27/12/2010

My Sentiments Exactly

Banksy says it all

23/12/2010


Time to give it a rest for a few days. 


I hope you all have a great 


Holiday Season

All the best

Gord

22/12/2010

The Things You Learn in the Bar

Not long ago I was having an after badminton beer in Bushwakkers and wondering what group was providing the music the following evening, I asked Eric if he could read the notice pasted on the wall some metres away as I was having some trouble focusing. It was quite noisy in the bar and I thought he said it is The Regina Male Boys Choir, the redundancy in the name not quite sinking in.
Coming into the bar the next night I was therefore surprised to see a choir of well dressed gentlemen, some of whom must have been in their late 70’s at the very least. The “old boys” choir I thought.
It turns out the Regina Male Voice Choir was there to entertain us with Christmas music.
A beer or two later and just at the start of one of their numbers we were surprised to see a couple of the kitchen staff coming out carrying a large boar’s head, on a tray which they carried around the room during the singing of the piece.  “Oh, that was the Boar’s Head Carol” we were told.”  Who knew?
It turns out that this little known carol – at least little know amongst beer drinking badminton players – dates back to the fifteenth century.
The story is that an Oxford scholar named Capcot - no first name provided -  who was studying at Queen’s College   was walking over the common on his way to church in Horspath village when he was attacked by a wild boar.  Capcot, obviously a very tough guy, is said to have grabbed the boar by the scruff of the neck and to have jammed a copy of Aristotle which he had been reading down its throat.
The scholar then is reported to have cut off the boar’s head and stuck it on his staff leaving it outside the church during the service. He subsequently brought it back to his pals at Oxford for dinner.
The Horspath parish church has a window celebrating this event.
This event is still celebrated in Oxford at an annual dinner during which the carol is sung and during the singing three chefs carry a boar’s head  decorated with a garland of bay leaves and rosemary around the hall.
The things you learn in bars these days.
Ok everyone, all together now.

The Boar’s Head Carol
The boar's head in hand bear I,
Bedecked with bays and rosemary;
And I pray you my masters be merry,
Quot estis in convivio
Chorus:
Caput apri defero
Reddens laudes Domino
Laudes Domino, Laudes Domino, Laudes Domino
The boar's head, as I understand,
Is the bravest dish in all the land
When thus bedecked with a gay garland
Let us servire cantico.
Our steward hath provided this
In honour of the King of Bliss,
Which on this day to be served is
In Reginensi atrio

21/12/2010

Something Wrong with this Picture?

Patty Cake Fiacco
Just in case you wondered from time to time who pays most of the freight in Regina, here are a coupe of hints.
According to the Premier, Brad Wall Saskatchewan is booming economically. I don't really see it frankly but Brad insists.
So, in a boom, do you really have to offer incentives to corporations to lure them into your city/province?
Apparently you do.
Mosaic, that other American based Potash corporation is moving its "head office" to Regina when ever they get the new McCallum Hill Tower built in downtown Regina. The building, by the way, is the first new office tower  build in boomtown in 18 years..
They announced the move about a year ago but, development friendly city hall just agreed to give  the multi billion dollar corporation a five year tax break worth $1,500,000. I guess that decision was made to encourage a move that had already been decided upon tax break or not.
This in a year that, for those who actually pay city taxes, they will go up almost 5% and water tax will increase over 27% over the next  three years.
I wonder how a guy gets in line for the trough.

Watch Pat Squirm

Big news in Regina.  Property taxes are going up almost 5% and water will cost us 9% extra in each of the next three years.
Anyone who has been paying attention shouldn't be surprised though. The
Pat Fiacco has always run on a "no increased taxes" platform as if a city could always maintain services in the face of increased costs by just tightening a few belts here and there, contracting out services and by beating up on city workers. It is cheap politics and gets people elected but it doesn't work in the long term.
Under his leadership services like snow removal have become a laughing stock and now Pat has to start talking realistically about  services and where the money is going to come from to provide them. I find it kind of funny.
Pat has always been guided by the self interest of groups like the Canadian Federation of Independent business that is speaking out against any hike. They don't think this is the right time to hike taxes. Nothing new there.
Personally, I don't mind paying my fair share. It is worth every penny just to see Pat squirm.

Harper Treats Pension Reform Like the Environment

I notice that Harper's Conservatives are taking the same approach to the much needed Canada Pension Plan reform that they do the the environment. And, why not? Ignoring the problem works for them and after all, the chickens won't come home to roost until this bunch are long gone.
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says this is not the time for an overhaul of the pension system. The problem is of course is that there never us a "good" time to cough up the extra cash needed and by the time the shit hits the fan, I predict the government in power, whatever party is in power will say, "If Harper had dealt with this at the time it could have been fixed but...we are too far down the road and we just can't afford to do in now."
Boomers, most of whom are still working will start to put real pressure on the plan as they retire and tap into the fund. When the bills come, it will be our kids who will pay for Harper's inaction.
The Harper government claims to have been working on what they said was serious pension reform for 18 months and what we get instead of reform is just more inaction.
To be honest, I didn't really expect much more out of this government but I had hoped that, just perhaps, the provinces would step up. Six of the ten provinces supported action but unfortunately Alberta and Quebec supported by the Saskatchewan Wall government worked against reform.   

