellan said. "He exhibited hostile, potentially seditious behavior that could endanger the safety of the president or other government officials."
Officials report that Wattle became agitated shortly after he was led into the White House Rose Garden, where he broke loose from his handlers and began strutting about the grounds. Witnesses allege that Wattle, without warning or provocation, began to flap his flightless wings wildly and rush nearby White House staffers, ignoring orders to halt. Wattle also allegedly pecked Council of Economic Advisors Chairman Greg Mankiw on the left hand."
This Magazine friend and contributor Arianne Robinson thought about marrying someone through Marry An American. She made a documentary and I'm pretty sure hilarity ensued. Listen this Saturday at 3 on Definitely Not the Opera on Radio One.More entries on:
Sharp-eyed National Post readers will have spotted the following apology on page 2 of today's edition:
"In the first item in a column by Gillian Cosgrove in this paper on Monday, November 22, 2004, a number of fundamental errors and intentional misrepresentations appeared. The editors regret this and apologize to all concerned."
As the CBC reports, the "errors and misrepresentations" were that Cosgrove suggested that our Governor General is having an affair with the Icelandic ambassador.
As well she might. Check out this Viking stud -- no way JRS can compete with him.
My friend at CanWest tells me that the story has made the front page of the Icelandic tabloid press.
Here's the translation of the headline:
said to be in love affair
with icelandic ambassador
"We are just close friends," says Gudmundur ambassador.
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"What is wrong with people nowadays? Why do they all seem to think they are qualified to do things far beyond their technical capabilities? This is all to do with the learning culture in schools. It is a consequence of the child-centred system which admits no failure and tells people they can all be pop stars, High Court judges, brilliant TV presenters or even infinitely more competent heads of state without ever putting in the necessary effort or having abilities. It's social utopianism which believes humanity can be genetically and socially re-engineered to contradict the lessons of history."
-- Prince Charles
"As the need to proclaim oneself as an individal becomes more urgent, it is no longer sufficient to simply be a deacon or an account executive. One must, always, be more than what one is, constantly reinventing, constantly announcing. Once, it was enough to be recognized in your community to be somebody in your own small town or neighbourhood. Those days are over... people now crave a different sort of authenticity. Increasingly, we are submitting ourselves to a different sort of authority -- the mercurial world of fabricated, mass-produced, instantaneous stardom."
-- Hal Niedzviecki, Hello, I'm SpecialMore entries on:
There's something about the reaction to this week's Ukrainian presidential vote that bugs me. There's a whole lot of hubbub about electoral fraud, about Russia's undue influence in getting their preferred Viktor (that would be Yanukovich) elected, about the thousands rallying in the streets to overturn the result and annoint the other Viktor (that would be Yushchenko) president. Tomorrow's National Post has a column (I believe it's Goodspeed's) harping on Russia's renewed imperial desires. And what nation has the loudest voice on these issues? The United States, of course.
I don't dispute that Ukraine is a torn nation, with as many supporters of free-market Yushchenko as pro-Russia Yanukovich, but the last country that should be complaining about Russian imperialism or Ukrainian electoral irregularities is America.
The double standard is astounding. Cries in the U.S. of voter fraud in their election (like the thoughtful examination by Greg Palast) are laughed off as conspiracy theories or Democratic sour grapes (forget that most of the critics aren't even Democrats). Suggestions that American motivations abroad might be anything other than making the world safe for democracy are excitedly stifled by anyone with a mainstream newspaper column or radio call-in show.
Can we get some perspective here, people?
I needed to get that off my chest. Thanks.More entries on:
Warren Kinsella is happy about the Alberta election results. Sure, the Tories dropped a bunch of seats, dropped a huge chunk of the popular vote, while the Libs and NDP gained. But look carefully at the popular vote:
Here's the popular vote from 2001:
Alberta First Party
Social Credit 3.22%
Alberta Greens 0.28
So, of the 15 point drop in King Ralph's share of popular support, 9 points have gone straight to the Alberta Alliance, a party even more right-wing, and crypto-separatist, than the Tories. Almost three percent goes to the Greens, who (according to Annette) are as reactionary and pro-market as the Tories. That leaves an increase of three or four points split between the Libs and NDP.
Note, also, that the Alliance has almost identical polling as the NDP, but one seat to the dippers four.
To flog the horse once more: This is why I'm afraid of proportional representation.
The other day, I was on the phone with a Big Company purchasing a new computer (to play Half Life II, of course), and at one point during the transaction the salesman asked me for my social insurance number. I declined to give it, and consequently wasn't eligible for one of their special payment plans.
We've all heard the horror stories about identity theft, and how there are something like five million "excess" SINs floating around, and how the government tells you to never disclose it to landlords and corporations and so on. But of course, many of us do disclose it, because we don't want to lose that apartment, or because we can't afford to pay the whole goddam cost of the computer in one easy swipe of the VISA card.
