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Friday, July 30, 2010

California Pot Smokers may have more disposable income soon.

In November, Californians will vote on Proposition 19, which allows for the cultivation and possession of cannabis for personal use while authorizing local governments to allow commercial production and sale. This would move marijuana into a legal, regulated market, transforming criminals into consumers.

The measure has support from prominent advocates like former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, who believes the US should control, legalize and tax marijuana.

Reason's senior editor Jacon Sullum makes the point that the price of marijuana would decline substantially, giving Californians more money to spend elsewhere, providing a potential stimulus to the state economy.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's top 10 list of evils

The Iranian demagogue's peeves include Paul the Octopus, badly veiled women and twitter.

You can read the whole list here in the Telegraph.

Gays didn't make the list, presumably because, according to Ahmadinejad, there are no gays in Iran.

Although I don't know if things get any more gay than this:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Oliver Stone is far more bigoted and offensive than Mel Gibson

No news item in the last month has created more traffic and buzz than the release of tapes of Mel Gibson venting rage and hurt at the mother of his young daughter.

Most of the commentary has been devoted to criticism of Gibson, with the popular verdict in his unfair trial-by-media being that he is an abusive racist. In the minds of many, the latest revelations are the final confirmation of the instability and bigotry of the person whose drunken, anti-Semitic tirade directed at a Jewish LA County Sheriff made headlines around the world in 2006.

But what does all this attention devoted to Gibson say about the rest of us?

It's no revelation that as a society, North America is obsessed with celebrity gossip. How many magazines  and websites are devoted exclusively to that subject? The Mel Gibson items on this website have generated a far greater amount of traffic than any others.

One of the reasons we obsess about celebrities is because, through seeing them in our homes on television, and through recognizing them, we feel we know them. The pathological media flaunting of stories about celebrities' weight, appearance, and behaviour gives strangers more access to details of their lives than most people know about their own personal acquaintances or even friends and relatives.

But those familiar with celebrity culture can tell you that the people you see in the movies, and on TV, be it in dramatic performances or in interviews, are not the real people they are behind closed doors.

Celebrities on camera are always performing. Their persona is their business.

If Tom Cruise came over to your house, you'd meet a charming, thoughtful, engaging person who won't jump on your couch. Most movie villains are quiet, soft-spoken people who wouldn't dream of hacking you to death with an axe, eating your liver with fava beans, or blowing up your planet with the Death Star.

Mel Gibson is going through a bitter romantic break-up and battle for custodial rights of his young child. These are some of the most trying, stressful circumstances a person will go through and it doesn't always bring out the best. If everyone had the worst moments of their life publicly broadcast and ridiculed, people would be less likely to be judgmental about Gibson.

I am as guilty as anyone in that regard, having compiled the publicly available uncensored tapes, so let me offer this as a means of contrition.

We all have our off-the-handle moments. Very few of us have them publicised. Mel Gibson is no worse than many of us who have said stupid things in a moment of passion that we have regretted later. In Gibson's case, both in 2006 and now, what he said was said privately and not meant to be heard by anyone other than the person he spoke to. The tapes made by Oksana Grigoieva are exploitative and very likely illegal. She is the one who has coldly and calculatedly manipulated the perception of events.

And the media has chomped at the bait.

Yesterday, in the Globe and Mail, Lynn Crosbie said there\s "nothing wrong with him that a Louisville Slugger couldn't fix" before viciously castigating Gibson for what was said on the tapes.

While Gibson's taped comments indeed merit condemnation, and his racist remarks are reprehensible, they were private comments blurted in fits of anger, and that context is lost.

What is far more offensive in the realm of stupid, racist comments in the media this week, are those of has-been director Oliver Stone.

Stone, whose directing career has been on a precipitous decline for more than two decades, and whose obsession with conspiracies rivals those of the most disturbed psychiatric patients, gave an interview to London's Sunday Times where he said attention to the Holocaust was due to, "The Jewish dominated media. There is a major lobby in the United States and they're hard workers. They stay on top every comment, the most powerful lobby in Washington."

Those were Stone's comments, in his cold, dispassionate, on-the-record words.

Mel Gibson is an actor whose private drunken rants were never intended to influence public policy. Nor were they on subjects he publicly engages in with his work. Gibson's movies are intended to entertain and nothing more.

Stone is a person who has tried, through his work, to influence the political and social attitudes of the public. Now it seems, he is devoting those energies to defend the reputations of Hitler and Stalin.

Stone, whose last film was a documentary called South of the Border, was a the not-well received paean to Venezuelan Supremo, Hugo Chavez. Stone has been ingratiating himself to Iranian dictator Ahmadinejad, whom, it sounds like, may have helped him with his understanding of the Jews.

When looking at the two in perspective, Mel Gibson's mistakes were private. They don't affect us and they were never intended to. He deserves forgiveness.

Stone, on the other hand, who publicly, intentionally seeks to vilify a race of people while undermining democratic countries in favour of dictators, is reprehensible, unrepentant and merits little other than scorn.

We lost Maury Chaykin yesterday

The wonderful New York-born, Canadian actor, Maury Chaykin, died yesterday. He was 61 years old.

I used to see him in passing on Montrose Avenue in Toronto once in a while. In real life, as on screen, he had a real presence.

Maury will be missed.

