26 February 2009

Take a Hike!

This is one of the more bizarre things I've read about recently: citing a belief that "many Canadians can afford to pay more" for university, an education think tank thinks that this is a good time to jack up tuition fees by an extra 25% to offset any potential losses universities may take in the coming years. The economic downturn is going to affect their grants and subsidies from governments in a negative fashion (given the current government's anti-intellectual proclivities, these universities, the Grinch said, will be the first things to go), so as always, to offset the difference must be made up by those with the least ability to pay for it.
Now, I'm sure that there are indeed many young Canadians who have rich mommies and daddies that can afford to put them through university. But there are plenty more in the situation that I was in, where they had to work evening & weekend jobs, make some serious sacrifices, eat a lot of Kraft Dinner, rely on a lot of goodwill from their families, apply for every scholarship and bursary under the sun, and assume a significant debt load in order to finance their post-secondary education. I am no fan of the CFS, but their student debt clock is running well past the $13B mark, and its climbing non-stop.
And now this group is recommending that the universities force kids to pay a whole lot more. That is not fair. That is not right. At a time when the government is running up huge deficits that this generation will have to repay, putting an addition personal debt burden on them makes the work twice as hard. If anything, government should be taking steps to ensure that university costs remain low so that the inventors, creators, business and political leaders, and thinkers of tomorrow can emerge into the workforce without a substantial debt load of their own so that the fruits of their labour go towards a strong Canadian economy and not a government loan repayment.

25 February 2009

Iraq Withdrawal Scheduled

With levels of terrorist violence across Iraq down in the wake of the successful troop surge, the Obama Administration is announcing today that the timetable for withdrawal from the country will be completed within 18 months. I'm not a big fan of one-word quotes from top military officials, but when the level of violence is Anbar province--scene of some of the most intense and brutal acts of violence since the transition from Saddam Hussein towards a democratic Iraq--can be categorized as almost "meaningless," it is a sign that genuine progress has been made in the country.
There have been incredibly trying times in Iraq since 2003. Many thousands of innocent people have lost their lives, terrorist activities held large swaths of the country hostage to fear and intimidation, basic human services have been spotty, and the creation of a new state apparatus has been very difficult. Yet the perserverence of the country's people coupled with the military and political gains in the past couple years, has put Iraq in a position to be successful. There are still many who would have preferred that Saddam Hussein remain in power; these people are wrong. Iraq today is better off than it was in February 2003, and it will continue to improve and inspire.

20 February 2009

Like many of my fellow die-hard Habs fans I was up way past my bedtime in anticipation of the news of some serious issues involving the young players on the team, fearing the absolute worst. I gave up at around 1:30am here in Halifax, knowing full well that Nebs would wake me up at 5am for breakfast and could check it then. I won't say what I was fearing I'd see this morning, but I will say that the news ranks for more on the level of Jose Theodore being associated with the HA than the Kobe Bryant bombshell. It's unsavoury, it's greasy, you don't want to see it, but it's much more of a distraction than something that will rock the foundation of the Montreal Canadiens organization.

17 February 2009

Free Speech for the Dumb

Word today that a "group of prominent Canadian actors" *chuckle* including the guy that's apparently Canadian from Whose Line Is It Anyway?, a show I watch once in a blue moon, and someone on Degrassi: The Next Generation, a show that I have never watched, are stepping up to put pressure on the CRTC to regulate Internet content to ensure that good Canadians do their patriotic duty by watching Canadian programming online. Egads. It's not enough that we have mediocre music enforced upon us on the radio, I guess (one of a plethora of reasons I haven't listened to commercial radio in years), but now we need to follow China's lead and make sure that Canadians only watch online what they should be watching.

I believe in merit deciding what people will watch. If a program is good, I will watch it. If it is not good, I will not watch it. I do not care if the program is made in Toronto or Hollywood, I only care about its quality. CanCon is an artificial means to prop up mediocrity; it's why we've been subjected to so many truly bad artists over the years that can't get arrested in the United States. The idea of the regulation extending to the Internet is not a good one.

What would they do about this? Would they attempt to bury it like they did one of his albums? This is Canadian content, but CanCon rules would have it buried as "foreign programming."

16 February 2009

What to Do With All Those Free Agents

I don't have much on the brain politics-wise this past week, as I'm fully consumed with the downward spiral of my beloved Habs. There have been two hideous losses, an equally hideous win, and a loss last night that--were I still in BC--would have me on the receiving end of much mockery from pals. A lot of talk lately has surrounded the impending free agents in Montreal and whether that status is affecting their play. Difficult to say for sure, but if I were Mr. Gainey, this is what I'd be looking at doing this off-season...of course, a trade or two in the interim would throw all of this completely out of whack, but it may even be welcomed in one or two cases. Here we go...

