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?

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Previous Entries

» The (political) science of topic avoidance
» World Trade Omission
» Greening Cities with Gas—how innovative
» moral purity, political rhetoric, and the lesser evil -- Part 2
» When a journalist poses as a journalist
» moral purity, political rhetoric, and the lesser evil
» Torture? War? No Thank You
» Steer Queer
» The Top 10 albums of 2005
» sigh… politics
» choose your leader
» The cheques Albertans will love to cash
» While Toronto slept
» New ray of hope for Mumia
» more mainstream media complaints
» breakthrough indeed
» Imagine
» Not driven with pride
» 16 years ago today
» constitutional games

December 28, 2005

Get it on

Posted by mason at 11:42 AM ET | Comments (1)

As the holidays wind down and the election starts to pick up steam, interesting things are coming from the grass roots. Take Get Your Vote On, for example. Originally started by a group in B.C. to engage youth in this spring’s provincial election, GYVO has expanded its reach to increase the youth vote on January 23. Non-partisan but full of energy, Get Your Vote On is setting up local committees in cities across Canada and organizing candidates’ debates and other events. Give them a look, and pass the URL on to the twentysomethings in your life.

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December 27, 2005

This National Playlist

Posted by mason at 12:20 AM ET | Comments (12)

You know, it can get too serious around here sometimes. I think it's time we organized a game. Does anyone pay attention to CBC's The National Playlist? I kind of like the idea, but I think we could do better.

Who would be interested in helping me put together This National Playlist? I propose a 15-song list, compared with the other TNP's 10-song list. The rest of the details we can work out together.

Just call me Jian...

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December 22, 2005

Meet the World

Posted by mason at 06:21 PM ET | Comments (7)

Sometimes, spending hours a day reading blogs isn’t a waste of time. Have a look at the art campaign “Meet the World” created by Brazilian artist Icaro Doria. He treats each flag as a graph and breaks down what each colour represents. Brilliant stuff. For example, here’s Angola:

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just one more before the holidays

Posted by john_d at 12:41 PM ET | Comments (2)

There will be plenty of time to say Merry this and Happy that on Blog This. Judging by the traffic to most blogs these days, the world is falling into a pre-holiday slumber. As it should be.

On the other hand, what the heck is this all about? From The Guardian online:

Famed British broadcaster’s bones stolen

I admit, I’m most surprised by the news that the City of New York allows people’s ashes to be scattered in Central Park. I’ve had picnics in Central Park!

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December 21, 2005

the creaky democracy down south

Posted by john_d at 04:06 PM ET | Comments (24)

Don’t know if y’all are following the snoopgate story down in the States—the Presidential authorization of domestic wiretapping and spying without a warrant or the oversight of the secret court already in place to facilitate such emergency measures. Now the President and Vice-President claim they are simply restoring powers to the Presidency that should never have been taken away… from Richard Nixon, after he broke the law.

Here’s a terrifying, I mean hilarious, story from Newsweek, about a President so sure he’s not doing anything wrong that he summons the powers that be at the New York Times to his office to try and stop them from printing a story about what he’s doing.


Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story—which the paper had already inexplicably held for a year—because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker. He insists he had "legal authority derived from the Constitution and congressional resolution authorizing force." But the Constitution explicitly requires the president to obey the law. And the post 9/11 congressional resolution authorizing "all necessary force" in fighting terrorism was made in clear reference to military intervention. It did not scrap the Constitution and allow the president to do whatever he pleased in any area in the name of fighting terrorism.

The chickens, they are a’roosting.

“One leader, one people, signifies one master and millions of slaves.”

— Albert Camus

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The (political) science of topic avoidance

Posted by john_d at 10:32 AM ET | Comments (0)

Campaign update:

Warren Kinsella calls Jack Layton, “one smart friggin' customer” this morning. Why? Because of this statement from Layton:

“If you think Jean Chretien made the right call on Iraq, vote for the NDP that supported him. Not Paul Martin who undermined him as Prime Minister and Liberal leader.”

An NDP leader invoking the position of a majority Liberal PM to attract votes. No guts, no glory, Jack. Brilliant.

And speaking of Iraq… or, er, not speaking of Iraq, or anything in fact having to do with foreign policy and the state of the world beyond our borders, I found the Michael Ignatieff leaflet outside my front door this morning. Here’s what it talks about:

- MI is an internationally acclaimed human rights teacher

- He understands the challenges our families face

After that we get the standard NDP, I mean Liberal, platform for this election:

- child care investment
- equal opportunity—nice photo of MI with Jean Augustine and Ujal Dosanj
- the handgun ban
- youth employment
- fiscal responsibility

Then another photo of Jean Augustine with a quote from her calling MI “a friend.”

Okay—the leaflet is opportunity #1 to be open and honest about your views, to make declarative statements about which direction you’d like to see Canada go. The only sentence using the pronoun “I” on this leaflet, is spoken by retired MP Jean Augustine, who is not asking for my vote.

If he understands the challenges I face, why won’t Michael Ignatieff talk to me?

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December 20, 2005

World Trade Omission

Posted by mason at 11:56 PM ET | Comments (0)

There's been little said on Blog This, in the daily newspapers, on rabble.ca or most other places I've looked recently on what went down at the WTO meetings in Hong Kong last week. A chance bus encounter with The Globe's Report on Business offered a glimpse, but I hadn't seen much other than that until I found this site, put together by an English-language paper in Hong Kong and journalism students from the University of Hong Kong. I've poked around a bit and it offers some overview on what was accomplished (or not, depending on your perspective), as well as a look at some blogger points of view. I promise to read a bit more in the next day or so if you do...