Most recently, he played the lunatic, boisterous, self-indulgent driving instructor and patriarch in the HBO Canada series filmed and set in Winnipeg, Less Than Kind. He was tremendous in that role as a crusty old man with a dysfunctional yet loving family.

Here is a link to his wikipedia entry for those not familiar with his work.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Iran attempting to circumvent sanctions by registering ships in the Isle of Man

Iran has been preparing for the new round of sanctions, just announced by the European Union. The latest round, broadened to include gas and oil products, the mainstays of its economy, are designed to pressure Iran into resuming negotiations about curbing its nuclear program. Canada announced similar sanctions today, bringing them in line with those already implemented by the United States.

But in what may be an attempt to surreptitiously circumvent the sanctions on the international arms embargo and on other items, the BBC reported that Iran has been setting up shipping companies in the Isle of Man. These Iranian ships would be formally registered to that jurisdiction, a tiny UK Crown Dependency in the Irish Sea which has its own laws and an ancient parliament.

Ownership of The Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL) vessels have been quietly been transferred to six Manx companies over the last two years. In November, Israel seized a huge Iranian arms cache on a Manx ship. Read more from the BBC here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A new civil war in Lebanon or the beginnings of a wider conflict?

Hezbollah's Grand Poobah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, made the surprise announcement on Friday that The  Special Tribunal for Lebanon will indict Hezbollah members in the trial established to find the murderers of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 other Lebanese.

Anticipating its condemnation in the report, expected to be released in September, Hezbollah commenced its campaign of belligerence.

As is typical for Middle Eastern despots, Nassrallah may try to deflect from his own crimes by attempting to engage Israel. Nassrallah has shown he is prepared to sacrifice thousands of Lebanese lives for his own agenda after his organization's provocation of Israel in 2006, which led to an armed conflict that cost the lives of about 2,000 Lebanese and 160 Israelis.

According to Lebanon's The Daily Star, "Nasrallah on Friday slammed the STL as an “Israeli project” and the cornerstone of a plot against Lebanon and the region."

The Guvernator makes fun of Mel Gibson

The domestic militarization of the US war on drugs

A SWAT team raid on a Columbia, Missouri home where a corgi dog was shot and killed in front of a suspect who offered no resistance and his children has gone viral on YouTube. This was over a suspected minor drug infraction.

Reason TV discusses the militarization and stupidity of the ongoing "War on Drugs" in the US.

You can see that discussion and the video of the raid below:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Talk about "Tough Love!" 15 people were killed at Germany's Love Parade

15 attendees at the famed Love Parade in Duisburg, Germany were killed in a stampede.

The full story here.

It's wrong to "refudiate" the First Amendment but is Palin wrong about the mosque at Ground Zero?

Reason.com's Steve Chapman suggests it is a wrong-headed position of Sarah Palin and others in trying to prevent a mosque, which has the overwhelming approval of the local community, from being built near Ground Zero in New York.

He suggests Palin's position is an offense to the First Amendment that gives Americans the right to free expression of religion.

Chapman points out, "associating all Muslims with al-Qaida is like equating all Christians with the Ku Klux Klan."

But Palin makes her own compelling argument when she writes:
Just days after 9/11, the spiritual leader of the organization that wants to build the mosque, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, suggested that blame be placed on the innocents when he stated that the “United States’ policies were an accessory to the crime that happened” and that “in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.” Rauf refuses to recognize that Hamas is a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of our ally, Israel, and refuses to provide information about the sources of funding for the $100 million mosque. Rauf also plays a key role in a group behind the flotilla designed to provoke Israel in its justifiable blockade of Gaza. These are just a few of the points Americans are realizing as New York considers the proposed mosque just a stone’s throw away from 9/11’s sacred ground.
It seems that while a mosque may not be wrong, a mosque led by the particular group that wants to build it may be.

Chapman's article, both print and audio, are available here.
Palin's facebook entry discussing the mosque can be viewed here.

I'm not up-in-arms about making the long-form census voluntary, but you wouldn't believe that if you read the Globe and Mail

There haven't been many occasions where the Canadian print media has become so inflamed about a subject that has highlighted the dichotomy of classes and interests in this country as the current controversy about Industry Minister Tony Clement's decision to make the long-form census questionnaire voluntary.

A recent Angus Reid poll on the matter, like most public opinion polls, produced results that could be interpreted in different ways.

Based on the numbers of the poll, it looks like Canadians are about evenly split about whether they think scrapping the long form is a good idea of not. But that's not the sense anyone would get from reading the newspapers. If one was to rely on writers in the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail, it would be easy to think the census decision was the most contemptuous, imperious decision a government took against an unwilling citizenry since the Bourbons ruled France.

Norman Spector, in the Globe and Mail wrote under the headline "Canadians support long-form census":
according to the poll (margin of error 3.1 points), 52 per cent of Canadians think the government should reverse its decision and keep the mandatory long form census. Only 27 per cent support the decision to replace it with a voluntary form (24 per cent of Canadians think the long form is overly intrusive). ..

In light of these data, don’t be surprised if the Harper government fashions some sort of climb down
But wait, it seems that at some point, Spector took a closer look at the data and added this update based on data from the same poll:
According to the detailed poll results, almost half of respondents (47%) oppose the federal government’s decision to scrap the mandatory long form census, while 38 per cent support it.