But here's what I don't get: Why is it legal to even ask? Why doesn't the government simply make it an offence for anyone who isn't legally entitled to the number to ask for it?
One day a few years ago, while trying to collect EI, I got sent to EI school, where we learned all about Understanding Today's Job Market. We got a quick lecture on How To Make A Resume, blahblahblah, and then some long and extremely earnest spiel about how important our SIN is and that we should never disclose it to anyone, because it could be used for EI Fraud.
I put my hand up: "How come you don't just make it illegal for non-government agents to ask for it?"
Federal EI representative: "I don't know."
Me: "Has it ever been discussed by Parliament?"
Federal EI representative: "I don't know."
Does anyone?More entries on:
I just finished William Kaplan's A Secret Trial, quite possibly the most important book on public life in Canada that has been published this year. The book aims to correct the main assumption of Kaplan's previous book, Presumed Guilty, which exonerated Brian Mulroney from any wrongdoing in the Airbus affair.
It turns out that, while there is still not a shred of evidence that Mulroney was involved in the Airbus kickbacks scandal, he wasn't as forthcoming with Kaplan, the RCMP, or the Canadian public as he should have been. Shortly after he left office, Mulroney accepted $300 000, in cash, in hotel rooms, from Karlheinz Schreiber.
Kaplan is pretty annoyed with all concerned. He lectures Mulroney on the obligations of leadership:
"Power and privacy have an inverse relationship in a democracy: the more of the former, the less of the latter. Put another way, being prime minister of Canada is the biggest trust of all, and the obligations that go with it last forever."
He's also plenty annoyed with Stevie Cameron, who continued to deny that she was for a long time an informer for the RCMP, despite "the extraordinary court proceedings on March 4, 2004, and the presentation of irrefutable evidence that Cameron was both a police informer and a liar." He then proceeds to lecture her on journalistic integrity.
Finally, Norman Spector adds a painful Afterward, exposing the bipartisan nature of the culture of corruption in Ottawa. It's extremely depressing.
This is a great book. As far as I can tell, the book has received two proper reviews, one in the Globe and Mail, and one in the current edition of the LRC. Additionally, Paul Wells wrote about it in Maclean's, and Michael Bliss discussed it in the Post.More entries on:
Flicking as quickly past the Air Farce as I could manage last Friday, I couldn’t help noticing a skit called Adopt An American. The premise, I guess, was that some Americans might have been so upset about the recent election that they are looking for a quick escape, so we Canadians should help by adopting them.
I used to work at the broadcasting centre down there on Front Street, and there actually are machines at the door that suck away your original creativity as you enter.More entries on:
My friend Paul passed (heheh) this on to me today, with assurances that it is 100% correct.
Can anyone confirm this, and possibly add more in the way of explanation?More entries on:
It looks like Alberta is once again going to go through with this "elected senators" charade. Sigh. Meanwhile, two more sitting senators will hit 75 this week, making a total of fifteen senate spots that Mr. Decisive can't seem to find replacements for. Decisions, decisions.
It is very weird that Albertans, who tend to see elected representatives as delegates of local grassroots interests and who favour populist measures such as recall, are keen on electing someone to the Senate for life.
How anti-democratic is that? Imagine if the members of the Commons were elected for life, with spots opening up for by-elections only when they died, resigned, or hit 75. That's exactly what Alberta seems to want. After all, the Senate has the same constitutional powers as the House, excepting the right to initiate money bills.
So, if Alberta had its way, we'd have two chambers of equal power, except one would be a transient House, subject to the regular changes in political winds, while the other would be a permanent, elected, but completely unaccountable body of out-of-touch lifers.
The Senate needs reforming, but amending the constitution by stealth is not the way to do it. Of course, Albertans know this, they just like yanking the federal government's chain. They'll pretend to elect some senators, Ottawa will say forget it, and the west can go back to being alienated once again. (Substitute ritual humiliation for ritual alienation, and you get the feel for what it is like living in Quebec).
So, how to reform the Senate? Personally, I like the idea floated by Billy Bragg for reforming the House of Lords: Elect the Senate during federal elections, but appoint the members from party lists based on a proportional basis according to the results of the popular vote for the Commons. The Senate's powers would have to be curtailed somewhat, but the effect would be to bring proportional represenation into Parliament, while maintaining the stability-enhancing virtues of the FPP system for the dominant Commons.
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I've got video games on the brain, what with Halo II out on the XBox, and my copy of Half-Life II due to arrive any day now from Amazon. Review to follow soon.
Meanwhile, I've been wondering about an issue tangentially related to Ms. Parrish's departure from the Liberal caucus, namely, missile defence. The CBC has a dated, but still useful, backgrounder here.