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Greening Cities with Gas—how innovative

Posted by john_d at 11:09 AM ET | Comments (0)

Jack Layton making a major policy announcement this morning outside a Toronto Transit station:

New Democrats will increase the Gas Tax Transfer to the full five cents per litre requested by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Right now - year one. No long Liberal phase-in. No time for Paul Martin to break his word once more. Right now - five cents a litre - up from a cent and a half today.

This will give municipalities another 1.4 billion dollars to work on sustainable transportation - such as public transportation in the cities and better roads in rural areas. For Toronto, this would mean more buses. More streetcars. Better service. Cleaner air. But the only way to get it is to vote NDP.

See the full speech here.

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December 19, 2005

moral purity, political rhetoric, and the lesser evil -- Part 2

Posted by john_d at 05:36 PM ET | Comments (8)

My preference for where to begin the argument:

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading - as a last resort - all other justifications having failed to justify themselves - as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it “bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East”.

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they’re interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.

from Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize lecture, December 7, 2005

Difficult questions indeed.

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When a journalist poses as a journalist

Posted by mason at 12:45 PM ET | Comments (23)

The Globe has been following a story since Saturday on a
Toronto law professor who is battling Rogers Wireless over
charges applied to her cellphone when it was stolen. The
interesting part of the story, to me, is that her
partner, a technology journalist named Harry Gefen, did
some reconnaissance work on her behalf
at a cellphone
security conference in Toronto in the fall:

Mr. Gefen, a technology journalist, uncovered those secrets by attending a fraud forum in Toronto last September, where he tape-recorded a conversation with Cindy Hopper, a Rogers security official who was apparently unaware that she was speaking with an aggrieved customer.

That Gefen used his journalistic credentials to basically
lie to an interview subject for personal gain made me feel
a bit uneasy. Anyone else?

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December 15, 2005

moral purity, political rhetoric, and the lesser evil

Posted by andrew at 03:25 PM ET | Comments (22)

During last fall's US election campaign, I occasionally expressed on this blog the opinion that John Kerrry was hardly the epigone of moral consistency that some of his supporters - in the US and in Canada - had made him out to be. It seemed to me that Kerry had flip-flopped on a number of issues, including the invasion of Iraq. If I recall correctly, John Degen defended Kerry as someone struggling with difficult questions. I believe "nuanced" was the word Degen used.

I've long been impressed by my blogmate's sense that integrity in politics is not incompatible with nuance and subtlety. I believe that he and I agree that Canadian politics deals too much in caricature and hypocrisy, although I suspect we disagree as to the relative merits of the NDP on this. As I see it, the NDP spends too much time on the political sidelines and calling it the high ground.

At any rate, I am now worried that his recent political adventures have won Degen over to the dark and dirty side of politics, the side that treats any attempt at nuance as indecision, the side that tries to force complex positions into the crude shape of the cheap sound bite.

Here are a couple of quotations:

Legalisation of physical force in interrogation will hasten the process by which it becomes routine. The problem with torture is not just that it gets out of control, not just that it becomes lawless. It inflicts irremediable harm on both the torturer and the prisoner. It violates basic commitments to human dignity, and this is the core value that a war on terror, waged by a democratic state, should not sacrifice, even under threat of imminent attack.


For torture, when committed by a state, expresses the state's ultimate view that human beings are expendable. This view is antithetical to the spirit of any constitutional society whose raison d'etre is the control of violence and coercion in the name of human dignity and freedom. We should have faith in this constitutional identity. It is all that we have to resist the temptations of nihilism, but it is not nothing.

Who wrote this? Chomsky? Howard Dean? John Degen?

Actually, it was Michael Ignatieff. In the Financial Times, May 15 2004.

If you read the article, you'll find that his position on torture is not as clear cut as these quotations might have it. And if you look around, you might find places where Ignatieff comes down more in favour of torture than he does here; in other places he might come down more on the side of an outright ban. The point is, Ignatieff is trying to think through what I take to be some very, very difficult questions about which options are open, and which are not, to a liberal society that sees itself to be under threat. If there is anywhere in his writing where Ignatieff does end up supporting a limited right to minimal physical coercion of prisoners with judicial oversight (and in the above piece he does not even go that far) it is worth emphasizing the title of his recent book: The Lesser Evil. Lesser, but still evil.

All of this is just a roundabout way of taking issue with Degen's caricature in the preceding post of Ignatieff as "famous for his pro-invasion, pro-torture support for the Bush administration's adventures in the middle east."

Ignatieff has not been the perfect candidate so far, and he doesn't appear to have the best people working for him. The way he got the nomination wasn't great (though Ed Schryer's parachute-candidacy puts the lie to any NDP-purity on local democracy on that score).

But this is my point: Let Ignatieff's candidacy succeed or fail on a fair hearing of his opinions and abilities. If he's as bad as everyone seems to think, it shouldn't be necessary to misrepresent his views.

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Torture? War? No Thank You

Posted by john_d at 12:52 PM ET | Comments (0)

The high-profile campaign for Toronto riding Etobicoke-Lakeshore officially begins this Saturday afternoon with a rally in support of NDP candidate, Liam McHugh-Russell. Russell, a 25 year-old U of T law student, is taking on Harvard professor and rumoured challenger for the Liberal leadership, Michael Ignatieff, famous for his pro-invasion, pro-torture support for the Bush administration's adventures in the middle east.