20/12/2010

What a Great Time of Year

This time of year we are all trying to cope with all the snow, struggling to get our Christmas shopping done, get a decent tree and get it decorated and for those who are working, trying to get thinks wrapped up before the end of the year. It can be a bit hectic.
That is why I am always a bit on edge before hosting a seasonal get-together but, the bottom line is, I like to have people over.
Saturday evening we had a seasonal pot luck supper for the board and staff of the Folk Festival. Few of us work closely together but we have served on the board together for varying lengths of time and I think we have a great group and super staff. We work together well but, we don’t often get an opportunity to meet in a social sense.  
So we have been getting ready. I have been freezing star shaped candle holders for our driveway all week, cooking and the house looks  - well... homey.
So there we were Saturday night, about 26 of us including our partners/ boyfriends/husbands/wives/significant others all jammed into our living room/dining room.
We had, beer, red wine, white wine and a non-alcohol punch – did I mention the beer, cold Big Rock beer – Traditional, Gopher, Grasshopper, Warthog and Winter Spice, lots of it.
I had prepared quite a few snacks to get things going. Everything from the regular cheese plate, to marzipan stuffed dates, a nice zesty salsa, crackers with chevre and jam and some crab pate but it was the dishes people brought that blew me away. We had Braised beef ribs, curried potatoes, Jamaican patties, gyoza, hummus, a tomato-cheese vegetable dish, a salad with pomegranates, a red cabbage salad, cookies, lovely artesian bread and chickpeas in curry. The table was so full we couldn’t fit another plate on if our lives depended on it.
There was a line up in my dining room, people were chowing down in every corner of the living room and almost everyone went back for seconds and thirds.
And, we had conversations. Lots of them. We talked about knitting, music,  Universities, Laval’s football dynasty, books,  education, badminton, how our generation just seemed to fall into our jobs, photography, print making, Qu├ębec cheese, the second world war corvette fleet and submarines. It was great.
As people drifted away into the night we tried, unsuccessfully to recruit floor hockey players and talked about how we should do it all again, and we should.
I love having people over but there is something about this time of year that really make it special. We are all gearing down a bit, being a bit reflective, relaxing – whatever it is, it just seems to work.
Do it again? Any time.
Come to think of it the floor hockey team is coming over the 29th.

17/12/2010

Maybe They Did Take Geography in School

My daughter, her husband and my two grandchildren, live in Alaska. That makes it a challenge to keep in touch properly particularly with people like me, who are prone to procrastination.

I aways swear that, this year, I will get our parcels off in good time and each year I find Christmas getting closer and closer before I actually wrap thing up and send them on their way.

This year Amazon saved my bacon when it came to my grandchildren. They gift wrap too which really took the heat off. When it came to  a gift for my daughter and her husband we thought way ahead. My partner, a skilled craftsperson, made a special gift for our kids in Ontario and Quebec and for our family in Alaska. I have to note that she made these gifts in July so we could get them off in plenty of time for Christmas.

So, on December 9th, still way ahead of the game by my standards, I headed down to FedEx to get the parcel shipped north. I thought 16 days is plenty of time for surface delivery even taking into account a few inevitable snowstorms. They promised delivery by December 16th. I felt confident in my decision.

Now, one of the best features of shipping FedEx, I thought, is their tracking system. I love it. I spend a lot of time at my keyboard so can I check progress several times a day.

I started getting nervous when I noticed the package had arrived in Winnipeg. That is 571 kilometres in the wrong direction. Then it sat in Manitoba for the weekend. The next stop was Grand Forks North Dakota. Another 147 Kilometres off course. The next day it was in St. Paul and I thought "Ok, they have decided to hook up with a major American shipping route and it will soon start to turn west."

Next stop Chicago. By now I wasn't starting to panic but I had some serious questions about FedEx's sense of direction. Did they sleep through geography in school? Did those dispatchers think AK is the postal abbreviation for Arkansas?


It sat in Illinois for 36 hours, 1991 km off course. It was December 15th. A day before the promised delivery.


Then by some miracle a new entry saying On the truck for delivery - Anchorage.`` This morning an e-mail saying, the package arrived safely, on the date promised and is safe and sound, under the tree in Anchorage.

Next year I think I`ll get to it all a bit earlier...then again, it did get there.



15/12/2010

Some Times it Makes you Wonder


Peter Plays Dress up
Defense Minister Peter Mckay loves to wave the military's flag and does so every chance he gets. He and his boss Stephen Harper love to play dress up, and get their pictures taken in military garb, rubbing shoulders with the troops. He just loves the look of camouflage.
McKay was in the news this week giving us all glowing reports about how military Griffin choppers were being used to rescue people stranded in the snow in Ontario. Peter is Canada's number one military booster.   Ask him any time.


Unfortunately Peter is only really there when solders are healthy and under active duty. Wounded, that is another matter altogether. A guy with his leg blown off just doesn't give you the same warm and fuzzy feeling. The Harper Government has fallen way short when it comes to supporting those wounded or otherwise disabled in the field.


This isn't a new story but it is one that the Conservatives have managed to ride out so far.
There is a new twist on this story though out of Ontario.


The  Ontario Trial Lawyers Association says they are astounded by the "hurdles, the runarounds and the hardships” Canada’s veterans face when they try to collect federal military service and disability benefits.
“These veterans fight for our country and they really should not have to fight for these benefits,” said lawyer Patrick Brown, chair of the new initiative. About 40 members are taking part in the new program, called Trial Lawyers for Veterans. “If we can help out, we will,” said Brown. “The commitment from our volunteers is to offer free services. It is all pro bono.”
After suffering devastating injuries from roadside or suicide bombers, missile attacks, vehicle rollovers or gunshot wounds, the veterans are often stunned when they find themselves battling Ottawa for money, for a job and for respect.
Peter McKay hasn't said if he is embarrassed by all this. Of course, he could argue that these men and women are not his responsibility anymore. Once they are wounded and ultimately leave the service they fall under another ministry. They are Veterans Affairs Minister Jean Pierre Blackburn's problem now. 
Peter is reported to be looking for another photo op.

08/12/2010

G20 Ombudsman Report Ignored in Globe & Mail

I am sorry Madam, you have to show us some ID
I was reading my favorite television commentator John Doyle in the Globe & Mail this morning. Even if I seldom watch the tube I like his writing style and sense of humor.  Commenting on how badly the television industry deals with the Wikileaks stories Doyle said "A reason that TV news mishandles it is that the documents unleashed by Wikileaks undermines the blithe acceptance of official spin that emanates from governments which TV news specializes in regurgitating."


