Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sell Your Hogs

So Canadians are on the verge of an election on January 23rd. Here is what I've learned from the oh-so-insightful Canadian media:

It's cold in January.

Brilliant. But what are the ramifications of a winter election? Are Liberals more resistant to the cold due to the insulating properties of thick bribe envelopes? Will Conservatives in Alberta stay home to break ice for the cattle? Are NDP supporters more likely to lose their mittens, and therfore miss the vote? There really has been a dearth of speculation along these lines...What do you think, gentle reader?

In any event, it's a pretty safe bet that fewer Canadians will turn out. Year after year, the Canadian electorate becomes more apathetic. According to Elections Canada, voter turnout has dropped from 77% in 1972 to 61% in 2000. In the U.S., lower turnout historically favours Republican candidates, who typically have a stronger base. Does the same hold true for Canadian Conservatives? Who benefits in Canada from low voter turnout?

The only strategy that makes any sense for candidates in a January election is to turn up the heat, metaphorically speaking. Stir the passions of your supporters. According to my sources, Canadians have long been jealous of the rock 'em sock 'em nature of U.S. politics. Say what you will about the deleterious effects of negative campaigning on the body politic, but it sure creates a buzz.

Take former President Lyndon Johnson, for example: Legend has it that he won his seat in congress by insinuating that his opponent, a wealthy pig farmer, had carnal relations with his sows. According to Hunter S. Thompson, "...His campaign manager was shocked. 'We can't say that, Lyndon,' he said. 'It's not true.' 'Of course it's not,' Johnson barked at him, 'but let's make the bastard deny it.'"

Now that's entertainment!

According to the CTV news staff, "Pundits and pollsters are predicting the coming election campaign will be among the most heated -- and possibly the dirtiest -- in Canadian political history."

There really is no love lost between Harper and Martin. Here's my advice to Canadian politicians:

Sell your hogs.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Torture is for Turkeys

"The President ... shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."
-Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers

As American cultural liason to the town of Goderich, I've been asked by Pat Crawford to explain a peculiar tradition: The Presidential Turkey Pardon. In this photo, we see President Bush pardoning a turkey named "Marshmallow" by U.S. citizens taking part in an online poll.

The Presidential Turkey Pardon is a tradition dating back at least as far as the Truman administration (late 1940s), and according to some sources, back to the time of Lincoln. I can only assume that it was proposed to the president as a marketing gimmick by the nation's turkey farmers. I'm at a loss to explain what sort of offense turkeys could've committed necessitating a pardon. The last time I checked, deliciousness wasn't a crime.

I wonder if Bush tried to torture a confession out of it first...

"Which came first, Marshmallow, the chicken or the egg? Talk!"

Read It


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Anybody Here From Texas?

If you look up Neil Kelleher in Google Images, this is the first image you'll see...

This summer, my brother-in-law Neil was named a recipient of the 2004 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the nation's highest honor for professionals at the outset of their independent research careers.

That's Neil standing beside the president in the photo. The president asked one question of the best scientific minds of our generation:

"Anybody here from Texas?"

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Teaching Hitler To Type: Vocational Training for Bastards

I have an engineer friend who worked for a military contractor. Her job was designing weapons systems. I always wanted to ask her this:

I know that people who do such things for a living can always argue that it's in the interest of national defense,(actually, for my country that's debatable--more like national offense), but what about the personal? How does it feel to know that you spend 40 hours a week making something whose only purpose is to kill and destroy? Doesn't that bother you?

I never got around to asking her the question, and now she's in another line of work, so I don't bring it up. In any event, she's a smart person, so I'm sure she'd have a good answer.

In my line of work, teaching, I'm generally lauded for "making a positive difference". Sadly, I must report, my faith in the nobility of my profession is not what it once was.

A student I taught several years ago sent me a letter recently. In her handwritten correspondence ,she thanked me profusely for being such a positive influence in her life and for giving her the skills to succeed.

As I read it, I was moved, and tears welled up in my eyes as I turned over the letter to read the last paragraph.

"Now, dear Mr. L., I have the job of my dreams working at R.J. Reynolds marketing cigarettes to China!"

My heart sank. From now on, I'm asking kids what they're going to do with the education they receive, and depending on what they say, I'll dole out my pearls of wisdom in direct proportion to their good intentions.

What if, in the early years of the 20th Century, someone in the field of education had taken it upon themselves to intentionally miseducate Hitler? What if some clever typenfrau had mispositioned the QWERTY keys so that every time he tried to write "exterminate the jews", he wrote "geferbiflap kur neetkinuk"?

I've often heard teachers claim that their goal is to make their students "productive members of society"...For me, that depends on what the society is producing.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Canadian Bacon, Part Two

"Surrender Pronto, Or We'll Level Toronto"!

In 1995, Canadian comedy icon starred in one of Michael Moore's earlier films, Canadian Bacon.