Want to join the rally? Here’s the announcement:

Join NDP candidate in saying ‘No Thank You’ to pro-war Liberal in Etobicoke-Lakeshore

The campaign starts here. The Etobicoke-Lakeshore NDP and their candidate, Liam McHugh-Russell, are opening their campaign office with a rally this Saturday, Dec 17th at 1:00pm.

The rally will promote a candidate whose vision is grounded in the Canadian values of human rights, sustainable development and peace. The rally is for Canadians of all walks of life to gather and ask Canadians, riding residents and activists to say ‘No Thank You’ to the pro-war Liberal candidate.

When: 1:00pm on Saturday Dec. 17th.

Where: 2895 Lakeshore Blvd W (1 1/2 short blocks west of Islington on the south side)

Much has been written about the NDP’s tight races across the Greater Toronto Area—city-councillor Olivia Chow against confirmed Martinite Tony Ianno, economist Paul Summerville against Carolyn Bennett, union negotiator and prominent environmentalist Peggy Nash against Industry Parliamentary Secretary Sarmite Bulte in Parkdale High Park, etc., but the Etobicoke-Lakeshore race may be the most important for Jack Layton’s long-term goals. To begin with, it is eminently winnable—will Paul Martin really prioritize a political battle that may bring a powerful rival for his job into the Liberal caucus? And with the Liberal’s misguided and arrogant dropping of their candidate into the riding, their campaign now represents just the kind of cynical “power at all costs” type of politics Layton so vocally opposes.

No word yet on whether Layton will be showing up for the rally, but he sure should.

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Steer Queer

Posted by joyceb at 12:08 PM ET | Comments (8)

I'm happy to provide an update on last week's item about Ford Motor Company's ad buys in gay media. From today's New York Times.

Ford, Reversing Decision, Will Run Ads in Gay Press

DETROIT, Dec. 14 - Less than two weeks after the Ford Motor Company said it would all but eliminate its advertising in publications that cater to gays, the company reversed itself Wednesday.

The decision followed a wave of criticism from gay rights groups, who had accused Ford of bowing to the threat of a boycott from the American Family Association.

Ford's announcement, which gay advocates immediately praised, also included other steps to broaden the automaker's relations with gay consumers and repair damage from the initial decision to stop advertising.

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December 14, 2005

The Top 10 albums of 2005

Posted by mason at 02:35 AM ET | Comments (9)

Here’s what filled my ears this year, whether on the subway, at home or out with friends:

10. Digital Ash in a Digital Urn by Bright Eyes
9. Idols of Exile by Jason Collett
8. The City by The Fembots
7. Arular by M.I.A.
6. Has a Good Home by Final Fantasy
5. Get Behind Me Satan by The White Stripes
4. The Futureheads by The Futureheads
3. Apologies to the Queen Mary by Wolf Parade
2. Silent Alarm by Bloc Party
1. Twin Cinema by The New Pornographers

Honourable mentions are too numerous to, uh, mention. What can I say, it was a good year for music. What were your favourites?

More on each album after the jump...

10. Digital Ash in a Digital Urn by Bright Eyes
The more upbeat and, well, digital of two simultaneous Bright Eyes releases from early in the year, it was a mainstay in my rotation right through April. I went from not really caring for Conner Oberst’s fragile voice to being hooked by the strength of his country-tinged songwriting and his lyrics (which are admittedly hit-or-miss, but when they hit—ho boy). “Take It Easy (Love Nothing)” is the standout track, rooted by distorted guitars and pulled along by a lovely melody and driving drums. Speaking of drums, one of the most intriguing parts of this album is the use of two drummers at once through most of the songs, only discernible when their fills diverge. My enjoyment of this album waned as the weather got warmer (for some reason Bright Eyes is winter music to me), but now that the cold is back, so is the Urn.

9. Idols of Exile by Jason Collett
In which yet another Broken Social Scenester proves that the parts are just as good as the whole. It’s a whimsical, relaxed album with guest spots from the usual suspects (please step forward, Amy Millan and Feist), but unlike some rock-folk records you hear these days, it’s catchy as all hell. Solid throughout, with nice string arrangements to complement the guitar work and a few tracks that would feel anthemic if they weren’t so gosh darn laid back.

8. The City by The Fembots
Pals with The Weakerthans? Check. Contributions from the great Julie Penner on violin? Check. Connected to Toronto’s past and present, from the gritty side streets to the pages of Taddle Creek? Check. The City is said to be more straight-ahead than previous Fembots records (I’m not familiar with their older stuff), but undoubtedly the use of horns and violins over found objects as instruments (as in the past) was a good one. The result is a rich, modern record with strong foundations in blues, country and the best roots rock. Featuring both haunting lyrics (as in “Hell”) and singalong choruses with distant vocal harmonies (as in “Count Down Our Days”), it’s a winner.

7. Arular by M.I.A.
Where did I turn in 2005 when I needed a quick pick-me-up? To a Brit originally from Sri Lanka, M.I.A., whose reggae/hip hop/dub/dancehall record made instant fans out of anyone looking for something to groove to, without pretension. Backed by a crew of one and a DJ making his own buzz (Diplo), M.I.A. was one of the surprise hits of the Coachella festival in California this May, and one of few to earn an encore. And to top it all off, she’s fiercely political, as songs like “Pull Up the People” will attest. Play anything from this record at the bar and I’ll be on the dance floor before you can say “Yah yah yay, yah yah hey!”