I thought, "Well said John" then moved on to sift the rest of the mornings offering. I was looking for the G&M's take on the Ontario ombudsman, Andre Marin's report on the conduct of the police during the G20. The story had been covered fairly widely and I wanted to read the Globe's take on it.


Some distance from keeping the peace  Marin said the Public Works Act “wound up contributing to massive violations of civil rights.”  


He came to the conclusion that the law  used to expand police powers to detain and search demonstrators was “unnecessary and probably illegal,” and “likely unconstitutional”.  It found it was  misused “to intimidate and arrest people who had done no harm” and resulted in a “mass violation of civil rights.” The political and security measures turned Toronto into an armed camp where excessive force was used to disperse peaceful protesters and wrongly arrest more than 900 people.
In my view any Canadian who watched the coverage of last summer's event should have been disturbed by the actions of police. What it showed us all is what a fragile hold we all have on the civil liberties we take for granted.
The mainstream media didn't take too long to fall into line in buying into the official line about keeping order and about the mobs of armed black block protesters. What disturbed me however was the high school kids, parents with kids and grandmothers out walking their dog who were chased by, out of control,  baton wielding thugs in uniform.
Even the Times of India picked the story up. They reported that “Canadian authorities have been slammed for using a secret regulation that "amounted to martial law" to detain protesters at the June G20 meeting. “ and that “The secret regulation to detain protesters at the June G20 meeting in Toronto had "dubious legality" and probably violated the Canadian Constitution by creating "extravagant police authority,"   


The Globe & Mail, I am disappointed to say, didn't carry the ombudsman's story at all, at least not in the edition I get delivered to my home each morning. So John, I am afraid it isn't only TV news that falls short. Have a chat with your buddies down the hall, will you John.

07/12/2010

A Few Things I've Noticed

Saskatchewan Debt
I never bought it, but it seems pretty clear that a majority of the Saskatchewan voters believe the Saskatchewan party line that the province is in a boom. I was told the other day that Saskatchewan has the highest debt to income ratio in Canada. I wasn't surprised. Brad says we are in a boom. Things are good. Buy buy buy.

Then the Visa statement comes in the mail.

Domed Stadium
I'd say it has become pretty clear. Regina won't be seeing a new stadium for a while and certainly not a domed stadium.

Now, if the Riders had won the Grey Cup, Brad in his enthusiasm might have...but I digress.

The Regina Definition of a Booming Downtown.
They might be erecting a crane downtown sometime soon to start a new building. They closed the Plains Hotel months and months ago saying they were going to build a new hotel, office condo tower. Isn't it about time to start at the very least digging a hole in the ground.

My Snow Removal Rant
Regina has the worst snow removal plan of any city in the country.  Or perhaps Regina just has the worst snow removal system of any other city I have lived in and I have lived in more than a few Canadian cities, coast to coast.

This year they have embarked on a campaign to guilt homeowners into clearing their sidewalks. Not a bad idea actually. In my neighborhood an army of old retired guys get out their snow blowers and do the job but, all the while, the city ignores the snow banks their own plows have piled onto sidewalks along the parks and other city property.

Our Messed up Electoral System
The Globe & Mail tells me that the Harperites are headed for a majority government because they have just passed 38.1% in the polls. How screwed up is that?

Any system that would give a majority to a government that can garner 38% is seriously ill. What is perhaps even sicker is that none of the political parties will make this fact a major issue. They all are dreaming of the day they can dupe the public using the same broken system to give then the advantage.

Who the Hell Wanted us There in the First Place?
As much as Stephen Harper, bolstered by the Liberals wants Canada to have a continued presence in Afghanistan, almost 60% of Afghans and most Canadians want foreign troops either out right now, or very soon. Imagine if all that money could have gone into healthcare or education.

What idiot Canadian politician thought it was a good idea for us to go into to that country in the first place?

06/12/2010

Sorry Link, it isn't Working

Let me be up-front. I am a card carrying member of the New Democratic Party and have been for some time.  That doesn't mean I am very happy about that party's performance.  I still be support them but some times I think it is becoming tougher and tougher to be a New Democrat as each day passes.
Time for a change?
Jack Layton is well beyond his best before date, the Manitoba New Democrats have slipped to 34% and the NDP in British Columbia are self destructing. 
Here in Saskatchewan despite the fact that the  Saskatchewan Party is basically a one man show leading a group so bush league that most of them would not be capable doing the job as a village alderman, the NDP trail badly in the polls and will be lucky to hold on the the seats they have in the next election.
When Lorne Calvert left politics it was time for the New Democrats to rebuild. Renewal should have been the catch phrase on everyone's lips. When a leadership race was held there were choices which would have given us just that but the tired old party decided  instead to pick a leader from the past. We picked Dwain Lingenfelter.
I came to Saskatchewan not long before Lingenfelter left politics to work as an executive in the energy industry in Calgary so I don't know him well but from what I gather, he was touted to be Roy Romanow's successor but instead, he decided to seek his fame and fortune in Alberta. An odd decision for a New Democrat but a good fit for Dwain.
He wasn't my choice but he did win the race and I respect the process so I figured, what the hell Link, show us how it is done.
He hasn't. His leadership is such a liability that a new NDP candidate in the next election told me, "We'll never will another election here in Saskatchewan until we get rid of that bloody Lingenfelter" (I actually cleaned up the language quite a bit)
So, the NDP in Saskatchewan have a couple of choices. Dwain could resign today and the party could begin to rebuild now, bringing in new blood or, we could get trounced in the next election and then he could get forced out in a leadership review.
Don't get me wrong, there are some very good bright, young faces on the New Democrat side of the legislature and I am encouraged by some of the young, smart candidates running in the next election but unless some of the old guard move over, we are hooped. 
The new face of the party are MLAs like Trent Wotherspoon, Warren McCall, Cam Broten, Danielle Chartier and Darcy Furber. Candidates like Yens Pederson, Jaime Garcia and Heather McIntyre. Guys like Ryan Meili.
My view is the best decision would be to start right now. Have Link step down, put in the Deputy Leader Kevin Yates in as a place holder, elect a new leader, take your lumps in the next election and get on with the rebuilding process.
Any bets on what we actually do?