So let's pay attention everyone, so we get this straight. 52% support keeping the long form, and 47% oppose the government's decision to scrap it. Huh?!?

Wouldn't support keeping the census be the same as opposing getting rid of it? Shouldn't the results be the same.

Well, no, because polls are often inconsistent and meaningless.

And if 47% oppose getting rid of the census, doesn't that mean that 53% , a majority, must either support it, or are indifferent?

James Travers in the Toronto Star, in a typical  histrionic rant against the Conservative government refers to the census matter as a "crisis".

A crisis?!?

A search for the term "census" in the Globe and mail produced approximately 50 resulting stories in the last week. In the Star, the same search produced 33 articles, the tone of which can be gleaned from titles such as
"The Tories: Tea Party North"

Chris Selley in The National Post gets to the heart of the matter:
In the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, John Gormley makes a point that really needed making: Canadian journalists rallying to the defence of statistics and statisticians? The people who spend all day detecting trends where there are none, torquing scientific studies past their breaking points and freaking out over the slightest changes in opinion polls? Puh-lease!

Speaking of which, isn’t it funny how the same journalists who can peg an entire story about Michael Ignatieff’s impending demise to a within-the-margin-of-error drop in the polls can completely ignore surveys that call their narratives of choice into question? Not ha ha funny — you know, odd. Bad. Take the census thing. This week, Ipsos-Reid released a survey finding Canadians are split right down the middle on the question of axing the mandatory long-form census. You sure wouldn’t know it from this week’s punditry, much of which suggests that Canadians from the ivory tower to the tar sands are up in arms.
The Gormley article makes some very good points about the way the media has handled and mislead the public about the census issue. The long form census, which is mailed out to 20% of households and was mandatory, will, under the new proposal, be mailed to 60% of households and made voluntary.

So data collection may not suffer much, if at all, and those who think that providing private details of their lives is a civic duty will have the opportunity to continue to do so.

For a government whose popularity has not declined after its opposition attempted to create a frenzy over prorogation, the attempt of the media to whip up hysteria over a matter of such little interest to the public may be a watershed.

This could be the point in Canadian history where the mainstream media conclusively proved it was completely out of touch with and serving different interests than the people.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Government-sanctioned racism from Ottawa

Blazing Cat Fur let me know about a job posting from Citizenship and Immigration Canada that would only accept applications from visible minorities.

Racial discrimination is wrong, no matter who it is practiced against.

UPDATE: Stockwell Day announced a review of affirmative action policies that lead to racial discrimination

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Father of Gay Zombie Art-Porn has film banned from Australian Film Festival

Bruce LaBruce's Gay zombie porn film, LA Zombie, has been refused classification and effectively banned from the Melbourne International Film Festival.

This is probably the best outcome Canadian director LaBruce could have hoped for. The banning of his film has generated more publicity than the movie itself could have.

I once saw a LaBruce movie at a film festival; its title escapes me, but the content consisted of Gay men thrash dancing, inter-cut with scenes of hard core male pornography, all done to the music of The Carpenters.

LaBruce, made another Gay zombie movie called Otto which premiered at the Sundance festival in 2008.

While I don't find LaBruce's films to be particularly engaging, I do have to salute him for single-handedly creating a new oeuvre of film.

Darth Layton badmouths Jedi Order

There is a high-profile national debate in the media that few Canadians actually care about: the recent announcement that the Canadian government will dispense with the long form census,.

There has been little interest in this matter from Canadians who don't rely on the data that the Fraser Institute suggests is taxpayer subsidization for professional researchers and special interest groups extracted by threat of criminal prosecution.

But it's summer and there isn't much news going on now, so the media has to try to stir up action wherever it can.

One of the silliest points of debate on this matter has been the "Jedi Argument" first brought up by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Director of Communications, Dmitri Soudas:
“21,000 Canadians registered Jedi knight as a religion in the 2001 census. Religion is asked every 10 years. We made the 40-page long form voluntary because government should not threaten prosecution or jail time to force Canadians to divulge unnecessary private and personal information. Canadians don't want the government at their doorstep at 10 o'clock at night while they may be doing something in their bedroom, like reading, because government wants to know how many bedrooms they have.”

Do the Jedi want recognition of their numbers or do they oppose government collection of their whereabouts so that it could be used against them again the way the Evil Emperor did when he issued "Order 66?"

It would, on the surface seem there was an alliance between the Galactic peacekeepers and the nefarious forces of anti-Globalization in the NDP. But it turns out, there is a disturbance in the Force.

The NDP, who have been arguing in favour of the long-form census, have disavowed their former allies, the Canadian Jedis.

From the official NDP website:
What do 21,000 Jedis have to do with the Long Form Census? Nothing. What does the long form census have to do with government officials showing up at 10 o'clock at night at Canadians’ doors? Nothing. What does bedtime reading have to do with an accurate statistical portrait of our country’s demographics? Nothing.
But there you have it: the spokesperson for the Prime Minister of Canada talking about Jedis.

The force is weak with these ones.
The NDP have abandoned the Jedi in their battle against the Conservatives. But true to form, the Jedi are not taking this lying down and are continuing the battle to preserve the long form census on their own (through a parody created by The Western Standard).