6. Has a Good Home by Final Fantasy
It was only a matter of time before the violin genius behind such acts as The Arcade Fire, The Hidden Cameras and Jim Guthrie broke out on his own, and with his Final Fantasy project, Owen Pallett did just that in 2005. If “This Is the Dream of Win & Regine” doesn’t do it for you, with its half-plucked violin hook and Pallett’s slightly tortured vocals, I might question if you have a pulse. But it doesn’t stop there—the album is full of eccentric lyrics and lush strings that definitely work as the primary instruments on a pop record. Finally, Has a Good Home features the best of three quality songs entitled “Please Please Please” from this year (the others are by the Shout Out Louds and Fiona Apple). A great album to listen to while riding my bike in the summer, singing loudly and proudly.

5. Get Behind Me Satan by The White Stripes
So what if Meg White can’t drum? In a way it actually adds character to the Stripes’ music, as on “My Doorbell,” a song with a simple beat she barely gets through but also with a wonderful refrain. GBMS was certainly a departure for Meg and Jack, who often forgot about the electric guitar entirely in favour of piano (heavy piano, light piano, strange piano) and even marimbas. When the guitar figured prominently, as in “Blue Orchid,” the results were a reminder of the Stripes’ ability to dominate in the rock department when called upon.

4. The Futureheads by The Futureheads
I like power pop. Perhaps more than any other genre of rock, power pop really gets me going. I think it started with Weezer and Sloan. Anyway, I think these days they’ve changed the name from power pop to post punk, but whatever you call it, The Futureheads mastered it this year. All the ingredients are there: short, punchy songs featuring heavy, rolling drums, delicious guitar and vocal hooks, backing vocals with two- and three-part harmonies and silly lyrics (maybe it has something to do with them being British). Their cover of Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love” was named track of the year by NME magazine (try to find the live version, which they play at a faster tempo).

3. Apologies to the Queen Mary by Wolf Parade
Okay, I’m going to try and get through this review without mentioning The Arcade Fire or Modest Mouse. Damn. Okay, two primary singer/songwriters lie at the heart of Wolf Parade, a Montreal-based five-piece originally from Victoria, and Apologies is their second studio album and first full-length. The album specializes in organic guitar rock propelled by terrifically simple keys and piano and the distinct but complimentary vocal stylings of songwriters Dan Boeckner and Spencer King. The drums rise and fall back when necessary, the melodies are at once intense and bouncy, and the production by Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock brings it all together as only he can. One of those rare bands (like The Arcade Fire, who drummer Arlen Thompson once played with) that lives up to considerable hype.

2. Silent Alarm by Bloc Party
The year’s top album according to NME magazine was a success on both sides of the Atlantic for the simple fact that it was simultaneously tender and raucous. There wasn’t a more perfect love song all year than “This Modern Love,” but “Like Eating Glass” is a must on any playlist meant to be a soundtrack to the revolution. Inspiring and often soaring guitars, rock-solid drums, flourishes of bells and handclaps all combined with Kele Okereke’s high-register wail to leave any listener floored. And steady, building beats and chant-able refrains helped give Silent Alarm the unique sound that set it apart from other albums this year.

1. Twin Cinema by The New Pornographers
Vancouver’s all-star band is fast becoming Vancouver’s supergroup, and if there’s a better pop songwriter in the world than A.C. Newman, well then I’d like to meet him or her. Twin Cinema is a revelation, an album that stands up to repeated listens because it’s not only diverse and catchy, it’s also damn well produced. Examples abound. The shotgun guitar riff that anchors “The Jessica Numbers,” the quick and ear-catching descending keyboard line in the closing seconds of “Star Bodies” and the perfect balance of male and female unison vocals on “Streets of Fire” would all be impossible without expert production by Newman, John Collins, David Carswell and Kurt Dahle. The three songs written by part-time member Dan Bejar are some of his strongest, and Neko Case would carry entire ballads by herself if the band wasn’t strong enough to support her vocals (which of course it is). But Twin Cinema’s secret weapon is drummer Kurt Dahle, who seems to fancy removing any muffler from his bass drum for a hollow, boombastic sound that makes him out to be the second coming of Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham. Many of the album’s best songs come to rousing crescendos in their last thirds, and one can picture Dahle like an impatient Animal from the Muppet Show, heaving as he calmly plays chimes or something during the first parts of the songs and then letting himself go when called upon. Finally, lyrics like “Two sips from the cup of human kindness and I’m shitfaced” (from “Use It”) simply can’t be beat.

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December 12, 2005

sigh… politics

Posted by john_d at 03:05 PM ET | Comments (18)

Last week I ran for the NDP nomination in Etobicoke Lakeshore—putting my time and effort where my mouth is, and attempting to jumpstart what should really be one of the most interesting campaigns in the country (E-L is where Michael Ignatieff landed when he dropped from the black helicopter). So, I wrote a speech and brought a friend for moral support.

Being a betting man I didn’t like my odds, which was fine by me. My thinking was like this:

If the party could find no stronger candidate, I would be honoured to serve and take on Michael Ignatieff. If they could find a good candidate, I would make her even better by challenging her to sharpen her game early in a nomination challenge.

My opponents were: Liam McHugh Russell, a 25 year old U of T law student, and Greg Hamara, a longtime party man with great, deep experience in social justice issues. Fine men both. They had both produced colour brochures which were handed out at the door, they had pre-campaigned, and both brought a bunch of voting supporters with them. Greg Hamara was nominated, impressively, by NDP star Ruth Grier. I had no brochure, no campaign, and no voters. I didn’t even qualify to vote myself being so new to the riding.