Offhand, I can think of five reasons why we might oppose the US plan.
1. It will undermine Canadian sovereignty
2. It will lead to the "weaponization" of space
3. It won't work, and will therefore be a waste of money
4. It will lead to an arms race with China, Russia, or "Rogue" states.
5. It doesn't address the real threats to the US, since terrorists don't launch missiles.
I think 1 is mostly false. At the very least, staying out of the US plan will hurt our sovereignty more than joining would. I don't see the principled objection in 2, any more than we should consider quitting NORAD because it constitutes the "weaponization" of the air, or consider shutting down the navy because it "weaponizes" the sea.
3 is probably correct given current technology and the poor (and faked) test results, but that's hardly an objection to conducting more research. One could make the same claim about virtually every civilian and military technology in history. Besides, it's their money.
4 is possible, though doubtful with respect to Russia, who no longer opposes the plan. I think it is more likely than not that the US will eventually enter into a renewed arms race with China, although I suspect that is going to happen regardless of what the US does or does not do.
That leaves us with 5, which I think is absolutely correct, as far as it goes. Yet it isn't clear why these are mutually exclusive, why the US can't both take anti-terrorist measures and anti-rogue-missile measures, assuming that devoting resources to the second doesn't materially affect their ability to pursue the first.
Ultimately, my (ill-considered) conclusion is that, yes, it is probably a waste of money, because I don't really see the threat, but since the Americans aren't asking for Canadian dollars, it is no big deal. I'm mostly worried about how it affects both Canadian sovereignty and our standing in the world, but I suspect that, on balance, it is probably better to be in than out.
Since a small majority of Canadians disagree with this conclusion, I need you all to help me out and point out where I've gone wrong. I haven't the time to read Mel Hurtig, so if someone could summarise his book's arguments, that would be helpful.More entries on:
The New York Daily News ran a report today tying Alfonso Gagliano to the Mob. What a bizarre plot twist -- the Canadian political scene is hot today!More entries on:
I’d be interested to gauge reaction from the left regarding Liberal backbencher Carolyn Parrish, and her inability to stop insulting the American President despite veiled and not so veiled threats from her party, and the seeming disapproval of even opposition leaders and the entire national media. Jack Layton has taken the obligatory party leader stance, which proposes grudging respect for the office of the President and international protocols. No surprises there. It’s his job.
But how can you not sympathize a bit with someone who says this of her own leader?:
“…if he wants to know why he can’t control me, I have absolutely no loyalty to this team. None. After what they’ve put me through and lots of my colleagues, they can all go to hell. But he’s not going to control me, so all he’s going to do is end up looking weak.”
I’m one who tends to roll my eyes and yawn at all the faux-concern and cries of “how embarrassing” from the press (stop covering her every move if you’re so dismayed – she’s a backbencher), but I also have a limited tolerance for personal grandstanding after being given a job by the voters – Sheila Copps, where are you now?
Rabble.ca is calling for a “return to the streets” when Bush visits Canada later this month, and speculates about a scheduling conspiracy to make it difficult for protesters to mobilize. Tell me when and where and I’ll be there. I need the exercise. Will Carolyn Parrish be running buses for us from Toronto to Ottawa?
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Last night, I participated in a panel discussion on "the changing nature of power", at the Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montreal, a documentary film festival.
After a screening of a new documentary called "The Fourth World War", four panelists sat up at the front, talked about the film and, then took questions from the audience.
To begin with, the film itself is awful. It is boilerplate antiglobalisation propaganda, treating economic and social disruptions and popular uprisings in Argentina, Chiapas, Korea, South Africa, and Israel as variations on a single global war being waged by faceless neoliberals. When the film ended, there was a lot of clapping and a few cheers, and I thought, "shit, here we go", and got ready to play the village liberal in a room full of marxists.
My mistake. The conversation was entirely in french, and while at one point in my life I was more or less bilingual (I grew up in Trudeaupian Ottawa), a decade in central Ontario has reduced my vocabulary to that of a 10 year old. Talking in french, I feel like my IQ has dropped 30 points. (insert jokes here)
Still, I was extremely impressed with my co-panelists as well as by the audience. If this panel had taken place in Toronto, I am fairly certain that everyone would have fallen into line and adopted the obligatory Annex-anti-american-leftism that is the default social politics for Torontonians of a certain social class.
This was very different. The discussion was, for the most part, entirely non-ideological. I found all of the participants to be extremely thoughtful, critical-minded, and pragmatic. To boot, one of my co-panelists was a Bloquiste, who gave Jean Lapierre a run for his money during last summer's federal election.
But this is where it gets a bit interesting. In Quebec intellectual society, separatism is the obligatory default political stance. Of course there was a separatist on the panel -- in Montreal, that is as unremarkable as hearing anti-americanism on the CBC in Toronto. It's the water in which we swim here.