The Jedi Census parody was created by the Western Standard. But as of a few minutes ago, it seems the Dark Side has hacked it into extinction.  Check back to see which side in the epic battle of silliness will prevail.

This is a war in which the farcical side battles are far more interesting than the issue itself.

h/t Blazing Cat Fur

Even terrorists need a vacation

ABC has this report on "HezbollahLand" - the vacation destination for jihadi tourists.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Canadian Islamic and Marxist/Anarchist groups' Ship of Fools to resupply Gaza Luxury Mall?

A group of Canadian Islamic and Marxist/anarchist groups recently announced their intention to attempt to raise $300,000 to take a Ship of Fools to Gaza, ostensibly to alleviate the "humanitarian crisis" there.

Does this mean they will be carrying essential items like blu-ray players and cappuccino makers to resupply this luxury mall that opened in Gaza last weekend?

Here is the Gaza Mall's website.

The Ship of Fools is accepting applications for berths. Qualifications: passengers must be more interested in ideological propaganda than truth. Ability to lie to television reporters considered an asset.

From political and media commentator Tom Gross:
“When leading news outlets mention the so-called humanitarian flotillas from Turkey, why do they omit the fact that life expectancy and literacy rates are higher, and infant mortality rates are lower in Gaza than corresponding rates in Turkey? Have they considered that perhaps the humanitarian flotillas ought to be going in the other direction, towards Turkey?”

New Threats to Freedom

There's a new book out that hopes to initiate an interesting conversation about the greatest threats to freedom in the Western World.

New Threats to Freedom includes essays from a number of prominent thinkers like David Mamet and Christopher Hitchens discussing the repression of academic freedom from the Left, the anti capitalist agenda of a new generation promoted by neo-Marxists, the culture of dependency on government that is being created and more.

Editor Adam Bellow discusses the book here:


This video is part of the New Threats to Freedom series and shows a disturbing incident where a university funded a group that disrupted a student's comedy performance for the express purpose of denying his right to free speech:

Gibson's alleged mistress of 3 months tells Geraldo Rivera Mel is "abusive"

A "fitness model" named Violet Kowal claims she had 3-month affair with Mel Gibson. This interview makes only one thing seem sure; Gibson seems to have developed a recent taste for eastern European women

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I Write Like - A fun, if inconsistent, internet toy

There's a new site that's gone viral called I Like Write. In their words:
Check which famous writer you write like with this statistical analysis tool, which analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them with those of the famous writers.

Any text in English will do: your latest blog post, journal entry, comment, chapter of your unfinished book, etc. For reliable results paste at least a few paragraphs (not tweets).
That sounded like fun to me, so I thought I'd try it with a post from Eye on a Crazy Planet.

The first I tried was this one from yesterday about the anti-Israel bigot, York University instructor, John Greyson.

And I Write Like told me I write like Kurt Vonnegut. Wow, was I flattered! That got me so pleased with myself, I almost clicked their link to "Learn how to secure a book publishing contract!"

But, me being the sceptic you've come to love, I figured I should try another post, just to see what happens. So I tried this one about the problematic ideological cooperation between Hamas and "Queers Against Israeli Apartheid."

On this second attempt, I Write Like told me I write like H.P. Lovecraft.

Interesting, also flattering, and while Hamas and "Queers Against Israeli Apartheid" are indeed contemporary horrors, I hadn't realized my writing style changed so drastically between posts. So I thought I should try one more time. This time taking a completely different subject, my interview piece with Rob Ford from earlier this week. I Write Like‘s analysis of that was that it resembled the writing style of The Hitchhiker‘s Guide to the Galaxy‘s Douglas Adams.

 As thrilled as I was to be stylistically compared with these three authors, it left me believing less that my prose takes wild stylistic shifts resembling three of the 20th Century‘s great authors than it did feeling that I Write Like is an inaccurate assessment tool used as a marketing ploy for the site‘s writing/publishing related ads.

But I had fun with what they describe as a Bayesian classifier and you might too. So even if your friends, teachers and Random House tell you otherwise, at least you know there is one place you can go where you‘ll be told you have the potential to be the next Tom Wolfe or Saul Bellow.

George Lucas uses the Force against the original Vader

David Prowse played Darth Vader in the 3 original Star Wars Films. He said he was promised he would be seen in the final one when Vader's mask came off and his voice would be used, but neither proved to be the case. Prowse's voice was replaced with that of James Earl Jones and another actor was the face of Vader in The Return of the Jedi.

From Prowse's website:
Dave is not appearing at Celebration V

It is with regret that I have been informed by my friends at C2 Ventures, Ben and Phillip, that I am not to be invited to C5 this year or any other Lucas Film associated events. After enquiring, the only thing I have been told is that I have "burnt too many bridges between Lucas Film and myself" - no other reason given.

I have also been advised by the promoter of Paris Manga in September that LFL have requested no photo opportunities with the 501 Squadron, even though I am commander in chief of the 501.

Sincere apologies to all my fans who were hoping to meet with me - I shall miss you too. As you will see from my events page I will be at many conventions all over the world so we can still keep in touch.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

US Marines rescue kittens in Afghanistan

Pictures and the story here

Forensic Experts say Mel Gibson tapes were tampered with

Hollywoodlife.com hired experts to review the Mel Gibson tapes and their conclusion was that they were tampered with.