Despite Grier’s presence in the Hamara camp, there didn’t seem to be a party pick, so the field was open for a fair fight (are you listening Liberals?). We all gave speeches and the first ballot was called. Hamara and McHugh Russell were separated by one vote at the top of the ballot, and I was a relatively close third (why thank you, yes, my speech was pretty good—thanks for asking). I was immediately approached by the McHugh Russell camp to lend my support to Liam. Remember, I could not vote myself. I agreed to wear a Liam button (really just a hello my name is label) and an orange armband. I made no appeal to the undecided voters, and the second ballot proceeded, with Liam winning by about four votes.

Yay, democracy—how exciting!

Today, I received an e-mail (which I will keep anonymous), complaining that I had doomed the NDP’s chances in the election. The writer suggested Greg Hamara was the better candidate because, being Ukrainian, he would raise more money and volunteers from the riding’s strong Eastern European population. Here’s a couple of quotes:

“I don’t believe you actually understand the demographics nor the real-politic of that riding.”

“I think the NDP’s role in that riding[…] is to make sure that Ignatieff is defeated. Defeated before he can assume more power as the leader of the liberals where he would be very dangerous. Can, could, the NDP realistically win the riding? No, but we could have played the spoiler, and allow the less dangerous Conservative defeat Ignatieff and dash his leadership plans.”

“So, your choice last night may, and I stress may, have been the one that crowns the country’s next prime minister: Michael Ignatieff. I think that was something you were trying prevent.”

Ohhhh, my head aches. Is this what Julie meant when she said communications strategy is the just the beginning of the NDP’s problems?

My response to the e-mail after the jump:

My response:

Thank you for making me feel so powerful as to have the deciding choice in who becomes the next Prime Minister and/or dictator of Canada. I understand and respect your analysis of the situation, and as I alluded to in my speech, I can make no claims to first-hand knowledge of the demographics or political history of Etobicoke Lakeshore. There are, however, a number of points on which I think we disagree.

First of all, while I do not like the way Ignatieff was brought into the riding, and I fundamentally disagree with his positions on Iraq and torture, I think there is a huge difference between the musings of an academic, however high profile, and the pragmatic necessity of government decision making. In other words, Ignatieff the professor could easily afford to speculate about Canada supporting the US invasion, but Ignatieff the Prime Minister would have a few other things to think about before making such a decision on behalf of all Canadians. I don’t want Ignatieff to win for many, many reasons, beginning with the fact that the current Liberal government has lost the moral authority to govern Canada and should be removed. That said, should Ignatieff win, and should he become the next leader of the Liberal party (that in itself is a pretty early call, I think), I don’t see him as any more “dangerous” than the current leadership, or certainly any more so than the leadership of the Conservative Party. They are all dangerous in my books.

I disagree with strategic voting on principle, but even if I didn’t you’d have to work a lot harder than you have to convice me any Conservative MP for Lakeshore, and especially Capobianco would be better than Ignatieff. I simply don’t see the logic there, and I find your take on the NDP’s campaign chances sadly defeatist—and that, more than anything, was the attitude I was attempting to counter with my speech at the meeting. I know what the numbers from past elections suggest, but I see no point in entering a campaign intending not to win.

As to the meeting itself, and Greg Hamara’s relative superiority/inferiority when compared to Liam, what can I say? I met both men, I read both bios, I listened to both speeches. Neither speech particularly impressed me, but I found Liam’s overall presence more compelling, his message more positive and his energy level higher.

Hamara himself made your point about his connections to the eastern European community, and frankly I found that to be the weakest section of his speech. There is something fundamentally ugly, in my opinion, about the divisive rhetoric that has sprung up around the Ukrainian community since Ignatieff’s arrival on the scene. I would rather not see the NDP indulge in that rhetoric, and I would have the same criticism for Liam were he to start playing that card. You mention that Hamara would have been able to fundraise effectively in that community and get volunteers for the campaign. I hope he does both even after his defeat at the meeting. I certainly intend to work on Liam’s campaign in whatever capacity I’m offered. To do otherwise… well, please explain to me why anyone interested in an NDP win would do otherwise.

Finally, I’m just not convinced that Hamara could have done what you suggest based only on the fact that he is Ukrainian. My last riding was Davenport, a predominantly Portugese riding, where Rui Pires, a Portugese NDP candidate, ran against Mario Silva, a Portugese Liberal candidate. Neither were the incumbent, though Silva’s machine was better established because he’d served for years as a city councillor. Pires neither won, nor did he split the vote to allow the Conservative to beat Silva. The demographics and real-politic you refer to did not work in Davenport, and I suggest they would not work in EL. I find it baffling that a candidate who would automatically get so much support from the community just because of his ethnic background, and with the express endorsement of NDP star Ruth Grier, could not bring enough eligible voters to the meeting to put him over the top. I walked in there unknown, with no vote-eligible supporters in the room, having not campaigned at all nor produced a bio leaflet, and I managed enough votes to force a second ballot. If Hamara’s support was so strong, I think he should have proven it by winning against a student and an unknown. I have nothing against Greg Hamara, and I thought he would have made a fine candidate, but asked to choose between him and Liam, I choose Liam. So too, apparently, did my stable of undecided voters from the meeting. That means something.

Anyway, this is all fine for post-meeting political gabbing, but the real question is “now that we have a candidate, how do we make him win.”

