Friday, July 29, 2005
POLITICS AS USUAL: TORONTO UNLIMITED? YEAH, UNLIMITED TAXES, UNLIMITED SOCIAL PROGRAMS....
I wanted to weigh in, if I might, on the whole controvesy surrounding the new "Toronto Unlimigted" tourism campaign. For those who might not know, the campaign (logo above) was unveiled a number of weeks ago to pretty well lukewarm to negative reviews. Most people saw it as uninspired and completely underwhelming (which in my mind, makes it a perfect fit for Toronto).
Anyway, coupled with this logo and the accompanying ads prominently featuring the logo were another set of ads that ran in New York. One ad featured events (such as the Molson Indy) that had already occured. The other ran text that didn't even sound like proper english:
"And while all these answers are true. It is barely scratching the surface.
Toronto is one of those rare instances where its true unique nature makes it
difficult to describe without being cliche."
While the ads generally suck, that's actually not what concerns me. What I'm most worried about is the solution Mayor David Miller and some Toronto Councillors are prescribing. The debate around the "Toronto Unlimited" campaign gives us a glimpse into how Toronto will function if given more legislative, regulatory and taxation powers.
The "Toronto Unlimited" campaign is wholly funded by a voluntary fee paid for by local hotels. In fact, this fee generates over $20 million annually. Until now, Tourism Toronto, an independent organization for the local tourism industry has carried the freight for the promotion of tourism in Toronto. They pay the fees, they control what they do with the money.
But this "disasterous" ad campaign has prompted Mayor Miller to suggest that since promotion of Toronto is on behalf of Torontonians, those who represent Torontonians--Councillors--should have the final say in how that money is spent.
Let's leave aside 9for the moment) the fact that Miller almost singlehandedly blew $4-million by constantly complaining about the ads.
From the Globe:
"An expert on branding from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto said the mayor broke one of the cardinal rules of marketing by not standing behind his own product, "killing" the $4-million campaign.
"To be spending $4-million out of one hand and then on the other hand to be saying that it's an embarrassment and indefensible, boy that speaks to me as a shocking waste of money," David Dunne said."
Council? Waste money? No.
So, what does Mayor Miller want to do with the millions collected from hotels? More festivals? Discounts on room rates? A comprehensive push to get more people to visit Toronto?
Nope. He and Council want the money to subsidize the local arts community and pay for local programs.
From the Toronto Star:
"Miller has already questioned whether Tourism Toronto should remain an arm's-length organization.
"We should have a much bigger role in (selling Toronto) because it's about what Torontonians think of themselves as well as how we sell ourselves to potential visitors," he told reporters yesterday.
"The hotel tax — which is self-imposed at the moment — I think one could argue pretty persuasively from a public policy point of view, it should support arts and culture in the city, not just marketing."
He argued that some of that money could go toward boosting attractions that are "tired."
[Councillor Brian] Ashton added some of the $25 million fund could go to arts and culture, clean streets or "it could even be flower pots."
You know, the arts community that received $8.5 million in grants last year? Or the $12 million on the "Clean and Beautiful City" initiative? Sounds like it isn't a revenue problem--its more about "dancing with the ones that brung ya".
The bigger issue here is that this debate clearly telegraphs the City's mindset: Got Money? More programs and spending.
Why is this important? For the last year, Toronto has been engaged in discussions with the McGuinty government on the new City of Toronto Act, which would give Toronto (and other municipalities) wide ranging taxing and regulatory powers. One of those powers they have been pushing for is the ability to levy a hotel tax.
Now you can see why hoteliers would rather do it on their own, thank you very much. Because Council will spend it on their priorities. And as we have seen, Council priorities often don't include supporting business or the taxpayer.
All Ontario taxpayers should watch this seemingly benign debate closely. Its a definite sign of things to come. And those things are more taxes, more programs, more waste.
Grab you wallet, folks.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
POLITICS AS USUAL: MY MP IS AS DUMB AS A SACK OF HAMMERS
As many longtime CH readers will know, my local Member of Parliament is Carolyn Parrish. For some strange reason, she thinks that positioning herself as the ultimate "peacenik" in Canada will win her points in her constituency. Not sure why, given that Mississauga Erindale seems generally representative of suburban Ontario. Not exactly the epicentre of the international peace movement.
Nevertheless, she's decided to spout off--again--on Canada's role in Afghanistan. Daimnation! has been following this as well.
Apparently, Ms. Parrish fell asleep a while back and she's jsut waking up from her slumber. If she bothered to do ANY research before opening up her piehole, she'd know she is completely misinformed. It took me about 5 seconds to search the DND website to find out exactly what we're doing in Afghanistan.