Isn't it About Time

I sometimes wonder at what the opposition parties think they are doing in Ottawa.  They don't walk the walk and it seems that these days they hardly even talk the talk.
Here we are Federally, being governed by a right wing political despot with a minority government that very few people would be willing to admit that they support yet in any way yet, the opposition parties are dropping the ball and not surprisingly, trail in the polls.
We do have alternatives, the opposition parties could, very easily get together in some kind of coalition, they do after all collectively represent a strong majority of Canadians. It isn't likely to happen however, political hubris would prevent that before and discussion even gets off the ground.
Here is an idea. They could show some leadership.
The conservatives are laughing.
So, we march on, the Liberals talking tough, then embarrassing themselves by supporting the government or, the Bloc quietly making side deals that serve Quebec and the NDP braying impotently from the sidelines.
Time after time the gang of bullies Harper calls a government abuse the system they are bound to uphold and time after time the opposition drop the ball.
It is more than a bit disheartening.
So my challenge to our political opposition is this. Take a good long break over Christmas and think about where this country is going. If this government is in power much longer then Tough on Crime - soft environment will seem like the norm. We'll see more thugs like Julian Fantino get elected. We'll be tearing each other apart over gun control again. We will hardly recognize our country.
So, listen up Iggy and Jack. There is no room for Tea Partiers here but what might work is the good old coffee klatch. So, no more staged breakfast meet and greets filled the party faithful. Get off your rear ends and get out there and do your work one voter at a time. Get out and meet voters in the malls and on the street. Sure you get knocked around a bit but...but after all, you deserve it. You might just learn a thing or two.
We don't need any more old party rhetoric. How hard can it be debunking the Harper political agenda?
Most of all, let us help you throw these bums out of office. If you can't or won't, then move over and let someone else who has got enough fibre to do it for you.

03/12/2010

Hello out there

Every once and a while I think it is fun to have a look at where the visitors to this blog come from.
My tracker keeps a note of how many visitors I get each day, who is new and who is returning and where the last 500 people who log onto the site live. It provides me with the visitor's IP address, the name of service providers, the browsers being used and the city and country visitors live in but, of course, not their names.
So if one of those little dots represents you,
welcome to my blog and feel free to leave a comment.

Wikileaks more like Wikigossip

I have got to say that I have been more than a little disappointed at what has been revealed by Wiki-leaks this week. After the first announcement that Wiki had new secrets to reveal, I waited through the weekend with growing excitement.
Everyone but governments and diplomats love this stuff. The more salacious the better. 

The build-up was great. The American Government was reported to be calling around the globe tipping nations off that they may have been a bit more candid then "friends" would like and Harper and his gang were putting on a good, brave face saying "No matter what those guys might have said, they are still our best friends." Holy smoke we thought, great stuff coming.

In the end there was very little for anyone to get their knickers in a knot about. It was more like high school than anything else. 
  • Some American diplomats thought that some of the CBC dramas were taking shots at the American border service. 
  • They also thought that Canadians have an inferiority complex. 
  • The head of Canada's spy agency thinks that the courts are making his job tougher. (Thank God for that I thought)
  • A Canadian diplomat was caught out saying things about the leadership of Afghanistan that we have all heard or read in the media time and time again.     
Governments are still nattering on about putting people in harms' way but in reality, at this point, five days of releases have told us nothing we didn't really already suspect was happening anyway.

Whoop-de-do. This time it was all hype, little substance. Wikki-leaks indeed. I have heard more gossip  in the bar on Friday night after floor hockey.

30/11/2010

The Conservatives are Spammers of the Worst Kind

 My MP is a homophobic, bush league, Parliamentary bench warmer who only speaks out after it has been cleared by the PMO staff. He is good at getting his picture taken handing over cheques, but little else.

He was particularly silent on the BHP takeover bid even when his old buddy Brad Wall was talking up a storm.  He claimed in the media that he was prevented by law from give his opinion on the matter but unfortunately the reporters forgot to ask him what law it was that prevented him from supporting his constituents position on the takeover.

Tom doesn't really care what urban voters think. He has never come to my door election time and in fact he is seldom seen in the Regina area spending his constituency time pandering to rural voters. Those guys would elect a dead horse if it wore a Conservative t-shirt. Some would suggest they already have.

What Tom Lukiwski is really good at is having his staff send us all the Canada Post equivalent of Spam.

The conservative government members are flooding the postal system with useless propaganda hoping that we will in turn do  the same by returning the whole thing with the expected a response supporting Stephen Harper. When they ask me, "WHO IS WORKING IN THE BEST INTEREST OF CANADIANS (their caps not mine). I usually send it back with checks beside Micheal Ignatieff, Jack Layton, and Elizabeth May.

I find this stuff particularly offensive.

The latest rant I got from Tom Boy was all about how a Stephen Harper Government is so much better that the alternative which he sees as a "ragtag coalition".  The interesting thing is that neither Ignatieff, Layton nor Duceppe wants a coalition to many of us, a coalition government, by its very nature forced to work in co-operation with each other would be 500% better that the government we have. The Harper model is divisive.  Think about it. It thrives on setting one part of the country against another, rural versus urban, knuckle draggers against gun control advocates - you see what I mean. Harper is tearing this country apart and guys like Lukiwski are helping him do it.

Come on boys and girls. Next chance we get, let's dump these people before it is too late.

29/11/2010

Pirates, all of Them

I was intrigued this morning by a piece by Neil Reynolds writing in the Globe and Mail about the return to the Gold Standard. He quotes Canadian born economist Dr. Robert Mundell extensively. Mundell has evidentially been predicting a return of that shiny metal as a backbone of our modern economies since 1997. And, now he is backed up by World Bank President Robert Zoellick who is suggesting that the world needs to embrace the gold standard.