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choose your leader

Posted by andrew at 11:44 AM ET | Comments (3)

It's choose your leader time again. The CBC is running a vote-by-issue quiz, to see which leader you most agree with. My results:

I agreed with:

Harper on 7 issues
Duceppe on 2
Martin on 4
Layton on 6

I disagree with:

Harper on 5 issues
Duceppe on 10
Martin on 8
Layton on 6

Maybe a Harper/NDP coalition wouldn't be such a crazy idea after all.

Thanks to the CalgaryGrit for the pointer.

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The cheques Albertans will love to cash

Posted by mason at 12:50 AM ET | Comments (6)

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December 09, 2005

While Toronto slept

Posted by andrew at 10:49 AM ET | Comments (10)

You know I love you Toronto. The best years of my life were spent here in the city on the shores of the lake where no one swims. But sometimes you can be so magnificently lame it breaks my heart.

For example: The Fall Nationals are on once again. For ten straight nights at the Horseshoe, CanRock heroes The Rheostatics are giving the love. Last night was opening night, and who was there? The ususal couple dozen anoraks, trainspotters and window-lickers you see at every Rheostatics show. But otherwise, the place was as dead as the NDP's prospects in Quebec.

Maybe familiarity breeds indifference. Maybe you all have other things to do, important things that involve keeping your streets safe by perpetually voting for a Liberal government that will protect you by sending your money to their croneys in Quebec and by preventing gun collecters in Alberta from collecting guns.

Toronto, don't be Jeffrey Simpson. Wake up and smell the rock. Get to the Horsehoe. Nine nights to go.

Best songs of the night: CCYPA, The Tarleks, and a new Dave song about tragic hockey star Bryan Fogerty, with bad verses but a gorgeous chorus.

Encores: Song of Flight, In This Town.

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December 08, 2005

New ray of hope for Mumia

Posted by mason at 07:10 PM ET | Comments (0)

An appeals court has agreed to hear three claims that the trial of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the death-row prisoner who was convicted 23 years ago for the murder of a white police officer in Philiadelphia, was tainted.

The case is a popular cause among death-penalty opponents and social justice advocates, who believe the journalist and former Black Panther was a victim of racism and was set up.

The three claims to be heard are:

1. That prosecutors removed qualified jurors from the case because of their race,
2. That the jury was told its decision would not be final,
3. That the judge in the case was biased against the defendant.

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more mainstream media complaints

Posted by john_d at 04:34 PM ET | Comments (2)

The camera adds ten pounds.

CBC Now—the 6:30 newscast is doing a story on political blogging. They got me just now.

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breakthrough indeed

Posted by john_d at 12:45 PM ET | Comments (4)

Okay, back to politics. Obviously Jack Layton reads THIS blog, and anticipates every opinion. How do you pull a weedy, corduroy suited socialist party into the centre in a country crying out for a conscientious slightly left of centre party? You get a former chief economist of RBC Dominion Securities to lay out your new economic thinking—oh, and you get him to run for your party in downtown Toronto. Check out Paul Summerville’s enlightening speech at the recent NDP Breakthrough Conference:

Paul Summerville

Some highlights:

It is time to confront and change [the] old and tired image of our party. When I talk to people across Canada I hear the same message, they share our values, but believe that whenever the New Democratic Party has talked about wealth it has always followed with the word taxation — not prosperity. There is truth that prosperity has never really been part of our plan or our pitch.

Wealth creation is what prosperity and social justice depends on. Jack Layton has been making this point since he became leader, and this is why I decided to run with you on our team.

The New Democratic Party always gets top marks for its ideas and commitment to social justice but now because of Jack Layton’s leadership, Liberal greed, and Conservative confusion, the chance is ours to become the only party Canadians will trust with Canada’s economic future.

Today, virtually every social democratic political party in the world understands one simple truth. Without a strong economy the resources will not exist to invest in our citizens and without this investment in ourselves the economy will surely suffer.

It is the parties of the right, in Canada and elsewhere, that simply do not understand this. This is what New Orleans taught the world about the American economy, and about George Bush’s America. This is what Toronto’s ’Summer of 2005’ with bad air, bad roads, bad water, and gun violence taught Ontario about the legacy of Liberal and Conservative neglect.

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Posted by joyceb at 12:01 AM ET | Comments (10)


Twenty-five years ago today (December 8, 1980), the world lost one of the first political pop stars. John Lennon was not a paragon of human decency, but he made an effort to use his fame to get people to listen to his opionions about war, peace, hairpieces and bagism, among others. I miss you, John.

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December 07, 2005

Not driven with pride

Posted by joyceb at 10:17 AM ET | Comments (2)

Ford Motor Company in the US appears to have buckled under pressure from the anti-gay American Family Association and pulled advertising for two of its major brands from gay media. I say appears not because it's not a fact, but because Ford doesn't seem to want to just admit it.

From an item in the Advocate:

The antigay American Family Association claimed a cultural victory on Thursday and called off its threatened boycott of Ford Motor Co. On Friday, Ford spokesman Mike Moran confirmed to Advocate.com that the company will stop advertising its Jaguar and Land Rover brands in gay publications but insisted it was strictly a business decision.

The Dearborn, Mich., automaker came under fire from the AFA in May for its longtime efforts to increase LGBT workplace diversity and support gay rights causes. Ford has long been a regular advertiser within gay media, including The Advocate, and has donated significant sums to LGBT causes and nonprofit groups such as the Human Rights Campaign.
Threatened with a boycott by the Mississippi-based AFA, Ford and some of its dealers agreed to negotiate, and the AFA announced in June that it would hold off on its planned action. On Thursday, AFA announced the boycott would be canceled altogether.