In July 2005, a Theatre Activation Team of about 220 personnel from the Canadian Forces Joint Operations Group based in Kingston arrived in Kandahar to provide the support and install the infrastructure necessary for the arrival of the PRT.
Under Operation ARCHER, the Canadian contribution to Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, the PRT will reinforce the authority of the Afghan government in and around Kandahar and help stabilize and rebuild the region. It will also help monitor security, promote Afghan government policies and priorities with local authorities, and facilitate security sector reforms."
What's changed? We're looking for terrorists while making sure the country doesn't fall apart. Have been since 2003! Nothing has changed!
And Parrish is getting herself all worked up because we're extending the mission.
I know Parrish and those of her generation are dying for another Vietnam so she can protest on the streets, sing folk songs and spend time thinking of witty protest slogans "1,2,3,4....don't spend my taxes in Kandahar", but this ain't it.
Unfortunately, all the media coverage is just going to spurn her on. That means more of her useless, ignorant diatribes on things most Canadian support.
Why can't I have a nameless, invisible MP that just votes with the government and sends me a glossy quarterly newsletter? Or at least someone who mouths off about important issues?
Come back, John Nunziata--all is forgiven.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
MY SO-CALLED LIFE: TATTOOED CONSERVATIVES?
At this time of year, I'm always surprised by the amount of tattoos I see on otherwise straight-laced business minded folk. Which got me to thinking: do Conservatives, generally, have tattoos? I'm not talking the temporary, "happy Canada day" sissy ones, I mean real, permanent ink ones.
My guess is no, for a couple of reasons:
- Its trendy, so that's the kiss of death right there.
- It probably wouldn't fit with the prodominately corporate culture.
- Their tattoos of Alan Greenspan or the Intel logo would be lame.
- Most of the Tories I know are too wussy anyway.
As for me, I have not one, but two! My first one I got is on my upper right back (near my shoulder blade), of a Canadian flag. It kind of looks like this:
My second tattoo is on my upper left arm, and it is the japanese symbol for "honour". It basically looks like this:
And I'm thinking of getting another one! So, I'm curious; how many other CH readers, especially Tories, have gone "under the needle"? Do you have tattoos? If so, of what and where? Would you ever get one?
The Hipster wants to know!
Monday, July 25, 2005
POLITICS AS USUAL: WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE?
Jean Charles De Menezes
I'm sure everyone has heard about Jean Charles De Menezes, the 27-year old Brazilian shot dead by London police on Thursday. Unsuprisingly, many on the left see this tragedy as merely a case of police brutality.
Exerpts from rabble.ca:
"I don't know if I'm tired, or just emotionally chareged at the moment or what... but I'm just so shocked and sad and horrified at this murder and the hollow, hollow words of the authorities and Blair and his own government about it. This is just f**ing insane."--Shaolin
"I wish I could also get shocked and sad and horrified at this. I'm especially disappointed by some of the statements of "Red" Ken Livingstone. I expected more from him than being stampeded by the Underground atrocities into conclusions such as blaming the Underground bombers for the conduct of the police."--N. Beltov
"The use of instant capital punishment for the new crime of "running away while Muslim" is causing consternation among the Muslim community in Britain. It's also likely to stiffen the determination of the radical Islamist suicide bombers."--M. Spector
You get the idea. A quick search of blogs on Technorati also gives you much of the same flavour of comments being made by bloggers across the globe.
Many of the blogs I have read (I'll call them the "hindsight is 20/20 crew") believe that the incident went down something like this:
- Plainclothes officers are looking for suspicious muslims.
- They spot Menezes, a random, "asian-looking" muslim near a train station.
- They run after him, not identifying themsleves, firearms drawn.
- They chase him into the station, tackle him, shoot him in the head five times.
- Police wait 2-3 hours to release the story so they can "spin" what happened.
- A call goes out on the radio that 3 London train stations have once again been bombed.
- You and your unit see a man entering the station in a long, thick coat.
- Someone tells you that they saw wires coming out of his jacket.
- Your unit pursues the man, identifying themsleves as police.
- The man bolts into the station, towards the train.
- You give chase, yelling at him to stop.
- Instead of raising his hands, he jumps over the turnstile, seemingly intent on getting the train.
- Bombers had just set off explosives IN trains for the second time in as many weeks.
- Dozens, possible hundreds of people are around the man's immediate proximity.
- He runs down the escalator and attemps to jump on the train.
- Your fellow officers tackle him, but he's still struggling.
- Police HQ bulletins have stated based on experience abroad, that suicide bombers have explosives strapped to their chest and that you must shoot to kill before they release the trigger.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO?London has been beseiged by suicide bombers, blowing up innocent people. This tragedy isn't a case of "running away while Muslim", its another casualty in the war on terror.