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Okay, actually this question was inspired by a review I read of The Rebel Sell, in Vancouver-based website The Tyee (I haven't started reading the book... yet):
When I see those trucks whose sole purpose is to drive around city streets with massive billboards on the back, I want to scream. According to the Tyee summary of Potter and Heath's position in The Rebel Sell, my best course of action to voice my disapproval would not be to phone or write the advertiser in question (I've seen Lifestyles condoms and Ft. Lauderdale Tourism advertised, among others) and lodge a complaint, but to lobby governments to find appropriate measures to clamp down on these ads. Is that an accurate interpretation?
If so, I don't see how little ol' me has any chance of swaying Big Government, unless I join a political party and go through the established channels to bring my cause onto the party's platform. I'm just one citizen: surely my complaint will register more with the advertiser (who directly determines if Mr. Stinky Dirty Truck Driver can stay in business) than with the government (who might impose a tax on the ads and might use that tax money to fund clean-air initiatives... eventually -- but won't take the guy off the road). I'm especially discouraged that all my political lobbying would probably be undone by the deep pockets of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, or the tax would probably be struck down by the WTO, or some other massive, pro-business, fuck-the-environment special interest group would block such a lobby.
Dammit, this is complex stuff. So, Andrew Potter the author, what is my best course of action?More entries on:
What do you get when you mix federal Immigration Minister Judy Sgro, a Romanian exotic dancer, and an opposition party comprised almost entirely of sexually repressed men?
The worst headline pun yet from The Globe & Mail:
The visual imagery alone is too disturbing. So let’s see if there isn’t a quick fix for this minor cultural embarrassment.
Tories, quit smirking and giggling. You can just about buy a pizza for the average monthly salary an unskilled labourer makes in Romania. Yes, she takes her clothes off for money. Get over it.
Globe & Mail? Oh, Globe & Mail.
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Seems CBC has made teen heartthrob and MuchMusic VJ George Stroumboulopoulos "an offer he couldn't refuse."More entries on:
Chapter 4 of The Rebel Sell, “I Hate Myself and Want to Buy,” really starts to get into the meat of the argument. I love the stat Heath and Potter quote, that past $10,000 per capita GDP, one observes no measurable gains in ‘happiness’ among the richer populations of the world – happiness being, apparently, not something money can buy. Who knew?
In other words, it’s easier to be happy when you can buy food and have a roof over your head, than when you cannot do these basic things, but once you have nudged yourself beyond crippling poverty, finding fulfillment and joy in life might just have more to do with blue sky and flowers than that latest Gap sweater. And still, we buy, because Sarah Jessica Parker and Lenny Kravitz tell us to.
A couple of small points of contention for any lurking Rebel Sell authors:
I reject the use of the SUV in your argument regarding competitive consumption. Most deadly accidents involving SUV’s are single car rollovers, so the dumb SUV driver is usually the only one to die. Yes, those idiotic large car/truck mutants seem like a danger to small car drivers, but the numbers are no worse with them on the road than without them, and that “feeling” of safety SUV drivers love so much is a horrible, ironic lie. See Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker piece on SUV’s from last year. The safest vehicle on the road remains the VW Jetta, a tiny little thing with superior handling.
On the question of “positional” value – the worth of something being tied to its relative rareness or hard-to-getness… is it not possible to decide to reject positional value without rejecting consumerism in general? An expensive gym membership gives me, literally, no more real value than does my dirt-cheap community centre pass. I don’t go to the CC to feel cool or alternative. I go because it is wildly inexpensive, close to my home and relatively uncrowded what with all the other fitness consumers going to Bally’s downtown.More entries on:
Anyone been to the Rheostatics' current stand at the Horseshoe? I was at Night 2 of their 4th annual "Fall Nationals" on Friday, and it was a truly great show. I haven't bought 2067 yet, but I plan to — especially after hearing several of the new tracks (by the way, I didn't think "Power Ballad for Ozzy Osbourne" was that bad).
Not being as big a fan as some on this blog, I can't offer much in the way of a detailed review of the show (e.g. the strength of the set list — though it sounded pretty f'ing strong to me). That said, I was both dazzled and pleased at the Rheos' versatility and sense of humour, and I plan on going again before the Nats are through. Oh, and I took up their invitation to grab a spot on stage and list my "Desert Island Discs"...!More entries on:
Greetings all. Apologies for the problems with the site this week. Our sister site, marryanamerican.ca, is getting a touch more traffic than we expected. I gather something of note ocurred in the republic to the south.
Anyway, comments are functioning again. Feel free to delurk as necessary.More entries on:
According to the CBC website, Conservative justice critic Vic Toews thinks that "Forcing Manitoba's marriage commissioners to perform same-sex weddings is against the law" because it forces them to choose between their jobs and their faith. Hence, he thinks it is discriminatory, and -- get this -- he thinks that forcing commissioners to resign if they have a problem performing same-sex services violates the Charter of Rights.