Check out this report from ABC that tells all about it:

Toronto mayoral Candidate Ford introduces Taxpayer Protection Plan

This announcement includes cost cutting measures for the Mayor and Councilors offices and whistleblower protection for municipal employees.

See the press release here.

A Democratic Strategist describes Obama's worst nightmare for 2012: Bush. JEB Bush

From Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg, a former Clinton administration official:
"Jeb [Bush] is married to a Latina, is fluent in Spanish, speaks on Univision as a commentator, his Spanish is that good," Rosenberg said of the former Florida governor and brother to the 43rd president during a lunch at NDN headquarters last week. "And if you look at the electoral map in 2012, you have to assume that Obama is going to have a very hard time in holding North Carolina and Virginia. The industrial Midwest, where the auto decline has been huge, has weakened Obama's numbers... a great deal. So Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin become a bit more wobbly. So if you're Barack Obama, the firewall is the Latin belt from Florida to southwestern California. And there is only one Republican who can break through that firewall. And it is Jeb."
More from The Huffington Post here.

4th rate Toronto "Filmmaker," York University Professor John Greyson, compares Israel to Nazi sympathizers

John Greyson, a 50 year-old York University Film professor who notoriously tried to impose his view of the world with his failed attempt to organize a boycott of the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival's Spotlight on Tel Aviv program, is pursing his bigoted obsession to new, disgusting depths.

Greyson has recently created a video, using the 2010 World Cup as a backdrop, where he advocates for an artists' boycott of the middle east's sole democracy. In it, he contrasts musicians, all of whom are well past their career peak and who have declined to perform in Israel, engaged in a mock match against the major stars who have played concerts in the Jewish state.

He also includes his parodies of songs by the singers who have appeared in Israel. Greyson's own version of the song Umbrella by Rihanna, who performed in Israel in May, includes the defamatory line, at 5:40 of the video, referring to artists who perform in Israel, "Why would you join holocaust deniers, why would you join Nazi sympathizers"
Greyson's simple-minded, bigoted perception of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict betrays a level of comprehension about as proficient as his "filmmaking" abilities.

The tedious YouTube polemic he created laboriously takes nine minutes and twenty-five seconds to get across a point most amateur film students could have made more effectively in sixty seconds. Greyson might be so in love with his own work that he thinks audiences are willing to endure its monotony. This new tome from Greyson is more evidence that talented filmmakers make real moves and don't end up as 50 year old teachers of Film and Video Studies at York University.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Oksana says Mel packs a whallop

In the latest salvo in an acrimonious public divorce and custody battle, Radar Online just posted a photo of Mel Gibson's ex-wife, Oksana Grigorieva which is purported to be after he allegedly punched her in the teeth. The photo shows the mother of Gibson's youngest child with her two front teeth broken.

You can see the picture here at Radar Online.

Al-QuAIA suicide bombs Toronto's Pride Festival

The selfish insistence of the anti-Israel group, "Queers Against Israeli Apartheid" (QuAIA) to infuse themselves into, and politicize Toronto's Pride Festival, has placed the future of the event in jeopardy.

Pride has suffered vastly reduced revenues due to withdrawals of sponsorships. Next year, the festival itself is at risk, since Pride has received written notice from sponsors that they will no longer contribute until the issue of the anti-Israel group's participation is resolved. Combined with the risk of losing city funding next year because of their participation, "Queers Against Israeli Apartheid" may have effectively sabotaged Toronto's Pride.

More from the National Post  and  Xtra

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rob Ford discusses corruption at City Hall: An Eye on a Crazy Planet Exclusive

Yesterday, in his cluttered office on the second floor of Toronto's City Hall, Councilor Rob Ford (Etobicoke- Ward 2) sat down with me for half an hour to discuss issues affecting the city and his upcoming mayoral campaign.

With his mobile phone always in hand, Ford is a man who is hectically engaged both in council business and the mayoral race in which he is the current front-runner.

We discussed a number of issues ranging from corruption at city hall, the role developers play there, arts funding, his campaign and how others see it, and specifics on how to reduce municipal spending.

It was an entertaining but somewhat disjointed conversation. Yesterday was a particularly trying one for Ford. Earlier that day, The Toronto Star had printed an article which included allegations that Ford, who volunteers as a high school football coach, had been asked to discontinue coaching at Newtonbrook High School in North York following a physical altercation with a student nine years ago, in 2001.

Ford told me he was advised by his lawyer not to comment on the matter, but he was adamant that he never has nor would physically engage with any student. What made his defense believable was that during our conversation, he was continually taking calls from his brother and campaign manager, Doug, and other friends and aides who were frantically engaged in attempting to locate the student he was alleged to have assaulted, so that Ford could set the record straight and clear his name.  Ford called the allegations of his assaulting a student, "slanderous."  Based on a subsequent article published by the Star today, their lawyers and editors may have realized the same thing.

Ford observed that the Toronto Star is "not a fan" of him. It should be noted that one of Ford's chief rivals in the mayoral race, Rocco Rossi, has a biography that includes his position as a Senior Executive at the Toronto Star. That suggestion of bias by Toronto's leading daily newspaper was borne out by an article published today under the headline "Teacher asked Rob Ford to leave," which in essence retracts the earlier allegations.