To be honest the world economic system all seems like a bit of a shell game to me. Economies seem to rise and fall because of how a group of insecure people feel about them on any given day. The value of currencies being affected by events like North Korea feeling a bit randy one morning or a politician's unfortunate ad lib. It doesn't seem real.

But gold? It is really of very little value except that it is kind of shiny and makes good jewelry. I am not sure I get it.

Or, perhaps I do. I wasn't all that long ago when the world economic system went into free fall that critics were referring to our world's bankers as a bunch of pirates playing loose and free with what is essentially our money. Perhaps it is all beginning to fit together.

I think Michael Flaherty would look good with an eye patch and a three cornered hat. Bring it on.

All together now:
Sixteen men on a dead man's chest
Yo yo ho and a bottle of rum

28/11/2010

My New Favorite Chicken Recipe

I tried a new recipe this evening. A Spanish dish, Paprika Chicken with Garlic. It is a dish that a good restaurant wouldn't hesitate to charge you $25.00 for.
So why pay through the nose for something which is so simple to make.

Ingredients
6 to 8 chicken thighs
2 cups of flour
3 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 couple of glugs of olive oil
20 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
2 cups heated chicken stock
1/3 of a cup of dry white wine
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 Tbsp dried thyme
Salt & pepper

Dredge the chicken in flour then in the paprika. If is isn't covering well take some paprika in your hands and rub it into the chicken. Set it aside.
Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a deep frying pan or a dutch oven. Add the garlic and heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Don't let it brown. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and set it aside.
Brown the chicken well on both sides. Don't crowd it. Three at a time is probably the easiest depending on the size of your pan. When all the chicken are well browned place the chicken pieces skin side up in the pan. Hopefully your pan is large enough to have the chicken all on one layer,
Put the garlic back into the pan distributing it evenly and between the pieces of chicken. Add the bay leaves, the thyme and the salt and pepper.
Add the hot stock and wine to the pan and turn up the heat bringing it to a boil.
When it boils, turn the heat to simmer, cover the pan and cook for 25 minutes.
After the chicken is done, take it out and put in in a warming oven.
Take out the bay leaves.
Bring the stock back to a boil and reduce it to about 1 1/2 cups.
Put the chicken on warmed plates and pour the sauce and the pieces of garlic over the chicken.

This dish would be great with roast potatoes and what ever vegetable you like.

25/11/2010

Why do the Media Pay Attention to the CTF

 I have never been a big fan of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) they are anti-union and much to far to the right for my tastes.  A quick look at their Board of Directors pretty much confirms that these guys are not your average Canadians.

They claim to be grassroots but it is never clear where their money comes from. Friends suggest that the right wing think tank, The Fraser Institute backs them financially but to be honest, I don't know. It would be interesting to take a look at their financial statements though.

The CTF is most at home attacking governments that lean left. They are busy boys and girls when the NDP is in power. Here in Saskatchewan, when the right wing Saskatchewan Party got elected they were not sure what to do so, they pretty much focus on pushing the government act on their core values and to privatize the public sector.To my way of thinking, most of their reports have little depth and are really a waste of time. Not much more than nitpicking really.

To be fair, it is not that they never do any interesting research. Their recent study about how much some of the First Nation's leadership are paid was pretty good and their cautionary notes about Brad Walls favorite project, a new domed stadium for Regina are a good read.

What has always bugged me however is how the media seems to fawn over each and every press release the CTF issues. Having some experience in trying unsuccessfully to get the media to take up important issues, I am sometimes baffled by it but, I think I figured it out.

The government has starved the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for funds and the privately owned media have done the same to their outlets. Everyone is short staffed, there are no funds for research,  few reporters seem to have beats any more so they can't follow issues properly and newspapers are so thin on the ground that they never even bother to rewrite the wire copy to give it local context anymore.

Don't worry about investigative reporting, media don't do that anymore. What news outlets have done is to farm out their responsibility for research and news gathering. Major daily newspapers are acting like small town rags. No money for research, no bother, the Taxpayers Federation will do it for you.

 Don't worry be happy.

24/11/2010

Abe Books to the Rescue

I must confess that blogging about politics can start to get to you after a while. It wears you down. Not that there is any lack of material. In fact there is almost to much. It is just that after a while you start to wonder if there is any hope for us as a species. Few people really seem to care any more.

On that note I sometimes wonder about the decisions made by the Canada's book selling community.

Like many Canadians I have been captivated by Stieg Larsson's Millennium series. The author's story is almost as interesting as the books themselves.

I have read the first two books and have seen the first two films in Swedish with subtitles.

I have been waiting for the third book, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, in paperback for some considerable time now. It seems that Canadian booksellers have decided that they can make much more money by delaying release of the cheaper regular format paperback book and continue to sell the large format soft cover edition, at a cost of over $20.00, until at least after Christmas.

I just lost patience. The books are after all copyright 2007.

My solution in the end was to go on-line to Abe Books where I found a brand new paperback edition from a bookstore in the UK. It cost me considerably less to buy it through them, even when you factor in the fact that it was shipped from England.

So...today it gives me great pleasure to thumb my nose at Heather Reisman and to give a big thumbs up to Abe Books, one of the best places to find bestsellers, rare books, signed editions, textbooks, first editions - new and used. They are quick and shipping is often free. Give them a try

12/11/2010

If democracy isn't dead in Canada...it is severely wounded.

What a Joker
Our Prime Minister the weaselly Stephen Harper, after his pollster told him Canadians were fed up to the hilt with our involvement in the war in Afghanistan he told us that, no ands, ifs or buts, Canada will be out of Afghanistan by 2011. Sounds pretty definitive.

But hold on. Now the slippery rodent is saying "Oh no. We'll stay on . It is a smaller mission. Just training. Inside the wire (That is military talk Peter McKay taught him) minimal risk"

Now you might think that something like that might just be appropriate to discuss in Parliament. "No no" says Stephen. "That is my decision."  No need to bring that sort of debate to Parliament those opposition friends of the Taliban will just complicate things.