What would you have done in a similar situation? When faced with the very real possibility to being blown up along with hundreds of fellow Londoners, would you have taken the chance of trying to reason with him? Would you have cornered him in the train requesting a body search? Would you take chances by trying to knock him out with your gun?
Its unfortunate that so many people see this as an execution of an innocent man. Should we mourn the death of Mr. Menezes? Of course we should. I feel for his family. I even believe there should be an inquiry into what went wrong and how future incidents like this can be prevented.
But don;t for a second think that Mr. Menezes' death cannot totally be placed at the feet of Islamic fundamentalists and those who choose to use the bombing of innocents as a tool to achieve their political agenda.
The police did what they had to do, given what they knew and the situation at hand.
Knowing what they did know, not what we now know, would you have done any different?
Friday, July 22, 2005
POLITICS AS USUAL: THE REAL THREAT TO CANADIANS
I was particularly interested in Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan's comments in response to that very question:
"[there is] no specific threat against Canada at this time."
Was there a specific threat to London? Either time? No. So this statement from the government doesn't exactly fill me with confidence.
What better way to do that then by attacking an unassuming city like Toronto?
To be fair, McLellan seems to get that. From the Toronto Star:
"We live in a global context, we live in a free and Western democracy with a set of values and lifestyle that some ... do not find acceptable," she said. "When" an attack comes, she said — then quickly adding "if" it happens — it will be important for Canada to keep its resolve about those values, because that's the real terrorist target."
Absolutely. Terrorists are like spoiled children who want something desperately from a parent. They want you to give in. They want you to change your behaviour. That's why they do this. It isn't about killing people--that's just the means to an end. They want democratic societies to be fearful, lose their confidence, start questioning themselves and their values.
That's when they win.
You know what that says to the terrorists? "You're on the right track."
B! TALK DAILY: LAYING DOWN THE (JUDE) LAW
To show how disgusted I am about uberdog Jude law infidelity, I will boycott the following movies:
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.
I Heart Huckabees.
The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Stand tall, sister Sienna. I'm sure others feel the same way. Once this boycott gathers steam, no one will go see those movies.
We'll make him pay.
His nanny is hot, though.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
MY SO-CALLED LIFE: THE WORST KIND OF FLIP-FLOP
As you might or might not have heard, a wee controversy has sprung up in the States due to a recent visit by a championship NorthWestern University girls lacrosse team to the White House.
Yeah, so what? Nothing out of the ordinary. Until this photo was taken:
A Flip Flopping White House?
Look down. As you can see, a number of the ladies are wearing flip flops. Apparently, the picture was posted on the teams website and a brother of one of the players e-mailed her demanding to know: "YOU WORE FLIP FLOPS TO THE WHITE HOUSE?"
Indeed. It seems the team's visit has now opened up the debate around whether flip flops can be "dressy" or are they just a casual, comfortable shoe.
Allow the Hipster to weigh in, if you please.
Now, I should lay out my qualifications here. I'm not the typical male who thinks Ann Taylor is the mother of three members of Duran Duran and black is still and always will be the new black.
My mother, sister and wife are all have PhDs in "shoeology", with a minor is handbaggery. I know what all the fuss around Manolo Blahnik (See? Correct spelling) is about.
I like flip flops. They're great in the summer and look good on the ladies.
HOWEVER, I take serious issue with the way they are beginning to creep into the ol' office.
Memo to the gals: Flip flops are not business attire!
They don't go with that summer dress you wear to work!
And they certainly shouldn't be worn to the White House, for god's sake!
FLIP FLOPS ARE TOO CASUAL FOR BUSINESS ATTIRE. Period. Full stop.
In my office (as corporate as it gets) most of the admin staff wear flip flops. We're talking full toe exposure, no backing, and that WONDERFUL flopping sound up and down the halls all day. Some of them are wearing straight-up fresh-off-the-beach sandals. Thanks for making the effort.
And I gotta tell you gals, it looks seriously unprofessional. For most guys I see in the office, its a full suit with tie in 33 degree weather. I buck the trend and usually go tieless in the summer. If you work in an environment that promotes a causal work environment, fine. But I see ladies who obviously work in the heart of Corporate Canada walking around like they're on the Riviera. Who are you, Paris Hilton?
I know ladies' dress shoes are NOT made for comfort. I get that. And I know (especially in Canada these days) the heat is almost unbearable. But c'mon, girls. I know you know how to look good.
Just ditch the flip flops.