Today, the Star describes the former head of physical education at Toronto’s Newtonbrook Secondary as saying, "there was absolutely no physical contact between Ford and the student, after Ford pulled the teen off the field after a bad play during the 2001 game."

I asked Ford about the surfacing of this, combined with the bizarre and highly publicized phone call between him and Deiter Doneit-Henderson. In that 55 minute call where Doneit-Henderson twice told Ford he could "see his house," Ford is taped suggesting the troubled caller might try to get the OxyContin he wanted on "the street."

One of the things I enjoyed most about Rob Ford is that he appears to have an internal conflict between being a politician who needs to exercise diplomatic discretion and a earthy, honest, regular guy who wants to be upfront and say how he feels. Overwhelmingly, the honest, regular guy wins out and he proceeds to comment about the things he says he's not going to comment on.

Ford shook his head at the mention of Doneit-Henderson, and did not want to comment specifically other than to say he felt sorry for him, then added that when someone says repeatedly that they can see your home from where they are, in an agitated state, like that of Doneit-Henderson, it was grounds for fear. This subject came up when I let Ford know that Doneit-Henderson, or someone purporting to be him, recently had posted some unusual comments in the public forums section of the radical leftist website, rabble.ca.

With Ford placing well in the polls, the surfacing of the unproven allegation of an incident purported to have occurred nine years ago is suspicious. Ford characterized it as a "smear campaign."

Discussing specific ways to cut spending at City Hall, Ford reminded me that 70% of municipal spending goes to salaries. He said that rather than lay-offs, restructuring and attrition would be able to reduce a workforce that has grown by 7000 employees in the last few years. Combined with the privatization and outsourcing of garbage collection, that would result in hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for Toronto taxpayers.

Ford rattled off some of the waste and unnecessary spending currently underway at City Hall, including 45 million dollars planned for an unnecessary renovation of Nathan Philips Square. I was very surprised to learn that the city spends sixty thousand dollars a year on buying wine and thirty thousand a year on cigarettes for the homeless, and one hundred thousand a year on buffets for city council meetings. These were the types of waste that Ford pledged to eliminate.

There is a seldom-discussed practice in the civil service that is known to lead to wasteful spending. Departments operating on fiscal year budgets tend to go on spending-sprees at the end of the year if they have not spent their full budgets. This is because any funds not spent by that time are returned to public coffers and managers are fearful that if superiors reviewing budgets see that a department has not spent all its allocation, that amount might get cut the next year. In the public sector, unlike the private, there is no requirement to make a profit and so they have a paradoxical incentive to spend, rather than save money.

Raising this issue with Ford, he suggested that a way to deal with it and encourage savings is to give municipal employees a cash bonus of one or two percent of their salaries if their departments meet spending reduction targets. This would provide incentives and bonuses similar to those in the private sector and is a unique position among the current candidates.

I asked Ford point blank if he thought there was corruption at City Hall. He didn't hesitate to answer "yes."

He discussed theft and improprieties that come before the Audit Committee and have resulted in firings and Ford also characterized, in a clear reference to Councilor Kyle Rae, how the spending of $12,000 of public funds on a retirement party could be described as "corruption."

Other matters Ford discussed were the priorities of fixing Toronto's crumbing streets, where most roads have not been resurfaced in years, and the need to improve public transit. He repeated his well-known campaign positions of eliminating the land transfer and municipal vehicle registration taxes. When asked about a possible property tax freeze for senior citizens, he said the city could not afford to commit to that but promised that he would not allow property taxes to be raised more than 2%.

Unlike some opposed to the seemingly unfetterd rate of development in the city, Ford as mayor would not attempt to convince the province to scrap the Ontario Municipal Board. He sees it as a useful appeals body that has shown some value as a balance against political interference. Though Ford is generally considered pro-business, he often comes up against the developers who seemingly have free access to every corner of city hall. Ford's position is, "whatever the neighbourhood wants is what I want. If the residents are opposed to development in their neighborhood, then it's my job to stand up for them in council."

Arts funding was another subject that came up. Ford is probably the least popular among Toronto's entrenched arts community, who are fearful of any reduction to the grants system which is, in effect, a welfare system for an established clique.

The suggestion of the city using arts funding to buy art and therefore help all Toronto's artists who show merit and acquire equity for the city, rather than to fund artists, was one he found interesting. While Ford made no commitment to it, said it was something he would give serious consideration to and decide before the election.

I asked Ford who he thought of as political role models. He took a moment of consideration before he came up with three names: Doug Holyday, the current city councilor and former Mayor of Etobicoke who first encouraged Ford to run for city council. The next was Mississauga's long-serving mayor, Hazel McCallion, whose stamina Ford admired; and Ford's father, Doug, who was a provincial MPP.

The most recent poll put Ford in the lead in the mayoral contest,  but with numbers in the high teens and only a couple of points higher than his nearest rival, former provincial Heath Minister, George Smitherman.

As of now, none of the five leading candidates, a group that would also include Rocco Rossi, Sarah Thopmson and Joe Pantalone, has emerged as a clear leader with anything resembling a substantial plurality in the polls. When questioned about a strategy going forward to get to that point, Ford responded that of all the mayoral candidates, he is the only one with both public service and private business experience and both are absolute necessities for being a successful mayor. It is a point he will be emphasising along with playing to his proven strength of appeal to voters concerned about reducing municipal spending and taxes.