If democracy isn't dead in Canada...it is severely wounded.

Never use the words Regina and snow removal in the same sentence.

Sorry to you faithful readers but I have been a sit under the weather and any creative though I had dried up for a couple of weeks.

I am back and annoyed about the City of Regina's feeble excuse which passes for snow removal in this city. I just assume that Reginans put up with it because they don't know any better. I do.

Oh yes. It snowed again this week. I just wish it would hold off for a few more weeks.

When I lived in Pointe Claire, a suburb of Montreal, the city truck was down my street at the first sign of snow. On a very snowy night they were past my house several times. My the time my kids were home from school the sidewalks were plowed and in a couple of days, the city would come along with a snow blower and take up all the snow lying between the road and the sidewalk. Here in Regina I live on a bus route and I am lucky if the snow plows make it within four days of a snow storm.

The City doesn't clear the sidewalks and if it wasn't for the number of retired guys on my street with snow blowers, you would never be able to walk anywhere in my neighborhood.

I have lived in six different provinces and Regina has the worst snow removal of any where I have ever lived, bar none. It is appalling.

I want to make it clear. I am not slagging the city workers. I certainly am not. I think they do a great job with the resources they are alloted. But, starve city services of resources and you get what you should expect. Crappy service.

So Pat Fiacco, shove that "I heart Regina" stuff there the sun don't shine.

26/10/2010

Here is an Idea For You Brad

To be honest I don’t know who is right in this BHP/PCS/Brad Wall war of words over potash. But Brad says "No" and it seems that every day, the rhetoric gets a bit more strident and the stakes are cranked up one more notch.
 The Saskatchewan Government has dispatched a  gaggle of ministers to Ottawa so they can work the back rooms and the corridors of power,  Brad Wall is travelling to Toronto to try and get Canadian business leaders on side and what a windfall in advertizing revenue it much be for the newspaper industry. Each day we are bombarded with new and increasingly strident, full page ads.
Not much seems to be working.  There are no signals out of Ottawa suggesting that anyone in Investment Canada is listening and despite Wall’s special relationship with the Conservatives it doesn’t look like they give much of a damn about what Brad wants.
The only Federal MP who has spoken out about the takeover is Ralph Goodale.
 Let’s face it, this Stephen Harper government hasn’t ever given much thought to the needs of Saskatchewan’s government or its people, ever.  Why change now? Harper feels his 13 Saskatchewan MPs are on pretty solid ground.
So, I have a suggestion for the Premier. The next time you have the opportunity, make it very clear that if the Federal government approves the BHP deal, come the next Federal election, you will run Saskatchewan Party candidates in every Conservative riding in the province.
I assure you Mr. Premier , that will get Harper’s attention.  Saddled with 13 lightweight Saskatchewan MPs whose only selling point is the political parties they don’t belong to, Harper would have real difficulty holding on the any one of those seats.

Stephen Harper Makes me Ashamed to be a Canadian

There is not a lot I can say about Omar Khadr I haven't already said in other posts. Besides I think I am just to angry to write much  about it right now.

Omar Khadr was born in Canada and he is a Canadian citizen.

He was 11 years old when his father, an alleged al-Qaeda financier, took him to Pakistan.

When he was 15 has tagged along with a small group of al-Qaeda fighters. The group got into a firefight with some Americans.

The Americans claim that, despite being seriously wounded, somehow Omar threw a grenade and an American was killed.

Omar was taken captive and tortured by the Americans.

He was locked up in Guantanamo Bay for 8 years.

Faced with a process, so unfair, that it would never be permitted in any civilized western country, including the USA he was left with little choice but to purger himself by pleading guilty,  in an effort to get a plea bargain deal which should allow him to return to Canada after a year.  

He will be the only person found guilty of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan where over 1,000 American soldier's have died since their invasion in 2001.


Omar was sent to trial this year, the only war crimes tribunal to prosecute someone for acts committed while they were a child since the second world war.

He is only western foreign national left in Guantanamo. Every other western country intervened on their citizen's behalf and lobbied for their release. Under the leadership of Stephen Harper our government has refused to do the same.

I have often been concerned about the actions of my government but the conduct of the Harper Conservatives in this matter is worse than I could have imagined possible. As Canadians we should be ashamed that we let this happen. 

22/10/2010

Do not Pass Go

Unlike a very large number of its citizens who have already made up their mind, successive Canadian government have been spinning in the wind with the issues around recreational drug use.
Those of us who are old enough remember attended the Le Dain Commission public hearings on the non-Medical use of Drugs in the late 60’s, early70’s. About 12,000 people attended and participated in these hearings which were held across Canada. A number or prominent individuals gave testimony including John Lennon. It was a big deal.
Go Directly to Jail
In June 1970 the Commission delivered its interim report, calling for the decriminalization of all drugs. Going far beyond suggesting decriminalizing marijuana, commission chair Gerald LeDain recommended a maximum fine of $100 for possession of any drug, including "hard drugs" like cocaine and heroin. Although the Commission report was widely praised for its thoroughness and thoughtfulness, as might be expected, its conclusions were largely ignored by the federal government.
Over the years, as other countries relaxed their attitudes toward recreational drug use, particularly pot, Canada typically couldn’t make up its mind. Tolerance varied depending on where you lived. For a while, particularly in B.C. and Quebec, people smoked weed openly in some bars. A practice you most likely wouldn’t have wanted to try in Saskatchewan.
 In 2005 Cannabis surpassed wheat as Canada's most lucrative agricultural crop. Canada's  cannabis market is estimated to be worth $8.5 billion annually, approximately three times the size of Canada's largest legal crop. In British Columbia alone the growing and selling of marijuana it is estimated to be worth $6 billion a year.
Several polls since 2003 have found that a majority of Canadians agreed with the statement, "The use of marijuana should be legalized", the latest being the 2009 Angus Reid poll, with 53% for legalization   
The Green Party of Canada supports the legalization of cannabis. The Liberals have several times toyed with the idea of decriminalizing the drug.
The New Democrats previously supported the legalization of the cannabis until   Jack Layton reversed his position on the issue in 2009. Before that, Layton encouraged people to “join the party” and support the NDP because he believed they should be allowed to smoke marijuana in the comfort of their own homes or in cafes without being considered criminals.
In the end no one was brave enough to make the move. The right wing and the RCMP would raise a fuss, no question, there is a lot of job security in fighting pot use.
These days, even in the face of the American anti drug crusade, California is moving to legalize possession of marijuana for personal use.
In Canada our government under the direction of Stephen Harper is attempting once again, to move his crowd, and us, off in another completely different direction.  Harper wants to toughen up punishment for drug use. Harper wants anyone who is found growing a more than five pot plants in the backyard to go directly to jail. This is all part of Harper’s tough on crime legislation but as usual, his legislation is much too far reaching. Parts of the bill make sense but to say that in the government’s view growing six plants is a serious drug crime is sheer nonsense.
 Going to jail for seven to ten months for growing six plants in the back garden or under a grow light in the basement makes no sense at all.
I simple can’t understand why these guys don’t understand that the real problem here is not the substance but the prohibition of the substance. 