"They've heard our concerns; they are acting on our concerns. We are pleased with where we are," said Donald Wildmon, AFA's chairman, in a statement. "Obviously there are still some small matters of difference, as people will always have, but generally speaking, we are pleased with the results - and therefore the boycott that had been suspended [is] now officially ended."

Specific terms of any formal agreement between the AFA and Ford - and whether any such agreement has in fact been reached - remain unclear.

A spokesman for Ford is claiming this was a "business decision" and says Volvo advertising will continue. AFA spokespeople say they will be keeping an eye on Ford and reserve the right to reinstate the boycott, if they feel Ford is not living up to its end of the deal.

Sounds like several large steps backwards to me, and more proof that the Christian right wield all the power south of the border.

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December 06, 2005

16 years ago today

Posted by john_d at 03:28 PM ET | Comments (3)

Victims of December 6, 1989

Genevieve Bergeron

Helene Colgan

Nathalie Croteau

Barbara Daigneault

Anne-Marie Edward

Maud Haviernick

Barbara Klucznik Widajewicz

Maryse Laganiere

Maryse Leclair

Anne-Marie Lemay

Sonia Pelletier

Michele Richard

Annie St-Arneault

Annie Turcotte

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constitutional games

Posted by john_d at 10:11 AM ET | Comments (7)

Since Andrew Potter pointed out how the NDP has itself to blame for being labelled a socialist party in The Economist (the principles of democratic socialism are much celebrated in the NDP’s constitution), I thought it would be a fun game to rename the other political parties in the country based on their constitutional declarations. So:

The Green Party becomes:

The Canadian Non-Violence Party, or

The Sustainability Party

pretty good

The Liberals might very well be:

The Rule of Law Party

The Historically Sustained Party

The Access to Full Information Party

(note, what exactly do the Liberals stand for?... this has to be the world’s least informative and most snooze inducing constitution)

But here come the Conservatives, bringing the goods:

The Fiscal Accountability Party

The Legitimate Self-Interestists

The Worship and Assembly Party

The Security and Privacy Party of Canada

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Set your TiVo ... uh, probably too late for that

Posted by mason at 12:36 AM ET | Comments (5)

Just a heads up: Maureen Dowd is going to be on the Colbert Report tonight... in a few minutes...

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December 05, 2005

war resisters support campaign

Posted by andrew at 05:07 PM ET | Comments (0)

I'm not affiliated with this in any way, but some of you in the TO area might find this interesting.

Voices of US War Resisters in Canada
Narrated by Shirley Douglas
Produced and directed by Alex Lisman * 28 minutes

Saturday, December 10, 7:00pm
Innis Town Hall, U of T
2 Sussex Avenue
(Nearest subway: St George)
Wheelchair accessible

* Video screening followed by a special performance featuring songs about
peace by the 70-voice
Common Thread Community Chorus

Let Them Stay features one-on-one interviews with US war resisters,
documenting their life-changing experiences in Iraq and the hidden
realities of US military recruitment and warfare. It also documents the
War Resisters Support Campaign, a pan-Canadian coalition that is
working with the war resisters to put pressure on the federal government
to let them stay.

Video premiere and evening fundraiser will also include:

* Toronto musician Sara Marlowe
* US war resisters, including Patrick and Jill Hart,
Jeremy Hinzman, Brandon Hughey, Ryan and Jen Johnson

$10 to $20 or PWYC (pay what you can) at the door

For more information, please contact:
War Resisters Support Campaign
Phone: 416-598-1222
E-mail: resisters@sympatico.ca
Web: www.resisters.ca

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The world’s media also ignores the NDP

Posted by john_d at 03:03 PM ET | Comments (12)

There’s a pretty picture of a frosty maple leaf on the cover of The Economist this week. Inside the covers, they try to explain Canada to the English speaking world. You can read “A funny sort of government” online for free if you just sit through a sponsor’s ad first.

Out of a good 2100 words, the NDP gets 55:

The New Democratic Party is a socialist party from the old world that is ill at ease in the new one and has yet to find its Tony Blair. It appeals at most to about a fifth of the electorate, but not to the Asians and other business-friendly new Canadians in the vote-rich urban areas.

That’s just under 3% of the article—13 percentage points less than their popular vote in the last election.

I appoint Andrew Potter head of the commission to investigate this conspiracy to disrespect the NDP.

Let’s start with the term “socialist party.”

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have you news of my boy Jack?

Posted by andrew at 09:37 AM ET | Comments (11)

One thing I like about John Degen's arguments on this blog is that he is unapologetic about suggesting that the NDP position itself as a potential governing party. I've always disliked the NDP's tendency to push itself as "the moral voice of Parliament" or other such nonsense, and I really don't think there's much reason to get into politics if it isn't to win power.

But one week into The Election Buzz Hargrove Calls A Waste, and things are not looking good for the NDP. The party is sitting in the mid-teens in the polls, which will translate into something like 20-25 seats. A small advance over 2004, but not enough to give the party a solid claim to be kingmaker.

It surely hasn't helped that Buzz Hargrove of the CAW has been telling everyone who will listen that they should vote Liberal (or Bloc, if they live in Quebec). As we learned in last week's Maclean's profile of Jack Layton, things are not exactly friendly between Layton and the CAW, but there is something to be said for solidarity, isn't there?

But Layton's big problem is not negative publicity, it's no publicity. His big plan on PSE got totally ignored, as the Calgary Grit points out, as did pretty much everything else he said.