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
POLITICS AS USUAL: SOBERING LCBO RECOMMENDATIONS GET TOSSED
On Monday, the Beverage Alcohol System Review Panel made its recommendations to the McGuinty government on the future of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, or LCBO. The Panel, whose members include a number of "industry experts", was formed in January of this year. According to their release, they:
"conducted a broad review of the existing system and
developed recommendations for the government's consideration on ways to get
better value for both consumers and the government while maintaining the strong
commitment to social responsibility that Ontarians expect."
Waaaaaaaay back in January 2005, here's what the government had to say on the matter of the LCBO and its operations:
"The McGuinty government is appointing an expert panel to review the distribution and sale of beverage alcohol in the province, Finance Minister Greg Sorbara announced today.
"The LCBO is not for sale. However, our government made a commitment to undertake a thorough review of major assets," said Sorbara. "This is an opportunity for impartial experts to undertake a comprehensive review of the industry and recommend ways it can work better."
So, what does the panel take 6 months to do?
Recommend that the Ontario government sell the LCBO.
From the Panel recommendations:
"To provide the benefits of a more open, flexible and competitive market to the people of Ontario, including increased revenue from the system, we recommend that the government of Ontario do the following:
- Fully restructure the beverage alcohol system by focusing the government's role on regulating access to beverage alcohol;
- withdrawing government from retail and wholesale operations and supporting the creation of a competitive marketplace;
- auctioning licences to qualified bidders to permit them to retail a full range of beverage alcohol products within defined geographic zones for a fixed term;
- auctioning licences to qualified bidders to permit them to wholesale a full range of beverage alcohol products province-wide for a fixed term;
- limiting the number of licences and market share of any one bidder.
So, what, pretell, is the government's (predictable) response?
"Finance Minister Greg Sorbara today confirmed the government's commitment not to sell the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), after receiving the Beverage Alcohol System Review panel report on the distribution and sale of beverage alcohol in the province."
"Let me be clear - we are not selling the LCBO," said Sorbara. "We will not turn the LCBO into an income trust. And, we will not permit selling of beer and wine in corner stores."
Alrighty then. Thanks for your time, boys--we'll take it from here.
So, the government spends however many dollars over 6 months only to then reject the primary recommendations out of hand?
I gotta tell ya, something stinks. Or, someone's asleep (passed out) at the switch. What happens now? The report suggests their recommendations could yield an additional $200 million for Ontario coffers. And they're not willing to look at it?
What does that say about McGuinty's commitment to reducing the deficit in this province?
What is the plan to end the monopoly on alcohol the government and the larger beer and wine companies have in Ontario?
Why strike the Panel in the first place? If you're not willing to listen to "experts", who will you listen to?
All good questions (if I do say so myself) that are left unanswered by the government's rejection of their own Panel.
Ian Urquart in today's Toronto Star thinks that this is just the beginning of the story, and he might be right. It seems the McGuinty government has had an operational review going as well. He also quotes John Tory as willing to look at the Panel's recommnedations fare more seriously than the FIBerals.Looks like it will be more hairpulling at the LCBO.
I think they might want to pour themselves a stiff one. If they can afford it.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
B! TALK DAILY: DO HYBRIDS CAUSE SMOG?
The Toronto Star is reporting today that new models of hybrid cars being introduced into the market consume as much gas an regular V6 models. According to the article, the culprit is the fact that the cars being designed have a lot more kick to them, so the actual fuel economy is a wash.
So, I decided to check it out myself. With a Consumer Reports on-line subscription in hand, I went and checked out the gas milege on a number of vehicles, both hybrid and non-hybrid.
Honda Accord V6--Hybrid
CU's city/highway, mpg 18/37
Honda Accord V6
CU's city/highway, mpg 15/34
A difference of 3 miles to the gallon, in this model. Some, like the Toyota Prius claim to have better fuel economy, but there are suggestions that these fuel consumption numbers may be in dispute.
As Newsweek reported last year, a number of hybrid owners are complaining that the fuel economy promised by hybrid manufacturers was overstated. So much so that the Union of Concerned Scientists has called for the US Environmental Protection Agency to revamp the way they rate fuel economy.
In fact, they are saying that EPA fuel economy numbers might be overstated by over 30%.
This blogger has taken his disillusionment online. Many car buyer's guides are warning potential hybrid buyers to be weary of so-called "fuel savings".
From Car Connection:
"In fact, the results of ongoing operating tests conducted by the EPA of a dozen hybrid cars in its own fleet significantly contradict their posted fuel economy ratings. When last we checked, the best the EPA's fleet could muster was a cumulative average of 37.7 mpg for the Civic, 45.7 mpg for the Insight, and 44.8 mpg for the current-generation Prius. While this is certainly admirable fuel economy, it's still far below the cars' official EPA estimates that run as high as 51, 66, and 60 mpg, respectively for the model years tested."