Finally, I asked Ford about one of the criticisms that was voiced by some of his colleagues about his spending so much time personally calling and responding to constituents who contact him. They say that it's something that a mayor, with 3 million constituents, can't possibly do.

Ford is adamant about this point. He believes that as an elected representative, it's his duty to represent and that means responding to and communicating with the people who contact him. "I don't care whether it means that I and my staff have to make hundreds of phone calls a week for that, but I'm here to do a job for the people who elect me and they have the right to hear back from their representative to know it's being done."

I don't know whether that will work on the scale Ford hopes to engage, but the old-fashioned idea of a politician being unashamedly responsive to the public struck me as being a position worth supporting.

Photo in this post © 2010 Eye on a Crazy Planet

Video Game reviews from Tyrants

The jokers at Inside Gaming put these up on YouTube and they made me laugh, so it wouldn't be fair not to share them with you:

Israelis who incite anti-Israel boycotts may be subject to financial penalties/law suits

The Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported yesterday the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) "approved on Wednesday an initial reading of a bill calling for heavy fines to be imposed on Israeli citizens who initiate or incite boycotts against Israel. If approved into law, the fines would apply to anyone boycotting Israeli individuals, companies, factories, and organizations."

Should they return to Israel, this law could affect Canadian Israelis such as Sandra Ruch who is currently attempting to raise funds for a Canadian ship to attempt to violate the Gaza blockade. Ruch gained earlier notoriety as one of a group of eight Jewish women who trespassed in and refused to leave the Israeli consulate in Toronto during Israel's 2008 conflict with Gaza, "Operation Cast Lead."

Canadian Horror! Attack of the Killer Beaver!

A beaver killed a husky dog in Three Mile Bend Park near Red Deer, Alberta.

The park is used as an off-leash park for dogs, who are faster and more curious than the rodent which is Canada's national symbol.

It's the time of year that beavers bear young, which is likely to have been the reason for the aggressive behaviour by the beaver.

More here from the Calgary Herald

Beaver photo by Ilyes Laszlo / Wikimedia Commons -Creative Commons 2.0 license

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Kevin Neish wants to raise $300,000 for the Ship of Fools

Canada's "man of many tales", Kevin Neish, wants to raise $300,000 to equip a Canadian ship to go to Gaza to "deliver aid."

Israel allows aid in to Gaza through its own crossing with Gaza and aid also is allowed in through Egypt.

Therefore the effort is another attempt, by the man who grew up with Fidel Castro's picture on his mantle, to cripple the blockade designed to prevent Iranian arms smuggling.

Aid to Gaza not delivered through recognized governmental or non-governmental organizations would likely come under the aegis of Hamas and so what is being proposed is de facto material support for that group. The Canadian government has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization, so this effort may be in violation of Canadian law.

Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem are married!

This bit of celebrity news just came out in the Los Angeles Times

He's a very good actor.. I hope. I wouldn't like to think she married a guy like this..

Hear him lose it - All the Uncensored Mel Gibson Tapes Here

There are personal and scary and we probably shouldn't be listening to these. But...

In tape 2, Oksana repeats to him, "you need medication". His response has to be heard to be believed

UPDATE: Tape 4 just surfaced..

UPDATE 2 (Tape 5..how many of these Mother F^&^&^ers are there?!)

UPDATE 3: Tape 6..is there no end to these things?? This one's pretty good though

UPDATE: July 27 - Tape 7

Tape 8:

and in closing, some comic relief (if you've just listened to those last 8 tapes, you'll need some):

UPDATE: July 17 - Experts say tapes were tampered with. See the report here

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Draft Glenn Beck campaign may not be getting off on the best foot..

The Huffington Post describes the video commencing the effort to draft Glenn Beck as a Republican Presidential candidate:

"A group called Main Street Bites Back is organizing a petition to encourage Glenn Beck to run for President in 2012, and they've released a bizarre and terrifying video to promote their cause.

It features an extreme closeup of the group's spokeswoman, Robin Potwora, wearing a straw hat and a borderline absurd amount of makeup, as she touts their goal of putting Beck into the Oval Office in a sickly sweet voice. "
As far as their description of it being "terrifying," I'm a bit inclined to agree. See for yourself:

Toronto woman newest target of "Everyone draw Mohammed" Death Threats

From Fox:

"The creator of a now-defunct "Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" page on Facebook fears she may be targeted for death now that the cartoonist who launched the online campaign has been placed on an execution list by a radical Yemeni-American cleric.

The 27-year-old Facebook page creator -- a Canadian woman who asked not to be identified due to fears of reprisal -- told FoxNews.com that she was visited at her home last week by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officials who advised her to remove her page and not to talk to reporters."  
More here..

The dim bulbs at rabble.ca want to send a Ship of Fools to Gaza

Whenever something sounds too stupid to be true, there's as good a chance as not that the "brain trust" at rabble.ca will be supporting it.

Renaissance painter Hieronymus Bosch, most famous for his grim, ghastly renditions of the horrors that befall man in the spiritual world, painted "The Ship of Fools."

Rabble.ca is going to attempt to emulate Bosch's nightmare in real life. The radical leftist website whose publisher is Kim Elliott, the spouse of NDP Member of Parliament Libby Davies is the "media sponsor" behind the effort to get a Canadian ship to go to Gaza.