Here's the plot summary via Amazon.com:

The US economy is in a rut, and so is the president's approval rating. What we need is a good war, but the Russians aren't interested. Hey -- how about that big polite country to the north?

Today on Michelle Malkin's odious blog, her guest blogger, Brian Maloney, writes the following:

Keep a sharp eye on fresh developments in both Canada and Cuba, two countries with rogue, corrupt and repressive regimes that don't know when to cut their losses and leave town.

View The Madness Firsthand:

Lorne Greene, Tom Green, GreenCard... Coincidence? I think not!

Wake up, American Patriots! The barbarians are at the gate! The time has come to liberate Canada!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Stevodamus Predicts The Future!

The Shameless Antagonist knows what the president will say today. Eerie, isn't it?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Bullying, Canada-Style?

From yesterday's Toronto Star

A stay-at-home mother of three who created a website to alert the government about allegedly dangerous environmental problems in her southwestern Ontario neighbourhood is facing a $2 million libel suit by one of the developers she reported on.

"My kids were at risk and nobody helped me, and I'm worried about other kids too, that's the bottom line," she said in a telephone interview, breaking into tears. "Nobody protected me and now I'm getting sued."

I've looked over the website created by Louisette Lanteigne (now yanked from the internet but still accessible through cached files), and it seems the general contractor, Activa, is hitting her up with a SLAPP Lawsuit.

Ms. Lanteigne explains:

"SLAPP" stands for "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public
Participation". SLAPPs are legal actions (usually
defamation actions) launched for the primary purpose
of shutting down criticism, and without a strong cause
of action. The plaintiff's goal in a SLAPP is not to
win the lawsuit, but is rather to silence a critic by
instilling fear of large legal costs and the spectre
of large damage awards. Despite their right to free
speech, critics may be frightened into silence e.g.,
taking down websites or comments made on line - if
are threatened with a defamation-based SLAPP.

Does the lawsuit have merit? That's a matter for the courts to decide, but in the meantime, the contractor risks giving the impression that they're a large corporation throwing their weight around against a hapless homemaker. It will undoubtedly be perceived by many as a case of David v. Goliath.

As an opponent of development run amok, I'm hoping that this lawsuit results in greater public debate about sustainable development, whatever the result.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Forgettance Day

Today is Remembrance Day throughout Canada, and it's hard to find a lapel without a poppy on Goderich square.

Every newspaper, every shop window,every billboard admonishes me not to forget.

Giant Tiger's billboard proclaims, "They died to keep us free".

A full page of the Super Saver is devoted to the phrase "Lest we forget".

For the past few days, I've witnessed a steady procession of uniformed veterans held up for my admiration on the news. Nearly all of them are in their seventies and eighties, and those younger than thirty wore the blue beret of the United Nations peacekeeping forces.

When Candians think of veterans, they think of grandpa and great grandpa. When Americans think of veterans, they think of dad, mom, or the boy next door.

Maybe it's not such a bad thing to forget. Fewer wars mean fewer veterans; fewer veterans mean fewer memories of veterans. Will Canadians remember to honour veterans if they can no longer think of a face to match the term?

Maybe some day we'll celebrate "Forgettance day": A special holiday in the far distant future when we celebrate the fact that no one alive can remember the horrors of war. What's warfare like? We don't remember, and that's a good thing.

It's my hope that Canada will one day have no more living veterans to honour.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

How To Tell When Someone Is Lying

Oftentimes, to put an issue or event into perspective, I try to imagine it in the microcosm of my own life. I wonder how successful I would have been if I had responded to questions in the same manner as Scottie McClellan, President Bush's Press Secretary:

"Did you steal cookies from the cookie jar?"
"According to the rules of the house, cookie stealing is wrong. I abide by the rules of the house."
"Then you didn't steal the cookies?"
"As I've said, I respect the rules of the house."
"Yes or no. Did you steal the cookies"?
"I've already answered that. Next question."

Why don't we simply replace the Washington press corps with a team of tough mothers? Scotty McClellan would never get away with stuff like this in Big Momma's house:

Q (Helen Thomas)Are you denying everything that came from the Hill, in terms of torture?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, you're mischaracterizing things. And I'm not going to get into discussions we have --

Q Can you give me a straight answer for once?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me give it to you, just like the President has. We do not torture. He does not condone torture and he would never --

Q I'm asking about exemptions.

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me respond. And he would never authorize the use of torture. We have an obligation to do all that we can to protect the American people. We are engaged --

Q That's not the answer I'm asking for --

MR. McCLELLAN: It is an answer -- because the American people want to know that we are doing all within our power to prevent terrorist attacks from happening. There are people in this world who want to spread a hateful ideology that is based on killing innocent men, women and children. We saw what they can do on September 11th --

Q He didn't ask for an exemption --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and we are going to --

Q -- answer that one question. I'm asking, is the administration asking for an exemption?