20/10/2010

I wonder Where They Learned This Stuff

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi with Stevie Harper
I note in the Globe & Mail that the Canadian Government is “deeply concerned” by a report that Ethiopia is using aid money to routinely reward supporters and to punish those who fail to support it.
 A Human Rights Watch investigation came to the conclusion that Ethiopia is abusing the foreign aid it receives. Farmers who fail to support the ruling party are denied access to fertilizer, seeds, loans and other agricultural aid.
It is also reported that the government is using the foreign aid program to purge the civil service of anyone with an independent political view.
I don’t really understand why any Canadian is shocked by all this. It sounds like the way Harper delivered the infrastructure money earlier this year. Conservative ridings got well in excess of what ridings who voted for other parties got.
And here in Saskatchewan I know plenty of smart and effective civil servants who lost their jobs when Brad Wall’s right wingers took over from the NDP just because the new governments wanted to put their own people into power, to pay off political favours and to get rid of anyone who might have a connection to the previous political party no matter how well they did their jobs.
Canadians never seem to be put off by these practices. It sounds like old style Canadian politics. And we put up with it.  I do understand that the practice is repugnant but I don’t know why the Conservative government would be pissed about it. The practice is directly from Harper's own rule book.

Sometimes You Have to Wonder

I have to say that the Canadian electorate, when it comes to accessing political systems, parties and leaders are one of the most screwed up groups of people in the world.
First let me say that our great fear of change allows us to be lead around by the nose by politicians who work their butts off seeking that magic 40% or so voter support. Reach that number and a majority government is almost guaranteed. 
Doesn’t that sound really dumb?
Yet, try to talk about Proportional Representation and most Canadian’s eyes glaze over. This seemingly bright nation can’t seem to figure it out. Our first past the post system is screwing us.
I was reading the results of a very recent Angus Reid poll yesterday and I confess that I came away shaking my head.
If you look at Canadian’s voting intention 34% would vote for the Harper Conservatives, 26% would support the Liberals lead by Michael Ignatieff and 18% would support the NDP.
Ok, I guess we could easily come to the conclusion that Canadians like Harper and his bunch.  
Not so fast though.  Canadian were asked to select up to six words or expressions from a list, that best described the party leaders.
  • When it came to Stephen Harper the five words chosen most often were secretive, arrogant, dishonest, out of touch and uncaring. Only 2% thought he was exciting.
  • The NDP’s Jack Layton in contrast was described as intelligent, down to earth, honest, compassionate and open.
What do you think? A kind of collective schizophrenia? Go figure.
Surprisingly, the divisive debate over the long gun registry, supported by about two thirds of Canadians seems to have done little to boost support for the Liberals nor the NDP nor did it hurt Harper.
Encouragingly, the Green Party moved into double digits nationally for the first time at 11%. Interestingly in British Columbia the Greens very nearly surpassed the Liberals. Higher than the Bloc nationally but our voting system will guarantee a large number of Bloc seats and the Greens will continue to struggle to elect anyone.  
In Saskatchewan where citizens seem to like getting screwed over, support is still high for Harper and his bunch of loyal, but not too bright foot soldiers.
Very few people think we will or should have an election in the fall so in the meantime Harper and his gang will carry on dismantling our country, the Liberals will continue to gaze at their belly buttons and wonder how they ever were so dumb to pick Iggy over Bob Rae, Gilles Duceppe, the avowed separatist and perhaps the best politician of the lot, will continue to build up is Canadian Federal Government pension and Jack Layton will dream about being Prime Minister and prepare for his last election as leader.

Saskatchewan Potash Soap Opera Continues

Little Stevie must be in a bit of a quandary over the Saskatchewan position on the proposed takeover of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan by the Australian firm BHP Billiton. The Saskatchewan government has been acting a bit like a banana republic in their in backroom talks with BHP trying to squeeze a few extra bucks out of the company but their demand of $1 billion dollars and hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure money, was a bit rich. These guys are very large global players and one suspects that Brad's small town negotiators were much of a match. This isn't much like making a deal in Swift Current.  Billiton walked away from the table. 
Now Harper and his gang of thugs in Ottawa (well mostly Harper really) have to decide if they will continue with their policy of openness to foreign investment or, if they will ignore their policy in favour of supporting what Brad Wall calls his “special relationship” with this Conservative government.
Now truth be told, this issue of foreign ownership when it comes to Potash is mostly bullshit anyway. As Wall well knows, that horse left the barn years ago.
  • The Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan has it’s head office in Chicago.
  • Mosiac  the other major Saskatchewan potash player has their head office in Plymouth Minnesota.