Alex Tanguay - definitely make a pitch to re-sign him; he was playing quite well before the injury and deserves another go 'round. May have to take a bit of a pay cut but offset that with a decent term.
Saku Koivu - I can't see Saku retiring, and the idea of him elsewhere doesn't sit right. Definitely bring him back.
Alex Kovalev - don't let the door hit you on the way out . . . or, a one-year contract since he's got that one good year, one terrible year mojo?
Robert Lang - this all depends on how well he recovers from that devastating injury. Lang was excellent for us, and if he can come back 100% I say give him a nice one-year deal.
Francis Bouillon - good solid D-man, but not part of the future.
Tom Kostopoulos - gotta admire Tom the Bomb's heart and grit. If the rest of the team had half the sandpaper as TK, we'd be in much better shape.
Mike Komisarek - he's playing himself out of a couple extra million bucks per season, but definitely should be top priority this off-season as far as re-signing personnel.
Steve Begin - a good heart and grit guy, but not part of the future.
Patrice Brisebois - he's been among the most solid guys back there lately, but I think he'll likely retire and join the ranks of the ambassadors.
Mathieu Dandenault - a pleasant surprise since he returned, Dandy's still got the wheels and hands, but would re-signing him take away a roster spot from a deserving up-and-comer? Or would it be used to challenge said up-and-comer?

Christopher Higgins - he'll be re-signed and continue to be the subject of every Montreal-related trade rumour for years to come. I really like Higgins, lots of great upside and a great attitude and emerging leader.
Tomas Plekanec - much like the Komisaurus, he's playing his way out of a few extra bucks...but unless he gets his game in gear he may be allowed to walk.
Guillaume Latendresse - in just his third year, Gui! has blossomed after finding the right combination with Max Lapierre. The two play very well together. Lats will be back and continue to be the whipping boy and scapegoat for countless Habs fans that have never played the game.
Kyle Chipchura - I like Chips, but he's been overtaken on the organization's depth chart (Lapierre) and hasn't been able to make the most of the opportunities he's been given. They haven't been shining opportunities, but my guess is that he'll be allowed to walk.
Matt D'Agostini - breakout rookie campaign for D'Ags. The production has slowed down a bit since the initial call-up, but he works hard down low, competes, and doesn't do any of the floating that has become common among some players.

05 February 2009

Kevin Page = Stephen Harper's Sheila Fraser

Just as Paul Martin had the Auditor General Sheila Fraser to continually be the bearer of bad news that ultimately destroyed his leadership, it seems that Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page is going to do the same for Stephen Harper. After months of Harper misleading the country about its finances, promising no deficits, ever, while spending gleefully into the red, Page is becoming an increasingly visible figure for calling out the government for its rose-coloured portraits of the economy.
Today, Page warns that the Conservative pledge to get us back into the black by 2013-14 may not be all that likely, and that a structural deficit may arise unless the Tories take significant steps to curb spending. The $85B hole that this government is planning to dig may be too deep for us to climb out of within the next five years (cue the Simpsons line: "No, no, dig up, stupid!") and that the debt servicing and program spending will leave us in a position where we automatically find ourselves in deficit.
There is an emerging contrast between the Liberal governments of the 1990s and Stephen Harper's government: whereas the Liberals always ran on worst-case scenarios when presenting the budget, the Conservatives seemingly always run on the best forecasts available. When Chretien & Martin pledged to hit a certain target in cutting the deficit, they would invariably end up exceeding that target and getting back into the black sooner than expected and bringing in huge surpluses. They had a built-in contingency fund in the budget to ensure manoeuverability (sp?), a feature that the current government has eliminated as it continues to try selling Canadians the best picture possible without any regard for potential negative impacts on the economy.

I'm currently reading Paul Martin's memoirs. In a number of places he made some rather dire forecasts regarding Canada's economy and the Conservative government. It should not be all-too-surprising that those forecasts are indeed being realized.


Not only is Mr. Page sounding off on the government's rosy projections, now we get other MPs finding holes in Mr. Flaherty's accounting. It goes back to what I was saying about rosy projections--the continual over-selling will come back to bite these guys sooner rather than later.

02 February 2009


How on Earth can they possibly say this?

"It recalls, for example, the Liberal leader's onetime support of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and his public defence of torture."

I would implore the Canadian Press, CTV, and any other news outlet running this story to provide an example of Michael Ignatieff defending the practice of torture in public, in print, or anywhere else. Because they will not find one.

I will update this later today when I have access to my copy of The Lesser Evil so that I can provide an absolutely definitive quote in which Michael Ignatieff denounces torture as a practice.

In the meantime, I am contacting the Liberal HQ as well as the Canadian Press about this vile portrayal of the Liberal leader.


I will still get that book quote later, but this is how Ignatieff concludes his April 2006 essay in "If Torture Works," published in the UK journal Prospect:

We cannot torture, in other words, because of who we are. This is the best I can do, but those of us who believe this had better admit that many of our fellow citizens are bound to disagree. It is in the nature of democracy itself that fellow citizens will define their identity in ways that privilege security over liberty and thus reluctantly endorse torture in their name. If we are against torture, we are committed to arguing with our fellow citizens, not treating those who defend torture as moral monsters. Those of us who oppose torture should also be honest enough to admit that we may have to pay a price for our own convictions.

***Update 2***

Page 143, The Lesser Evil:
"The same premise is true of Saddam Hussein's Iraq or Burma or North Korea. For these societies, the practice of torture is definitional to their very identity as forms of state power. This idea helps us to see why torture should remain anethema to a liberal democracy and should never be regulated, countenanced, or covertly accepted in a war on terror. For torture, when committied by a state, expresses the state's ultimate view that human beingsa are expendable. This view is antithetical to the spirit of any constitutional democracy wholse raison d'etre is the control of violence and coercion in the name of human dignity and freedom."