Holy F*ck, That Was Predictable

In the time-honored tradition of sneaky Friday afternoon news releases, the Stephen Harper Government announced yesterday that it will be axing another arts program at the end of this fiscal year. Trade Routes was a comprehensive trade development initiative that helped profit and not-for-profit organizations in the arts and cultural sector prepare to export and sell in international markets. Well, we certainly wouldn’t want to do that now would we? I mean, the recipients are probably all just a bunch of stinkin’ hippies and leftists in any case.

The statement on the Heritage Canada website indicated that the government is “committed to a more disciplined approach to managing spending in order to deliver programs that are efficient and effective and that meet the priorities of Canada.” Whatever that means.

Also on Friday, came word that Ottawa would be canceling PromArt, a $4.7-million “gravy train” (according to the National Post — the paper that loses almost a $1 million a month, you may recall), that sends artists abroad to promote Canadian culture. The reason?

…because Canadians would question the nature of some its grant recipients. (A Toronto band named Holy F– received PromArt funding, as did former CBC broadcaster Avi Lewis, described in a Conservative memo as “a general radical.”)

The horror! Imagine, a grant going to a band with a shocking name like that! Actually, they’re a pretty cool electro-pop outfit that was hailed by New Music Express as one of the top performances at the 2007 Glastonbury Festival. Check out their video called “Milkshake” below:

Thank goodness the Harper government has shown these artsy-fartsy degenerates a thing or two about fiscal responsibility! You know, just like it’s been doing by generously doling out $1 billion a year in corporate welfare to Pratt & Whitney, Alcan and other industrial giants. Or like when it “shed” itself of federal buildings across the country, but significantly undervalued its assets, which in the end resulted in close to a $400 million windfall for Larco Investments. You know, “efficient and effective” government initiatives “that meet the priorities of Canada.”

Absolutely Positively Prohibited?

As we know, some members of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church managed to evade our border security officials by cleverly not making their derangement completely obvious. Yesterday, Shirley Phelps-Roper told CTV News that the church was trying to courier protest signs to Winnipeg. After reading that, I wondered what unfortunate delivery firm she might select. According to a piece today in the Winnipeg Free Press, Phelps-Roper “said they sent their picketing signs into Manitoba by Federal Express.”

If that’s true, it would be interesting to know how the group’s signs and leaflets were cleared through Customs because, in my opinion, the materials in question should have been considered “prohibited goods” and properly classified as such under Tariff Item 9899.00.00 of the Customs Tariff which provides for “Hate propaganda” within the meaning of subsection 320( 8 ) of the Criminal Code.

Given the well known content of the protest materials, there seems little doubt that they would qualify as “hate propaganda” in accordance with the definition outlined in paragraphs 6-8 of Departmental Memorandum D9-1-15 (PDF); specifically, “Goods…that publicly incite or wilfully promote hatred against an identifiable group, distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.”

Invoking the one possible defense provided for by para. 11(b) that allows an exception in the case where the goods “predominately express, in good faith, an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text” would be a bit of a stretch. Any claim to “good faith” on the part of a group that regularly protests the deaths of US servicemen would be pretty laughable. But even allowing for there conceivably being some doubt about whether the materials constituted prohibited goods, they should have been detained by Customs for determination in this regard, a process that could, unfortunately for the protesters, take up to 30 days…

A Defining Moment

It’s 3:00 A.M. The phone rings. McCain is angry.

The outbreak of war between Georgia and Russia has provided a revealing study in contrasts when it comes to the responses by John McCain and Barack Obama to the escalating crisis. Calling it a true “3 a.m. moment,” Ben Smith at The Politico examines the two candidates differing approaches:

While Obama offered a response largely in line with statements issued by democratically elected world leaders, including President Bush, first calling on both sides to negotiate, John McCain took a remarkably — and uniquely — more aggressive stance, siding clearly with Georgia’s pro-Western leaders and placing the blame for the conflict entirely on Russia.

Here’s Obama’s response:

“I strongly condemn the outbreak of violence in Georgia, and urge an immediate end to armed conflict. Now is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint, and to avoid an escalation to full scale war. Georgia’s territorial integrity must be respected. All sides should enter into direct talks on behalf of stability in Georgia, and the United States, the United Nations Security Council, and the international community should fully support a peaceful resolution to this crisis.”

And here’s McCain’s:

“Today, news reports indicate that Russian military forces crossed an internationally-recognized border into the sovereign territory of Georgia. Russia should immediately and unconditionally cease its military operations and withdraw all forces from sovereign Georgian territory. We should immediately call a meeting of the North Atlantic Council to assess Georgia’s security and review measures NATO can take to contribute to stabilizing this very dangerous situation.”

One might think that how people interpret those statements would provide a rather unsurprising litmus test of their own political sensibilities, but not always it seems. McCain’s response, while being praised as “tough and robust” by the Heritage Foundation and positively characterized by a number of right-wing blogs, has run afoul of other conservatives. Daniel Larison at The American Conservative, for example, dismisses it as “mindlessly provoking for no good reason” while noting McCain’s long-term “hostility” to Russia and his “weird chumminess” with the Georgian government. He also piles on John Cole’s highly critical assessment:

There you have it, in a nutshell. You vote for McCain, you get the same Manichean belligerence and needless warmongering we all have enjoyed so much.

Those are probably notable exceptions to the rule, however.

End of the Affair

Elizabeth Edwards has posted a diary at Daily Kos. As Jesus General rightly says, this is “the only commentary that matters”:

Our family has been through a lot. Some caused by nature, some caused by human weakness, and some – most recently – caused by the desire for sensationalism and profit without any regard for the human consequences. None of these has been easy. But we have stood with one another through them all. Although John believes he should stand alone and take the consequences of his action now, when the door closes behind him, he has his family waiting for him.

John made a terrible mistake in 2006. The fact that it is a mistake that many others have made before him did not make it any easier for me to hear when he told me what he had done. But he did tell me. And we began a long and painful process in 2006, a process oddly made somewhat easier with my diagnosis in March of 2007. This was our private matter, and I frankly wanted it to be private because as painful as it was I did not want to have to play it out on a public stage as well. Because of a recent string of hurtful and absurd lies in a tabloid publication, because of a picture falsely suggesting that John was spending time with a child it wrongly alleged he had fathered outside our marriage, our private matter could no longer be wholly private.

The pain of the long journey since 2006 was about to be renewed.

John has spoken in a long on-camera interview I hope you watch. Admitting one’s mistakes is a hard thing for anyone to do, and I am proud of the courage John showed by his honesty in the face of shame. The toll on our family of news helicopters over our house and reporters in our driveway is yet unknown. But now the truth is out, and the repair work that began in 2006 will continue. I ask that the public, who expressed concern about the harm John’s conduct has done to us, think also about the real harm that the present voyeurism does and give me and my family the privacy we need at this time.

It would be nice if that was the last word on the matter, although I rather doubt that’s going to be the case.