Right. Put another way, what Toews is saying is that public servants should be allowed to decide, based on their private views, whether or not to provide a public service to people who are legally entitled to it.
Where do the Conservatives dig up these fossils? In Canada, you aren't allowed to do this even if you are a private business owner. That's why we don't have signs in front of stores saying "no dogs, no jews." It is why there aren't lanes for negros and lanes for whites at the local swimming pool. That's why your local busdriver can't refuse to pick up gays. And so on.
If the Conservatives want to know why they remain stuck in opposition, and will be there for the foreseeable future, look no further than this sentence:
Vic Toews, Minister of Justice.
That is, if you have managed to choke your way past:
Stockwell Day, Minister for Foreign Affairs.
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The age of trumpets is passed, the banners hang
like dead crows, battered and black,
rotting into nothingness on cathedral wall.
In the crypt of St. Paul's I had all the wrong thoughts,
wondered if there was anything left of Nelson
or Wellington, and even wished
I could pry open their tombs and look,
then was ashamed
of such morbid childishness, and almost afraid.
I know the picture is as much a forgery
as the Protocols of Zion, yet it outdistances
more plausible fictions: newsreels, regimental histories,
biographies of Earl Haig.
It is always morning
and the sky somehow manages to be red
though the picture is in black and white.
There is a long road over flat country,
shell holes, the debris of houses,
a gun carriage overturned in a field,
the bodies of men and horses,
but only a few of them and those
always neat and distant.
The Moors are running
down the right side of the road.
The Moors are running
in their baggy pants and Santa Claus caps.
The Moors are running.
And their officers,
Frenchmen who remember
Alsace and Lorraine,
are running backwards in front of them,
waving their swords, trying to drive them back,
at the dishonour of it all.
The Moors are running.
And on the left side of the same road,
the Canadians are marching in the opposite direction.
The Canadians are marching
in English uniforms behind
a piper playing 'Scotland the Brave.'
The Canadians are marching
in impeccable formation,
every man in step.
The Canadians are marching.
And I know this belongs
with Lord Kitchener's mustache
and old movies in which the Kaiser and his general staff
seem to run like Keystone Cops.
That old man on television last night,
a farmer or fisherman by the sound of him,
revisiting Vimy Ridge, and they asked him
what it was like, and he said,
There was water up to our middles, yes
and there was rats, and yes
there was water up to our middles
and rats, all right enough,
and to tell you the truth
after the first three or four days
I started to get a little disgusted.
Oh, I know they were mercenaries
in a war that hardly concerned us.
I know all that.
Sometimes I'm not even sure that I have a country.
But I know that they stood there at Ypres
the first time the Germans used gas,
that they were almost the only troops
in that section of the front
who did not break and run,
who held the line.
Perhaps they were too scared to run.
Perhaps they didn't know any better
-- that is possible, they were so innocent,
those farmboys and mechanics, you only have to look
at old pictures and see how they smiled.
Perhaps they were too shy
to walk out on anybody, even Death.
Perhaps their only motivation
was a stubborn disinclination.
Private McNally thinking:
You squareheaded sons of bitches,
you want this God damn trench
you're going to have to take it away
from Billy MacNally
of the South End of Saint John, New Brunswick.
And that's ridiculous, too, and nothing on which to found a country.
It makes me feel good, knowing
that in some obscure, conclusive way
they were connected with me
and me with them.
Alden NowlanMore entries on:
Despite the recent resignation of John Ashcroft,
No less than eight US reporters are facing time in the big house for refusing to reveal sources. Nicholas Kristof spells it all out in his NYTimes op-ed today.
I look forward to seeing what our new red-state friends of the blog have to say in defence of imprisoning the free press.
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UPDATE: Hey look, Paul Wells reviewed the Massive Change show!
I'm in Vancouver right now, where everyone wears Lululemon clothes as streetwear. Great city. I'm excited to see Bruce Mau's Massive Change exhibition at the VAG.
The show has recieved mixed reviews so far. Has anyone out there seen it? Feel free to post your thoughts... I'll try to blog about it later tonight, unless I feel the urge to go snowboarding or sea-kayaking.More entries on:
From Cristina Odone's column in the Observer yesterday. Odone resigned last week as deputy editor of the New Statesman, a lefty UK weekly with a circ of 25,000 (small by UK standards) that "punches above its weight." (Where have we heard that one before?)
Odone was a "God-botherer" and "non-lefty" who was won over by Tony Blair during his "(brief) Christian-socialist phase," and more importantly, by Peter Wilby, editor of the NS, whom she describes as a real socialist and a real gent.
