What Did They Expect?

For all of us who thought the talk about the Vancouver debacle would be done by now – enough self analysis you commentators - we are sick of it.

I swore I wasn’t going to join the, hockey violence begets street violence crowd. In fact I swore I wasn’t going to comment at all but...
  •  There was a riot 
  •  Most people with half a brain could feel it coming 
  •  Those who felt the crowd mood shift should have buggered off before there was a problem
  •  If you don’t have that kind of street smarts, you should have stayed in Richmond or Burnaby . 
The pundits now are getting their knickers in a knot over privacy.

Judging by the pictures I saw, the crowd was mostly made-up of the Facebook demographic and there were lots of cell phone cameras. The discussion now has shifted to the ethics of taking pictures of others setting cars on fire, breaking windows and looting and then posting those images on the web. Facebook shaming sites have sprung up like dandelions. They all have phones with the ability to post directly the internet so what else would one expect.

Privacy issues? Give your head a shake. Isn’t it more like “How stupid could you get?”


Wascana Creek Pelicans

To be honest I don't know a hell of a lot about pelicans but, for reasons I don't understand, there are a whole lot more of them on the prairies these days.

They are pretty amazing to watch, huge birds really.

In recent days the water has been so high on Wascana Lake in Regina the city opened the weir at the Albert Street Bridge to see if they could get the water level down.

Tipped off, I went down to the dike to watch them this morning.

To see more pictures of pelicans feeding and swimming in the foam generated by the rushing water have a look at the blog, Latitude Drifts.

Should we be Worried?

I often find it curious, the way issues seem to bounce off each other.

This morning's Globe and Mail has a page three story about Canada's Privacy Commissioner and her fight against some of the Internet's giants and the lack of respect given to privacy on the web.

It talked about her fight with Google and Facebook and the on-line dating site eHarmony as well as her discovery that Staples had been less that diligent about purging personal information from returned computer hard drives offered for re-sale.

Jennifer Staddart is a tough cookie determined to make sure your privacy is respected on the Internet.

It wasn't more than 10 minutes after reading the story that I checked my e-mail and found a link to an Open Media on-line petition warning me about what may be the greatest threat to our privacy. The Harper Government's proposed legislation which would allow the authorities to mine our computers for data without having to go through the bother of obtaining a warrant.

They tell us:

The government is trying to ram through an anti-Internet set of electronic surveillance laws that will invade your privacy and cost you money. The plan is to force every phone and Internet provider to surrender our personal information to "authorities" without a warrant.

This bizarre legislation will create Internet surveillance that is:

Warrantless: A range of "authorities" will have the ability to invade the private lives of law-abiding Canadians and our families using wired Internet and mobile devices, without a warrant or any justification.

Invasive and Dangerous: The laws leave our personal and financial information less secure and more susceptible to cybercrime.

Costly: Internet services providers may be forced to install millions of dollars worth of spying technology and the cost will be passed down to YOU.

The legislation, which in true Harper style is bundled with other "tough on crime" bills is described by the conservatives as one which will help track down "perverts and pedophiles." What could be wrong with that after all?

So is all this really a problem, or is Open Media over reacting? Internet expert and commentator Michael Giest thinks it is. He says:

There are several concerns with the Conservatives lawful access plans. First, it bears noting that these bills have never received extensive debate on the floor of the House of Commons and never been the subject of committee hearings. Police officers may support the legislation, but there has never been an opportunity to question them on the need for such legislation or on their ability to use lawful access powers if the bills become law. Federal and provincial privacy commissioners have expressed deep concerns about these bills, yet they have never had the opportunity to air those concerns before committee. Internet service providers, who face millions in additional costs - presumably passed along to consumers - have never appeared before committee. By making a commitment to passing lawful access within 100 days, the Conservatives are undertaking to pass legislation with enormous implications for the Internet that has never received parliamentary scrutiny and will receive limited attention.

Even that right wing rag Macleans Magazine is concerned.

Should we worry? I think so. All of us should be concerned but perhaps especially, guys like me, who spend the first few morning hours after coffee trying to hold the government's feet to the fire should take note. 

These guys are mean spirited and I don't trust them as far as I can throw them and for our pudgy Prime Minister, that isn't too far.

Can it Get More Mean Spirited Than That?

First the Harper Government signaled that they would bring in back to work legislation, so they could get the mail moving, after Canada Post locked out the postal workers. That, in and of itself was pretty outrageous, considering that the Government could simply tell the crown corporation to lift the lock out if they were concerned about mail service. Hell, I was getting regular mail delivery before the lock out. 
But no, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt, who claims to have a familial connection to labour - they must be estranged - did a quick jig around that issue and said the parties should get back to the table and that they were just trying to help.
So,  the legislation hit the table this week. In it, she wants to force the parties into a final offer selection process which is at least more fair than having an arbitrator decide the outstanding issues.
What did shock most fair minded Canadians however was the way the government bill dealt with the wage issue. The proposed back-to-work legislation sets out a wage settlement that is actually lower than Canada Post’s last offer.
Raitt's legislation calls for a wage settlement of 1.75 per cent in the first year, 1.5 per cent in the second year, and 2 per cent each in the final two years.
At the bargaining table, Canada Post has offered 1.9 per cent in each of the first three years, followed by 2 per cent in the final year.
The Canada Post employees on average will lose over $800.00 just because they exercised their legal right to, try to bring pressure on their employer, through a series of rotating strikes. 
The message is very clear. Don't mess with the the Harper Government or, you will pay. 
Can it get more mean spirited that that? I am afraid it can.