And the car manufacturing industry has a lot to lose. For the first 6 months of this year, sales for hybrid vehicles were 2 and 1/2 times higher than the same period last year. According to Bankrate.com, hybrid sales in the U.S. are expected to climb to 200,000 this year, 260,000 in 2006 and 535,000 in 2011.
But let's put this argument aside for a moment. What about actual fuel consumption? Isn't that whast is at the heart of climate change?
From Environment Canada:
"Passenger vehicles emit various air pollutants including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide (CO) and sulphur oxides (SOx). Both NOx and VOCs are involved in a series of complex reactions that result in the formation of ground-level ozone, which is a respiratory irritant and one of the major components of smog ."
Okay, so burning fuel is the issue, right? Well it must be, because by 2008 all emissions for vehicles will be the same, hybrid or not. So, the government is taking steps to reduce emissions, but the big push is for Canadians to reduce the amount of fossil fuels they consume.
The answer is clear, according to Environment Canada:
"Hybrid vehicles provide the same speed, performance, and convenience of a regular car, without the pollution. The Honda Insight, Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, and Toyota Echo are the most fuel-efficient models available on the market."
But wait a minute. The Honda Civic Hybrid has better fuel economy, but it has a smaller engine (1.3 L vs. 1.7 L) than a regular civic.
The new models coming out, such as the Lexus RX400h boast more "bang for the buck":
"The company promises the 400h will be both green and mean, with fuel economy in excess of 27 mpg and performance comparable to that of a 4.0-liter V-8 (hence the name), headlined by a sub-eight-second dash to 60 mph."
So, while it might be more fuel efficient, the manufacturers have increased the power, rather than create a model that has the same power but is more effiecient and burns less fuel. This might be the auto industry's response to complaints that models like the Insight and Prius were "gutless".
So, if fuel economy is overstated AND the new models offer more power as opposed to less fuel consumptions, why are these models being subsidized by the government?
From Hybrid Experience:
"Ontario offers a partial rebate of the Retail Services Tax (RST) with the purchase or lease of a hybrid electric or alternative fuel vehicle. Vehicles purchased after May 10, 2001 are eligible for a rebate of up to $1,000 of the paid PST.
Note: In order to receive your tax refund, you must submit an application. Download and complete the application form contained in RST Guide 702 - Vehicles Powered by Alternative Fuels."
According to the Ministry of the Environment, this program is one of the key parts of their plan to reduce emissions in Ontario. But let's do the math (green is good, red is bad):
So we're told that:
But the new trend seems to be:
We are also told that:
If Mike Harris is to be believed:
So, that means:
So, by my calculations, Ontario's taxation policy for hybrids will result in more smog, not less. The federal government has called on consumers to reduce fuel consumption to reduce climate change. But that worked in the "Prius era" (we think).
Now, especially if the new models keep coming out with larger and larger engines, hybrids aren't exactly the silver bullet as we've seen.
They have the same emissions as regular cars, they might not save fuel, and when they do, they make bigger engines which means they still burn the same amount.
But we continue to provide incentives to put more of these cars on the road.
Does this make any sense? Didn't think so.
Monday, July 18, 2005
THE RED ENSIGN STANDARD ISSUE XXVI
Is up at Robot Guy.
Good job, Ed.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
MY SO-CALLED LIFE: SPAM, SPAM, WONDERFUL SPAM
I have noticed lately that the spam I get on my free e-mail are getting more and more obvious. Take a look at this short list (I get 20 or 30 eveey couple of days) of e-mails I received today. I have included the name and the subject that it displayed for each (I never open e-mails unless I know who sent them).
Inanest V. Spicier "Pleased to meet you!"
Clairol U. Auspiciously "cheapset supreman pills without psrecription"
Frying D. Contumely "Try oem today and save your meony"
And, of course we get those of the porn variety:
"Stephan" "Fresh and innocent expose their secrets"
"Samantha" "jg-Smooth mature babe baring all."
I guess spam filters must be working, because in the early days of the internet, I (and a lot of my friends and family) got nailed by spam that looked like an authentic e-mail.
Nowadays, its getting ridiculous. "Frying D. Contumely"? What kind of a name is that? Not that I'm not thankful, mind you. I don't have to worry so much about trojan viruses and the like. Instead, spam is more of a nuisance, rather than a threat.
Ah, the wonders of the electronic age.
POLITICS AS USUAL: FEAR(MONGERING) AND LOATHING IN THE BLOGOSPHERE
In a post enititled "How the Right Gets it Wrong Part 2" the author comes up with a theory on why the CPC should be worried about its electoral future:
"A former CPC supporter noted that the CPC had now been fully taken over by the Alliance element (while informing us at the same time that even members of Canada's military are no longer willing to vote for the CPC).