Her column describes her "inquisition" by the neo-left: "men and women who pay lip service to socialism but don't want to pay higher taxes, send their children to state schools or use the NHS.... They are Gap-dapper in dress, polished of manners, and generally much more presentable than the old left's oily-tie brigade."
She closes with this zinger: "But back-biting and envy have become the hallmark of the neo-left. They are not the reason I resigned - but what a joy it is to be shot of them."More entries on:
Federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, perhaps upset by Andrew Potter’s continued mocking of his boss as a Head Waiter, “accidentally” spills a carafe of cold water down the backs of the provinces.
From The Globe:
“I can tell you with $41-billion dollars additional, there is now no excuse on the part of the provinces to continue to have shortages of nurses and doctors,” Dosanjh said.
Gentlemen, start your barely comprehensible bickering.More entries on:
David Frum has a question:
"Speaking of media bias, here's a question you won't hear in our big papers or on network TV: Does Yasser Arafat have AIDS?"
Not that I'm checking the national review or anything. Got the link from the good people at Crooked TimberMore entries on:
As Paul Wells put on his blog yesterday, the PWAC is fighting the latest demand by CanWest Global that freelancers give the company "the right to exclusively use and exploit the Content in any manner and in any and all media, whether now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity."
These sorts of fights are not going to go away. Lawrence Lessig wrote over five years ago that control over intellectual property could become the civil rights battle of the coming decade, and it is looking like he was right. We need to figure out a general institutional structure for dealing with various threats to copyright, including both underprotection (thanks to P2P file sharing) and overprotection (due to ridiculous contracts and Digital Rights Management Systems).
To that end, I cannot recommend more highly the new book Promises to Keep by the Harvard law prof William Fisher. This is easily the best book I've read on the subject, better even than Lessig's recent book Free Culture. Fisher spends the first half of the book tracing the history of copyright and the technological developments that have brought us to the current state of affairs. He then sketches three possible institutional and legal changes:
1. Strengthen copyright and make it a true property right. Thus, infringements would be criminal, not tortious, offences. We could call it the "I made it, therefore I own it" solution.
2. Treat the IP industry as a highly regulated industry, like railroads, phone companies, and electricity companies used to be. Call this the "Jack Layton" solution.
Both of these, Fisher argues, would be better than the status quo. But he says we can do better.
3. He suggests moving to a subscription-like model, which would make downloading on the internet seem free, without actually being free. Basically, the idea is that every song or movie would be registered with a central copyright office and given a unique ID that would be attached to the filename. The copyright office would track the file as it is traded, downloaded, and modified, watched, or otherwise used; probably on some sort of statistical lines, the way radio playlists are tracked. Money would then be paid to artists out of a centralised pot. The money would be raised by either taxing internet use (e.g. taxing IP accounts) or through a general income tax.
It is not a new solution, it is what many people in the various industries have been advocating for a while. What Fisher does though is give detailed institutional details, about how we could balance fair use with producers rights, and the moral rights of creators to control their art versus the values of "semiotic democracy" that allow us to reshape the culture as we see fit.
I've done a poor job here of describing what Fisher's on about. Everyone engaged in the culture industries should read this book.
Chances are, if you're channel surfing tonight (on your radio or TV) you'll come across This Magazine's super fantastic publisher Joyce Byrne, talking about our little side project www.marryanamerican.ca. You can catch Joyce tonight on CTV National News, CityTV news and Toronto 1 news. If you're in the States, you can hear her on National Public Radio. If you're tuned in to the Canadian radio airwaves, chances are good you'll be able to catch her on your local CBC affiliate or campus radio station. Stay tuned for more details!More entries on:
The New York Times has dragged progressive America into the next stage of electoral grief – angry recrimination, in which Democrats and the rest on the… what’s the word?… left point their fingers at each other and try to muddle out a response to this god awful mess.
It’s a game I like to play in Canada, when I stress again and again that thinking like an NDPer means you should actually VOTE NDP. Incidentally, if you think like a profit-at-any-cost Bay Street business owner with a tenuous grasp of federalism, there are other parties out there for you.
Michael Moore beware, the left is beaten and dejected. They are looking for something to sacrifice, and they WILL come looking for you.More entries on:
In the fall of 2004, Americans are torn, as evidenced by a high voter turnout with the electorate split cleanly down the middle. Interestingly, it seems American progressives are similarly split. On one hand, you have Michael Moore, completely wrong on all his projections and hunches and hopes and optimism (by the way, where were all those people who lined up to see Farenheit 9/11 yesterday?). The man was fighting against Bush up until the last minute, sending an email to supporters two hours before the polls closed in the western states. Visit his website today and there's a photo collage of Bush's face with only two lines of copy: "We're not going away. Join our mailing list." Gotta admire the guys energy. Sadly, I wonder how long before he is arrested for some dubious charge and thrown in prison for, say, four years.