Why pretend that these are Saskatchewan companies anyway? A bit of honesty would be refreshing here.
Right now Ralph Goodale, Saskatchewan’s only Liberal MP is getting great mileage out of the events saying that  if Harper doesn’t act on the Saskatchewan request and reject the BHP effort  they “...do so at great peril” ,also noting that if the government goes along with Wall’s request it puts Harper’s investment strategy into a tailspin.
The great herd of Saskatchewan Conservative Members of Parliament are not surprisingly, very  quiet about it all. But, no one ever expected for MPs like Tom Lukiwski  to speak out for his constituents before he was absolutely certain which way the wind was going to blow.
Historically Harper never really gave a damn about Saskatchewan anyway. We remember the broken promises on transfer payments. He never saw a problem with welshing on that promise and nor did his lackey Saskatchewan MPs.
It will be interesting to see what happens. 

13/10/2010

Are you Embarrassed Yet Prime Minister?

Burkina Faso is one of those countries you seldom hear about. A country of 15 million sitting north of Cote d’Iviore, Ghana and Togo, it is one of the world’s poorest nations.   
Canada had a fairly long relationship with Burkina Faso.  Canadian companies, mostly mining firms, provide the small country’s largest source of foreign private investment. But despite our relationship with them, last year, Bev Oda announced that Canada was cutting bilateral aid to several developing countries throughout Africa, Latin America, and Asia and that development funding would be focused on just 20 “priority” countries.

Its Foreign Minister, Bedouma Yoda, doesn’t understand why Canada made that move and came to Canada to ask why. Burkina Faso wasn’t the only African country confused and angered about Canadian actions. Embassies, such as the one in Malawi, have been shut. In all eight African countries were dropped and our smaller list of 20 priority aid recipients marked a shift to Latin America  

“Africa understood that Canada was becoming disinterested in her,” Mr. Yoda said.
My guess is that to Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, the old “You reap what you sow” message is now crystal clear.
Canada was humiliated at the United Nations yesterday having been refused a seat on the Security Council. Beat out by Portugal. It is the first time in history that Canada has been snubbed in this way.
But, it wasn’t just Africa.

  • Canada’s move from taking a diplomatic role in the middle east – a mid-power broker - to that of being Israel’s most stalwart defender played a role too.
  • Canada’s role as one of the world’s most active and committed UN peacekeeper has been eroded over the past several years as well, with Canada choosing instead to get involved in much more aggressive actions in places such as Afghanistan.  Canada’s Generals started to boast about killing “scumbags” instead of talking about the commitment this country had in helping to bring order to divided nations struggling under conflict.
  • Canada today has only 62 peacekeepers working abroad, 10 of them in Haiti.
  • This Conservative Government has snubbed its nose at other developed and developing countries over climate change.
  • Harper is out of step with Canada’s allies on women’s reproductive rights
  • In the face of the Global banking meltdown Canada’s refusal to impose a tax on international banking basically scotched a proposal much favoured in Europe designed to build a fund as a cushion to be used in case of a future economic crisis.
  • Then last year, our less that Honourable Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave up an opportunity to speak at the United Nations for a trip to an Ontario Tim Horton’s to have a double-double and to press the flesh.
Earlier this year Harper spoke to a near empty United Nations chamber, most delegates choosing to take an early lunch.
So Stephen, are you embarrassed yet? 


You bloody well should be.

08/10/2010

We'll See How Lucky the Moose Really is

The Lucky Moose Food Mart

I have been intrigued by the court room drama being playing out this week in Toronto.  I have been baffled by the whole thing since the incidents which started all this in motion took place, several months ago.   
It is somewhat ironic that this all transpiring during the week that the “new” Globe & Mail is focusing on immigration and how Canada should be doing a better job helping immigrants to integrate into Canadian society.
OK, for those of you who live under a rock and missed this story, this is what happened.
David Chen, a Chinese immigrant, owns the Lucky Moose Food Mart on Dundas Street in Toronto. He has been plagued by shoplifters to such a degree that he installed a $30.000 video security system in the place. The police – just in case you forgot are the people who are supposed to capture bad guys - it seems have been very little help to him. In the past when he has called than have taken up to five hours to respond and when they do actually get there on time, have encouraged him not to press charges and have let the culprits go.
In May, Anthony Bennett, a petty thief and drug addict, skulked in and stole a bunch of flowers worth about $60.00. Flowers are easy to sell on the street for quick cash you see. Chen saw him do it but was unable to intervene and Bennett got away. Chen checked the security video and it was clear to him who did the dirty deed.
A few hours later, one assumes after successfully selling the flowers on the street, Bennett, a creature of habit returned to the Lucky Moose and from what I saw on the video tape was reaching over to steal more flowers. Chen confronted him. Bennett challenged Chen saying, “I have never been here before. You fuck off you Chinese. Stop bullshitting me.” Then he ran. Chen and another employee gave chase and eventually they were seen by another employee of Chen who was driving a delivery van. Together they captured Bennett and after a fight secured him, threw him in the van and hailed passing police to have him arrested.
Much to their surprise, they were hand cuffed, arrested, brought to the station and strip searched. And, charged with forcible confinement.
Now to be fair to the cops they did also charge Bennett the thief who has a rap sheet going back 30 years and who admitted that he had stolen the original flowers and recognizing a good thing, had returned to steal more flowers. Bennett was convicted but was offered a reduced sentence in exchange for a deal that he would agree to testify against Chen and his employees.
To be honest my only complaint against Chen is that the “moose” on his store sign looks more like a cow. But, I suppose most downtown Toronto people wouldn’t know the difference anyway.
Is this what Stephen Harper and Injustice Minister Vic Toews mean when the talk about their “Law and order agenda?”  I figure I must be one of their old “soft on crime” guys but to be honest, it all just pisses me off. 
If there is any justice in the system - which is debatable – the judge will through this charade whole thing out of court.