The kind of "conservatism" that the Alliance stands for is the exact same kind of thinking espoused by the Freedom Party in Austria under Joerg Haider." (emphasis added)
So, the CPC/Alliance stands for the EXACT same thing as the Freedom Party in Austria. Who are the Freedom Party? I didn't know myself, so I did some research.
From the Monthly Review:
"Since taking over the leadership of the Freedom Party in 1986, Haider has steered it in a fascist direction in terms of ideology, organization and personnel. The FP has linked its criticisms of the established order in Austria to racist arguments. The new government’s program includes cutting immigration quotas for family reunions, targeting illegal immigrants, discrimination in schools against children who do not speak German, a longer waiting period before immigrants can become citizens..."
Oh, there's more:
"Calculated references to National Socialism have played an important role in the shift in Freedom Party ideology. They appeal to a nostalgia for the Third Reich, legitimize fascism as a means to full employment and the activities of the SS, as noble soldiers in the German armed forces. They are also signals to hard core fascist supporters that Haider is really with them, only constrained by legislation that outlaws holocaust denial and efforts to reestablish the Nazi Party."
Here's a few quotes from our friend Mr. Heider:
"The Waffen SS was a part of the Wehrmacht (German military) and hence it deserves all the honour and respect of the army in public life." (1995)
"... in the Third Reich they had an orderly employment policy ...." (1991)
So, how did the international community react in 1999 when the Freedom Party garnered enough seats in the general election to form a coaliton with the "People's Party" (OVP)?
"There was a great degree of outrage both within the country and internationally. The heads of government of the other 14 EU members decided to cease cooperation with the Austrian government, as it was felt in many countries that the cordon sanitaire against coalitions with parties considered as right-wing extremists, which had mostly held in Western Europe since 1945, had been breached.
For example, for several months, other national leaders refused to shake hands and socialize with members of the Schüssel government. This was described as "sanctions" by representatives of the ÖVP and FPÖ, and supporters of the government often blamed social democrats and President Thomas Klestil for them, and questioned their loyalty to the country."
Here was the reaction from the U.S. and Israel:
"U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the United States was temporarily summoning home Ambassador Kathryn Walt-Hall from Vienna to discuss Austria's new coalition.
"We are deeply concerned about the entry of Joerg Haider's Freedom Party into the Austrian government," Albright told a news conference. In addition, she said, the U.S. defense attache in Vienna will not attend a ceremony for new Austrian Defense Minister Herbert Scheibner, a Freedom Party member.
Even before the new government was sworn in, Israel recalled Ambassador Nathan Merom "for an indefinite time." Israel also banned Haider from visiting."
Back to Calgary Observer:
"This is how others react to a political party like that. The CPC, by allowing itself to be taken over and controlled by the Alliance forces, stands to face the same fate as that ill-fated Freedom Party."
So, the CPC, in this blogger's eyes, is exactly the same as a racist, extremist political party whose election was greeted by the Western world with outrage, disgust and sanctions?
THIS kind of thinking is why politics is viewed so cynically. While those campaigning against the CPC might think they are ensuring victory for their own Party, they really are shooting themselves in the foot.
Over-the-top rhetoric thrown around by people like Calgary Observer just demeans the whole political process. Canadians know fact from propaganda. They turn away when political discourse goes from rational debate to fearmongering and irrational hyperbole. Who wants to engage in politics when they feel their views will be equated with Nazis and fascism (or even communism and marxism)? Citizens have no time for that.
CPC members (and PC members before that) fought the Nazis in WWII. They died for the ideas of freedom, democracy and against tyranny and a fascist regime. So did Liberals and NDP'rs. To state the CPC is exactly like the Freedom Party and what they believe in is not political debate, its cynical, dirty politics at its worst.
Shame on you, Calgary Observer.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
POLITICS AS USUAL: 25 YEARS AT BERNIE'S
Today, Canadian telecom businessman and former Worldcom CEO Bernard "Bernie" Ebbers was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
I'm sure he was relieved to find out that he would have gotten 30 years, but his sentence was reduced due to his charitable work and health condition. He's 64.
The new corporate image?
Unfortunately, this is another conviction from a long list of corporate fraud and malfeasence scandals in the U.S. From Worldcom, to Enron, to Imclone to Tyco, to Arthur Andersen, a seemingly endless series of charges, allegations, trials, (and in some cases) convictions have rocked the corporate world in the last 5 years.
So what, you ask? What does that matter to Canada? Why do we care?
Well, firstly, I think that any pro-business group or individual is painted with the same brush in the eyes of the public when word of these kind of scandals comes out. Have conservatives (small and big "C") not seem eyes roll when they express the same shock and outrage as anyone else?