MR. McCLELLAN: I am answering your question. The President has made it very clear that we are going to do --

Q You're not answering -- yes or no?

Read The Full Thing Here

I suppose it's not technically lying if you never answer the question.

Mom, can you get me a glass of milk to wash down the cookies?


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

An Open Letter to the Bean Counters

A few years back, I asked my good friend Rick Fawcett what I need to know as a Canadian Immigrant-to-be.

His response suprised me. He said, with a fair amount of disdain in his voice, that "Canadians, above all else, love rules".

At the time, I thought that this was, on the whole, a good thing. I couldn't understand why this was so upsetting to him. I believe a society should respect the rule of law, and in my lifetime, I've lived in a number of countries where lawlessness and corruption have led to considerable misery.

Now, I think I understand where Rick was coming from.

I'm currently applying for a teaching license from the Ontario College of Teachers, and despite the fact that I've been a teacher for 7 years with a license in good standing from the state of Minnesota, they won't even begin to evaulate my credentials.

The final reason for their refusal is this: I took education classes in Iowa, yet obtained a license from Minnesota.

The law stipulates that I must have certification in the state where I took classes.

Because I lack a functioning time machine, I have no recourse now but to petition the State of Iowa for a teaching license. The manager of the College of Teachers is adamnant on this point. No exceptions.

This, to me, is a perfect example of bean-counting taking preference over the best interests of Ontario. The letter of the law trumps the spirit of the law. Ontario could have an award-winning teacher with a spotless record and an M.A. in the classroom right now if not for this bizarre stipulation, and I challenge anyone to argue how this restriction is in any way serving the people of this province.

My frustration is compounded by the fact that my file with the Ontario College of Teachers might have sat there indefinitely had I not agressively pursued the status of my application with the assistance of Paul Steckle's office.

It's my understanding that people in the medical profession who would like to practice in Canada face a similar maze of byzantine complexity. How many people are there such as myself who find themeselves unable to support their families due to these types of issues?

In my opinion, Canadians need to return to the spirit of law and ask themselves the simple question: Are our laws regarding professional certifcation acting in the best interest of our province, or are they mitigating against it?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Why Did He Rip Up The Poem?

What are Remembrance Day and Memorial Day all about?

I've always found it intriguing that John McCrae, the author of the poem In Flander's Fields, threw away the poem shortly after writing it, and that it wouldn't be the most popular war poem of all time if not for the fact that Lt. Col. Edward Morrison fished it out of the trash.

Why did McCrae throw it away? In my opinion, it's inspired literature--at least through the first two stanzas. The simple, concise imagery and simple rhyme scheme juxtaposed with the grim subject matter seem to underscore the folly of war; we lived, we loved, we died--and for what? Our lives were sacrificed for the sake of creating a season's worth of ephemeral beauty:

In stanza two, he writes:

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

It may be wishful thinking on my part, but I'd like to think that John McCrae threw away the poem because of the explicitly pro-war sentiment of the final stanza, which seems to directly contradict the imagery and sentiments of the previous two:

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The sentiments expressed in these lines are very similar to the current circular logic the Bush Administration uses for the current war in Iraq: We have to continue fighting a meaningless war so that those who have died in a meaningless war will not have died in vain.

Does remembering our veterans and the sacrifice they've made lead to repeating the same mistakes? Does it mean unquestioning loyalty to one's country? Does it lead to more nationalism and militarism and fan the fames for future wars?

Freedom isn't free, but some end up paying a higher price than others. Why not have a special day to recognize the service of those who fought to keep our young people away from the latest bullshit war, and instead spent our tax dollars on healthcare, education, and human services?

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed
-Dwight D. Eisenhower

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

There Is No Weiner Doctor

Late night Q. & A.: Spousal Edition

Brad: "So, if something goes wrong, should we call the gynecologist or the obstetrician?"

Angelina:"...I'm not sure...I guess it depends if it's a general women's issue, or a pregnant woman's issue."

Brad: "I'm sure they deal with that type of question all the time. Just call one of 'em and ask"...Come to think of it, honey, what if something goes wrong with me down there and I need to see a specialist...Who do I call...A Urologist?"

Angelina: "Yeah, I think so..."

Brad: "What if I rack my boys on my bicycle frame...Does a Urologist cover that, or is there some sort of Ball Doctor?"

Angelina: "...I think that's still a urologist, but I could be wrong...There must be some guys that focus on testicles or penises, but I've never heard of a specific name for them. Have you?"

Brad: "Nope...A urologist specializes in the urinary tract, so they practice on both men and women, don't they? If they cover twigs and berries too, they're covering a lot of territory."

Angelina: "Yeah, I guess so..."

Brad: "That's pretty disconcerting. I think I'd sleep better at night knowing that there's a weiner doctor out there somewhere."
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