On the other hand, visit Radio Free USA, and independent news site with lots on its mind and a heavy heart today. In a farewell editorial, the founder and editor of the site concedes defeat in a much more grave way than John Kerry, going so far as to post a link to the embassies site so progressive Americans can hasten their departure as immigrants. It's a sad letter to read, but probably not very unique in its spirits. I genuinely believe we'll see a boom in Americans moving to Canada, not just because of MarryAnAmerican.ca (which has seen a surge in activity), but because there hardly seems a reason to believe in the United States anymore (I presume). When a nation of millions screams a resounding "No" to giving a basic human right such as marriage to an identifiable segment of the population, it's hard not to feel like hate has won.
I'm currently taking bets on how long until Dan Savage and his family settle in Vancouver as landed immigrants...More entries on:
Now that 80% of everyone in Canada, and 99% of participants on this blog, will have finally awakened to the fact that wishful thinking and a buck fifty won't even get you a coffee at Starbucks, let alone a coffee AND your preferred leader of the free world, maybe we can turn our attention back to the reasons why, back in 1864, a bunch of white men went to all the trouble of building a separate dominion here on the northern half of the continent rather than simply joining in the Great American Experiment to the south.
Namely, they thought that a constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy, and a strong federal government were more likely to secure the rights and liberties that they all valued and better able to promote the interests of minorities.
They wanted to build a better country.
It is both unfortunate and ironic, then, that while everyone around here has spent the best part of the last month obsessing over an election a) that was pretty much a foregone conclusion from the first week, and b) over which nobody in Canada had much influence or control at all, multifarious forces have been at work undermining our own domestic political institutions, with barely a word of protest from those most inclined to think that George W. Bush is Satan McBeelzebub, 666 Devil Road, Helltown.
Curious, since I would have thought that if you don't like the way your neighbour is keeping his yard, the best thing to do is to make like Voltaire and cultivate your own garden, both for your own enjoyment and as a shining example to your dissolute and wayward neighbour.
So what's it going to be? Four more years of thinly-disguised anti-American kvetching from lefty Canadians while our own country fades into a shittier version of Belgium? Or should we roll up our sleeves and set about fixing the mess that the Headwaiter has left in the kitchen?
Here's a good place to start.
This is even better.
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I will leave the opining to my collagues today for the most part, because I am tired, and sad.
But to me the saddest and most disappointing thing of all was the outright rejection of the same-sex marriage agenda in every state it was put on the ballot. Whatever happened last night, one or the other of the candidates had to win, but here was an opportunity to make some real progress. Americans don't want it. That makes me very sad.
Thanks to Jon Stewart for providing the headline.More entries on:
The Stella Artois brewery in Leuven, Belgium is refusing to ship any product to North America until the Ohio provisional ballots are all counted.
For those not following this blog for very long, Andrew Potter and I have a one beer bet riding on the outcome of the US Presidential election, which is still officially undecided, but increasingly looking like a Bush victory.
I've lost a lot of beer in my betting days (go Leafs go), but this one bottle of Stella could be the most expensive beer I've ever paid for. The "looking at faces on the way to the coffee shop" poll is in, and it appears that the overwhelming majority of people at Queen and Spadina in Toronto have given up on the American election, and happiness, for good.
Fear wins the popular vote. Over half a nation cries out for their daddy.
Actual analysis as events develop.More entries on:
And just to prove that blogging is not all about the US election today, here is part two of the ongoing blogsideration of The Rebel Sell, by THIS Magazine writer Andrew Potter and U of T philosophy prof. Joseph Heath.
Chapter 3: Being Normal
Potter and Heath use a series of analogies to express their arguments about society. In this chapter alone, we have the dating rulebook, the gay bathhouse, the terrible roommate, the prisoner’s dilemma, standing in line, the arms race, the sexual revolution, etc. many of them leading to an important distinction between everyday deviance and actual dissent.
At one point they present the following “simple test” for discerning between deviance and dissent. The “What if everyone did that? – would it make the world a better place to live?” test (page 81). I wonder just how simple this test actually is, since the answer to the second question might be entirely subjective.
For example – watching the Republican National Convention earlier this year, I drew a mental parallel between the images of protesters being hauled out of Madison Square Gardens for holding up signs, or revealing anti-Bush t-shirts, and the images I remember very well from the cold war, when insanely courageous Russian citizens would occasionally hold up dissenting signs during the May Day parade in Moscow, only to have their signs destroyed and their persons dragged away. Few people would deny that both of these instances are cases of genuine dissent, yet in the case of the RNC, and even the DNC for that matter, what if everyone staged an interruptive protest every time they disagreed with a politician’s stance on this or that? What if the American political system could not get through a single stump speech, televised debate or major rally without a huge disruptive protest, on par with what Republican party officials staged during the 2000 recounts in Florida, and without the protesters being dragged out of the arena like criminals? Would there be a workable democracy in the US? I think there would be, but it would be far messier and far more difficult, and for some that would mean it would NOT make the world a better place to live.