Deepak Who?

In a move that I thought bordered on an unfair labour practice Deepak Chopra, CEO of Canada Post, released a video message to unionized workers last week in which he said among other things that the union's demands would financially harm the Crown corporation.

I wondered who is this Deepak Chopra? So I Googled him. This what I found:

Deepak Chopra is a world-renowned authority in the field of mind-body healing, a best-selling author, and the founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing.

Heralded by Time Magazine as the "poet-prophet of alternative medicine," he is ,,,a global force in the field of human empowerment, Dr. Chopra is the prolific author of more than fifty-five books, including fourteen bestsellers on mind-body health, quantum mechanics, spirituality, and peace. Dr. Chopra's books have been published in more than eighty-five languages

Oops, wrong Deepak.

The Canada Post head, appointed in January was touted to have wide experience and knowledge by Chuck Strahl, who was then Harper’s Transport Minister. At Chopra's appointment Strahl said "His extensive experience in dealing with government and postal officials around the world, as well as his vast knowledge of the regulatory bodies governing the mailing industry, will definitely be a strong asset to the corporation,"

I’m not sure what he knows about the mail but he how Conservative Governments work. He locked out the union workers, shut down the mail service and gave the Blue Meanies’ Lisa Raitt an excuse to introduce back to work legislation which she is expected to do later today.

A Few Thoughts About Canada's Military Engagements

Royal Poobagh Muammar Gaddafi
The transition from peacekeeper to baby killer has taken us a while but, I think we have probably arrived.

For years we told ourselves that we, unlike some other nations, resisted getting our armed forces into messy wars. We preferred “police actions” and other peacekeeping roles.

Then some of our reputation got more than a little tarnished in Somalia and then Rwanda didn’t go well. Some of our military brass started telling Canadians we were kidding ourselves if we didn’t think our overseas military roles were a real shooting wars.

We managed to stay the hell out of Iraq thanks to Jean Chretian’s stubbornness but then, along came Afghanistan and in we jumped.

The government liked to characterize our involvement as being about building roads and getting girls into schools, but in the process, we managed to lose 156 mostly young men and women soldiers, one diplomat, two aid workers and one journalist.

Although our role in Afghanistan has shifted but our troops are still in harm’s way which seems quite absurd considering President Hamid Karzai’s recent statement that coalition forces remain in the country “for their own purposes, for their own goals and they are using our soil for that.” He probably isn't so wrong so what the hell are we doing there?

We have a Defence Minister who loves to play dress-up, American style, in his military outfits and a Prime Minister who too, loves to be photographed in a helmet and flak jacket, no matter how nerdy it makes him look.

We have moved from a government reluctantly bowing to international pressure to get involved to one eager to step to the front of the line.

Muammar Gaddafi, well known as when one of the world’s most notorious dictators, had been propped up by Western business, including one of our most high profile of Canadian companies, Suncor (Petro-Canada) worked in Libya for years and hardly for altruistic reasons. There was big money to be made. No one in Ottawa seemed to mind a bit.

When things began to go even more sideways that usual in the Arab world and Gaddafi resisted reform with bullets,  Canada was one of the first in line, sending a Naval vessel soon followed by fighter jets.

I never quite understood how we made the switch do quickly but I am willing to bet that Harper saw this as a quick and dirty little engagement which would see the dictator move off into exile somewhere a few short weeks after it started. I think he figured it would look good in his ratings at home. He was probably right on that count.

However, politicians never seem to learn that often these little wars can  take a bad turn when you least expect. So here we are, a few months in and Gaddafi or as he likes to be called, “The Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya” is still in Tripoli, as large as life.

Canada’s engagement in Libya which was, and still officially is, to protect civilians – wink wink, nod nod – has been extended by an almost unanimous vote in the House of Commons. Despite the politician’s support for Canada’s continued role a Globe & Mail poll suggested that 71% of Canadians feel that our mission should not be extended there.

NATO forces have now bombed rebel (the official good guys) at least three times by mistake and late last week bombed an apartment complex in Tripoli killing nine people including two children.

NATO won’t say what country’s aircraft were involved in the raid which killed the civilians, with good reason. Knowing that your country’s aircraft were involved in that misdirected bombing never would play well at home and NATO countries desperately need support from their citizenry.

When a country gets involved in regime change like it or not they are involved in putting together the government which replaces the one you helped depose, no matter what rag tag group step up to the plate. I don’t think Harper thought much about it but like that retail saying goes, “You break it. It’s yours.”

So, we are in the game, won’t get out soon. Like it or not, Canada will be involved with Libya for a good long time.