I recently went and saw "The Smartest Guys In the Room", a documentary on the Enron scandal that has yet to fully play out in the courts, but started the investigation into WorldCom accounting practices. While I recognize that part of a documentary like this--especially in the post-Fahrenheit 9/11 world--is to tell an interesting and sexy story, many of the allegations have been investigated by congressional committees and the courts. Some of the players have been already been convicted of fraud and sentenced.
I can tell you I was disgusted by the criminal activities of Enron executives and equally put off by the fraud perpetrated by Mr. Ebbers. The unfortunate spin off to all this is that the image of businesses and those who run them gets tarnished, whether they've done anything or not.
Corporations are greeted with general suspicion. Motives and ethics of successful businesspeople are questioned. Governments move to impose more and more regulation. Politicians see innovation and free enterprise as a risk that needs to be managed, rather than a driver of the economy.
Here in Ontario, the MFP computer leasing scandal has essentially brought partnerships between IT firms and the City of Toronto to a halt. The City's IT department rarely speaks to potential vendors or those with new, efficient technology that could save the City money or bring added value to citizens.
On the political side, those who welcome corporate Canada (or even worse corporate America) as potential partners in economic growth and development are questioned in the same cynical way: what kind of kickbacks are they getting? Is this another Haliburton? Who's relative is on which board? How many donations did they receive for their support?
This is not a healthy situation--the fallout from Worldcom, Enron, et al. affects far more than Wall Street. When scandal breaks in the corporate world, it sends shockwaves everywhere. Those shockwaves breed cynicism, distrust of the same people we look to to create jobs, pay taxes and drive the economy.
Those who support and encourage business should be (and usually are) the first people to condemn the actions of greedy, power hungry individuals who don't care who's lives they ruin. Conservatives in Canada should ask the same from Canadian businesses that they offer in their platform--strong ethics and principled management. And this operational standard should apply to everyone, from those who donate money to a campaign to people who sell to and operate within government.
Monday, July 11, 2005
POLITICS AS USUAL: LOOK UP "UNION BOSSES" IN THE DICTIONARY....
Who is the Canadian Union of Public Employees PR genius who would let the "brotherhood" pose for this walking stereotype? When I think of unions, this basically is exactly how I picture it. The may have averted a garbage strike in Toronto, but they sure did lose the communications war.
And what's up with this guy?
Did they not maybe want to have him "taking a break" when this photo was taken? I'm hoping, for his sake, that they negotiated a fitness plan. Or at least a good survivor benefits plan.
Feel free to copy and circulate....
POLITICS AS USUAL: THIS POST SPONSORED BY WAL-MART
There is an article in today's Toronto Star talking about corporate sponsorships for local parks on Centre Island (sorry folks, its not online). Summary: through corporate partnerships, the City of Toronto was able to create a $3 million park and playground area for kids.
Is this a bad thing?
Obviously, to me, its not. In times of tight budgets, limited funds and decaying facilities, I think that corporate sponsorships and partnership are essential if we want to keep our quality of life here in Canada and around the world.
But more importantly, isn't this what we as citizens should be expecting (and encouraging) from corporations? Aren't these kind of acitivities what makes a "good corporate citizen"?
Look at Home Depot. If you go to their corporate sponsorship webpage, you will see they have a significant philanthropic effort in place. The describe their key focuses below:
"Community efforts focus on four key areas: building and refurbishing playgrounds; ensuring the safety and accessibility of community gathering spaces, building and refurbishing affordable and transitional housing; preparing communities for emergencies."
On specific projects, I think they have a pretty good record on giving back to the community:
- Donating over $150 million in funds since 1989;
- Teaching over 1.5 million kids safe do-it-yourself skills;
- Donating over $4 million for hurricane disaster assistance last year;
- Renovated over 20,000 homes for the disabled and elderly;
- Protecting the environment by only using wood in their stores from companies who promote conservation and responsbile use.
In fact, on that last point I can personally testify that they do practice that policy. A wood that my wife and I wanted to sue for our hardwood floor was discontinued for use at Home Depot because it was revealed that the company that supplied it was getting it from an "old forest" area in China.
Not everyone agrees. Here is Toronto, the Public Space Committee feels that public space should never be "sold". Their spokesperson stated in the article that even if (especially if) the company doesn't receive naming rights, or a plaque is not put up, etc, that the corporation will "want something in return" and that compromises the City in question.
Now, corporate sponsorship can go too far. From the Centre for Commercial-Free Public Education:
"AShell Oil video teaches students that the way to experience nature is to drive there - stopping to fuel up your Jeep at a Shell gas station on the way. The Shell logo appears on the screen at intervals throughout the video."