Yet, I think a messy democracy is the route to a better world. There’s a paradox here that cannot be resolved by the simple “what if everyone did that” test, which makes me wonder how valuable a test it is in any instance.
Oh, and by the way, what’s with the running Monty Python gag all through the book? Here we see the violence inherent in the system.
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Air America radio is reporting that voters in Florida are experiencing problems with the automated voting machines:
“Congressmen Wexler warned voters to double check the results of their touch screen voting machines. He’s been getting calls from voters claiming that when they tried to vote for Kerry, they found Bush’s name selected. The new TS machines in Florida also gave George W. Bush a several thousand vote lead before anyone even laid a finger on them…”
This may be a very long night.More entries on:
Woke up to images of long, long line-ups outside the polls in Florida, and am in a daylong process of reading the media entrails to see who will win—Potter or me.
Perhaps the best indication is the number of conservative thinkers who have slipped into a concessionary mood on this final day. David Brooks, possibly the clearest thinking conservative in America, seems to still be backing Bush (the NY Times requires their people to remain coy on election day), but his E-Day op-ed has a lot of food for thought in it, no matter the outcome.
Me—I can’t wait for Kerry to win, so I can begin criticizing an administration I can at least conceive of respecting.More entries on:
If you're tired of hearing rapper P Diddy's opinions on voting here's Public Enemy's Chuck D on rapping the vote.
Here he is:
"Of course voting is useful. But then again, I don't put a big glow to it. Voting is about as essential as washing yourself. It's something you're supposed to do. Now, you can't go around bragging, expecting to get props because you voted. That's stupid. You don't see people running around trying to get props because they washed up. 'I washed today! I took a shower today!'
But if you don't vote, you can't go around if something goes wrong saying, 'Aw man, stuff just stinks!' Well yeah, something stinks because you ain't smelled yourself. You supposed to take a shower, dude, or you gon' stink! The hip-hop nation is supposed to vote, because if they don't, something's gonna stink: The draft gets voted in, cats get pulled off to war, the average person is gonna get shot up."More entries on:
Rheostatics fans who admit to watching television other than PBS will be thrilled to hear that Frank Bonner will appear in their new video for "The Tarleks" shooting in Toronto on Wednesday.
More.More entries on:
I can't seem to avoid the new Dove billboards. Wrinkled or wonderful? Bald or beautiful? Those are rhetorical questions right? Then yesterday, heading west on the Gardiner, I pass another Dove ad -- this one with numbers attached. Fat or fab? Fat is leading with 51 percent of votes! Luckily, Dove has created a self-esteem fund "helping girls to overcome life-damaging hang-ups while putting the beauty world into perspective." I hope those models are the first recipients.More entries on:
Anyone up at 6:15 am tomorrow can catch my interview with Andy Barrie regarding Marry an American. All part of Metro Morning's special election day coverage.More entries on:
I got the link off Clive Thompson's blog, which is the greatest blog on earth.More entries on:
Canadian electoral-reform weenies are all excited, now that BC's Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform has reported back. The Assembly has recommended a single-transferable vote system, which is far too complicated to describe here.
But among its supposed advantages: It gives minorities more representation in the legislature and weakens the hold of the party over the member. At the same time, it should avoid the "regional ghettoes" we get, especially at the federal level, because of the structure of the FPP system.
I actually think that, apart from avoiding regional ghettoes, the supposed advantages are actually defects.
Most people assume that we can simply transfer the party status quo to a new electoral system, which would indeed give a nice result. But it doesn't work this way. When you move to a more proportional system, you inevitably get a fracturing of the political landscape. Say hello to every wacko political viewpoint the BC wilds have managed to hothouse over the years.
Second, people seem wedded to this Burkean myth of the 'independent' representative. There's no such thing. Every MP is subject to the discipline of some controlling interest. If it isn't the party leaders telling you how to vote, it'll be the far more vocal -- and likely intransigent -- grassroots hardliners in your own riding. Look at the Reform/Alliance for an example -- does anyone think those MPs are any more "independent" than the Liberal MPs? They are actually less free, since the grassroots of every party are notoriously less willing to engage in the political compromises that government requires.
The upshot of all of this will be, most likely, the demise of responsible government. Our parliamentary system is not designed to work with coalition governments. In the face of endless, ineffective, short-term parliaments, the consequences will quite likely be that citizens will end up demanding the right to elect the executive directly.
Is this something we want? Well, it's a good thing we have the provinces to experiment with these sorts of things. Good luck to BC. I suspect they'll need it.More entries on:
Blog This Must-Reads
Blog This ArchivesApril 2008