The other organizations behind the pleasure cruise designed to undermine Israel's efforts to protect itself from Iranian arms smuggling are:

Canadian Arab Federation, Canadian Shia Muslims Organization (CASMO), CodePink - Toronto, Educators for Peace and Justice, Independent Jewish Voices, International Jewish anti-Zionist Network, Islamic Society of York Region, Muslim Unity, People for Peace - London, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, Toronto Forum on Cuba, Women In Solidarity With Palestine

Not as big a list as it sounds since many of these groups have a multitude of cross-memberships.

Sending a ship on a trans-oceanic voyage actually costs money. The gang of misfits behind this effort might have trouble launching it without someone like Syd Ryan committing a large amount of funds taken from the union dues that Ontario Federation of Labour members pay for purposes other than attempts at crippling the one democracy in the middle east.

I can think of a few people I'd nominate for a berth on that boat: Libby Davies, Naomi Klein, Elle Flanders, and who knows? Perhaps Kevin Neish will enjoy a reprise visit to the detention center in Ashdod. He may have another fish tale for the CBC afterwards that can get him some more of the attention he craves.

They have a facebook group too.

In Canada, Hamas has been designated as a terrorist group and it is illegal to provide material support to terror, so it may be worthwhile for Federal law enforcement to determine if these people are committing a criminal conspiracy. Perhaps they can be sued under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act that allows such action to be taken against supporters of terrorist groups like Hamas.

Blazing Cat Fur has more on this

UPDATE: JULY 15 - The National Post provides this update

Feminist Constance Penley: Witness for the defense of the "Woody Allen of Porn"

The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, wrote, in a dissenting opinion in the Roth case regarding pornography/censorship:
"I would place the responsibility and the right to weed worthless and offensive communications from the public airways where it belongs and where, until today, it resided: in a public free to choose those communications worthy of its attention from a marketplace unsullied by the censor's hand."
From ReasonTV:

Constance Penley is a professor of Film and Media Studies at University of California at Santa Barbara and co-director of the Carsey-Wolf Center for Film, Television, and New Media. Penley specializes in film history and theory, feminist theory, and cultural studies. She is especially well-known on campus for her controversial classes on pornography, where she analyzes the ways in which blue movies play with moral and social taboos.

Penley was slated to be an expert witness in the obscenity trial of pornographer John Stagliano, who faces up to 32 years in jail and $7 million in fines for distributing three adult movies. The judge in Stagliano's case disallowed Penley ..from testifying for the defense.

Reason.tv's Hawk Jensen sat down with Penley to discuss the history of pornography, obscenity laws, and the case against John Stagliano, whom Penley has called "the Woody Allen of porn."

More from reason.com on this case here

UPDATE: All charges were dismissed against John "Buttman" Stagliano for lack of evidence

Monday, July 12, 2010

The strange tale of a dead baby, a stripper and testimony from a dead man

The Toronto Star reported an unusual story today about the trial of ex-stripper Ivana Levkovic, who allegedly gave birth to a baby in her home and either allowed it to die or actively caused its death.

Her roommate, Mark Hinds, whom Levkovic's attorney says was her pimp, appeared at a police station and recounted his version of events to detectives, claiming the mother drowned the baby in a toilet.

What is particularly unusual (not that everything about this story isn't) is that Hinds died a year after making his video statement to police. Now a judge has to determine if that video can be used as evidence in the trial.

The video is below. I'm not sure what went on, but if I were the judge, based on what I saw in it, I wouldn't allow it as evidence.

Aside from the obvious reason that the tape can't be cross-examined, there are other factors of note. Early in the interview, the lead detective says he has to stop the tape to get something and will return. When the interview resumes, the time code indicates over an hour has since passed. In that intervening time, elements of the late Mr. Hinds' version of events seem to have altered from their first telling.

It also seems apparent that the detective had spoken to Hinds off camera, because he refers to elements that the detective said Hinds told him before that he needed to repeat.

The defense alleges that Hinds made up his version of events to exact revenge against Levkovic.

I have no idea what the truth is. This seems like yet another awful tragedy that  the police and courts have to contend with.

More on Iran's descent into medieval madness

In addition to now claiming that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman sentenced to being stoned for adultery is being put to death for murdering her husband, a recent and heretofore unannounced addendum, comes an even more shocking, disgusting report.

According to a report by the Human Rights Activists News Agency, a young woman named Elnaz Babazadeh was stopped by Iranian Basiji militiamen (who act as enforcers of religious edicts and as government thugs) for the crime of not wearing her hijab (head covering) properly.

They then raped, beat and murdered her.

More can be read here at the Los Angeles Times

Afrofest Pictures

After the inane, sanctimonious preaching of political struggle at Saturday's protest on the south lawn of Queen's Park, it was a welcome relief to enjoy Afrofest on the north side.

Just great music,delicious food, talk about feeling good and people having a wonderful afternoon.

Scintillating drumming

Groovy Outfits on stage and off

If you felt like signing up for the cause, uniforms were available in a variety of styles:

People as far as the eye could see..


A parasol for a hot day:

Rhythms from Nigeria:

Even this sheepdog was having fun:

All photos in this post © 2010 Eye on a Crazy Planet