For me, I think the line is drawn when corporations start to use sponsorships as an active marketing tool (i.e. commercials on education TV programs in schools), rather than a passive (from a commercial sense) acknowledgement of their efforts to assist the community (i.e. a plaque in a park).
However, while I agree with creating policies on corproate sponsorships, I think the idea that allowing corporate sponsorhip equates to giving corporations free reign to do what they please in public areas, schools, city facilities, etc, is bunk.
Rather, I think we need to encourage businesses to directly give something back to the community they operate in.
Friday, July 08, 2005
MY-SO CALLED LIFE: GLOBAL HIPSTER
I know I'm a little behind the curve, but I have finally figured out how to blog by e-mail.
Specifically, by Blackberry.
So now, whenever a thought pops into my point little head (thanks, Ernie Eves!) I'll be able to put it down here.
Now there will be no limit to my pointless rants! And they say say technology is useless.
Now if I can just figure out this XXL RSS thing.....
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld
MY SO-CALLED LIFE: ONE POST DEFEATS TERROR
Seriously, I feel so much better now.
Respect due to those tough Londoners.
(Hat Tip: Paul Wells)
POLITICS AS USUAL: TTC DOES NOT STAND FOR "TERRORIST TRACKING CENTRE"
First, they have to find us
By Rob Granatstein, Toronto Sun
LEAVE IT to TTC chairman and Toronto Councillor Howard Moscoe to put the situation in perspective. Moscoe told TTC riders yesterday not to panic.
"I would wonder if the terrorists first would have to find where Toronto is before they attacked it," he said. "Canada is not as vulnerable as the U.S. or Britain or Spain.
"We don't have any troops to pull out of Iraq."
In truth, even though his comments above are crass, idiotic and out of touch, former art teacher Howard Moscoe is not an idiot.
He's one of the more wily politicians I've come across. But his comments are instructive for the kind of thinking that has enveloped lefty politicians in Canada and especially Toronto. Here's what Moscoe is telling me:
- Apparently Toronto is unknown to most, if not all of the free world, tourism campaigns be damned.
- A City Councillor obviously has anti-terrorism intelligence at his disposal that CSIS and the federal government doesn't. How else would Howard be clearly confident enough to dismiss evidence that Canada is at risk:
"Human targets sorted by level of importance," reads a list in the al-Battar Military Manual, a training manual masterminded by Saif al-Adel, one of al-Qaeda's most senior leaders, and distributed to supporters over the Internet.
Jewish targets top the list. Then, in a separate category called "the Christians," the manual states: "The grades of importance are as follows: 1. Americans, 2. British, 3. Spaniards, 4. Australians, 5. Canadians, 6. Italians."
Ah, yes. This is the kind of politican we want to be giving heaps of "new deal" responsibility to. Why worry about things like protecting your transit system, when we have unlicensed clothing drop boxes running rampany on our streets!
What an embarassment. Maybe ol' Howie is right. I don't think the terrorists have much to worry about from the leadership of Toronto.
On a related note, shout out to Girl on the Right. She's fired off a letter to ol' Howard for his assinine comments. I would encourage all to follow suit.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
POLITICS AS USUAL: WILL G8 PROTESTERS DEMONSTRATE RESPECT?
A dark day for London and for the world.
As of time of writing this post, it looks like terrorist attacks have claimed the lives of 43 innocent civilians. Where I work has a London office, but it looks like everyone is accounted for, which is a relief.
Once again, it looks like terrorists are looking to disturb our way of life. And when I say "our way" I mean those who do not practice extremism, whether they be North American, African, European, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, whatever.
This is a time for the world to again show their resolve to stand against those looking to disrupt and paralyze the citizens of the free world. And again, we must show those people that they will do no such thing.
However, I'm waiting to see how the various G8-related protest movements react to what has happened in London.
Will they continue the protests?
Will they have a moment(s) of silence out of respect for those killed?
Here in Canada, will hey continue ahead with their protest on Parliament Hill?
I'm not implying they don't care--I'm sure they do. And they might feel that the protest itself is the most profound demonstration of democracy and freedom.
But at a time like this, what is more important? Voicing the same concerns that have been repeated endlessly in the media during various G8 protests, or putting aside political differences and standing with the world to condemn a barbaric attack on innocents?
Let me repeat to you to you the same phrase I've heard so many times to the G8 leaders over the last few weeks: the world is watching.
Update: Looks like Angry in The Great White North in thinking the same thing (although I'm not so sure about his conclusions in his posting title)
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
NEW POLL: SO NOW WHAT?
Poll down and to the right.
THE RED ENSIGN STANDARD...
Subscribe to Posts [Atom]