I don't think this is simply attributable to understandable early-in-the-campaign struggling. It seems to me that the good things that the NDP stands for (and which are usually adopted by the Liberals as policy) are fading from public concern. Take electoral reform, which Layton once said was the sine qua non of his support. Voters in BC rejected STV, and in PEI they rejected MMP. As the Globe reported this weekend, voters are keen to get back to majority government, for which a FPP electoral system is more or less a requirement.

On fiscal issues, the two parties that Canadians actually vote for are both promising substantial tax cuts. On health care, Canadians seem to have finally come to the conclusion that,if $41 billion can't fix the problem, then it is probably a) insuperable, and b) a provincial problem regardless, and not something the federal parties should continue to base single-issue campaigns around.

I believe it was Iona Campagnolo who once joked that Ed Broadbent was "the most popular political leader in Canada. [pause]. Between elections."

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December 03, 2005

Can't talk to a psycho like a normal human being.

Posted by at 06:49 PM ET | Comments (3)

Oh man. Okay, so I thought it was pretty exciting that the CBC featured babble last week, saying it was one of the best political ... blogs in Canada.

Alright, babble is FULLY NOT A BLOG. But I'm happy that something I started is getting that kind of praise and media.


ProudToBeCanadaian.ca, a conservative website, has fully like MST3Ked* the news coverage with their own DIRE DIRE (you can tell because they fade in slowly) editorializing.

Watch it, here!

*except it's not funny.

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December 02, 2005

The new iPod Zepto

Posted by mason at 12:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

If you like Richard Poplak's article in This contemplating the higher power of the iPod and its shuffle mode, you might find this McSweeney's piece worthwhile.

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Consumers like "ad-free" but won't pay for it

Posted by joyceb at 07:47 AM ET | Comments (9)

This recent dispatch from Reuters reports that although consumers love commercial-free radio and television programming, they really don't want to pay for it.

So, this doesn't bode well for commercial-free sattellite radio services such as Sirius and XM, who did extensive market research that revealed consumers were clamouring for their service. Turns out when it comes time to subscribe, most people balk.

Could be that we're just unsure about the quality of the content, though. "People are not buying HBO because it doesn't have ads, they are buying it because they want to watch the Sopranos," no-brains advertising industry veteran Chuck Porter at last week's Reuters Media and Advertising Summit.

I wonder whether that bodes ill for the future of ad-free print media. There are only a handful of successful ad-free magazines (Adbusters, Sun), the virtually ad-frees number much higher and all must rely on reader support beyond the ticket price to survive. If this trend with tv and radio spills into print, will magazines have to move towards "generational subscription prices" -- discounting for under-25-year-olds?

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December 01, 2005

"America's Most Trusted This Magazine"

Posted by mason at 11:53 PM ET | Comments (8)

In case This is looking for some new promotions ideas, I’m linking to this site, where a snappy slogan is just a click away!

My favourites are:
“You’ll never put a better bit of This Magazine On Your Knife”
“What Would You Do For A This?”
“America’s Most Trusted This Magazine”

Give it a whirl!

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An act of real courage

Posted by mason at 06:07 PM ET | Comments (7)

Last month, the world lost a true hero in Rosa Parks. But as our editor, Emily, pointed out, you wouldn't know it from reading today's Canadian newspapers. It was fifty years ago that Parks refused to give up her bus seat, prompting her arrest, a reaction of outrage from the black community, and the birth of the civil rights movement. And yet, you won't read about it in the Globe and Mail, the National Post or the Toronto Star. Michael Moore has something to say about it, but, well, duh. For shame, Canada's dailies!

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On your guard, Team Canada!

Posted by mason at 11:57 AM ET | Comments (6)

In presenting his party’s platform yesterday, Gilles Duceppe said he wants Quebec to have its own hockey team in international competition. If ever there was a reason to worry about the Bloc Quebecois, this is it. I’ve often wondered how Team Quebec would fare against Team Canada, and I daresay it wouldn’t be pretty. In goal, Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo and Jose Theodore would easily outclass a Canadian trio of, say, Ed Belfour, Curtis Joseph and Marty Turco. On defence, Quebec would have the likes of Patrice Brisebois, Eric Desjardins, Stephane Quintal and Philippe Boucher—not too shabby. Up front, of course there’s Mario, as well as the NHL’s leading goal-scorer, Simon Gagne, Alex Tanguay, Vincent Lecavalier, J-P Dumont, Mike Ribiero, Daniel Briere, and young Patrice Bergeron.

For the love of hockey, Quebec, keep this country together!

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what price loyalty? undetermined, but being openly discussed

Posted by john_d at 11:39 AM ET | Comments (3)

Here's a bizarre report on the contentious Liberal riding association meeting in Etobicoke Lakeshore last night, in which Michael Ignatieff was acclaimed over the protests of two local Liberals who also sought the nomination, but were apparently not allowed to stand on the ballot.

Check out the full story in the Toronto Star.

A couple of things to note:

1) Saying there were police outside the meeting “in bulletproof vests,” is pretty much just like saying there were police outside the meeting. Show me a cop in Toronto not wearing a vest anywhere, anytime.

2) It seems retiring MP Jean Augustine got the Liberal Party memo saying it’s now okay to openly speculate about patronage appointments

Augustine, 68, is known to be hoping for an appointment to a public service position outside the federal government. She has told associates she as yet has not been offered anything by Martin.

The veteran MP, who has represented the riding since 1993, said she decided it’s “time to smell the roses,” but she said she will first work to help Ignatieff win the seat.

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