A “Trucksize” Loophole

In one of his recent musings on the pre-election stump, Stephen Harper referred to the current parliament as being “dysfunctional” — a dubious assertion by most objective measures such as the number of bills passed and so on, but perhaps one that’s not altogether without credence as illustrated by a story reported by the Canadian Press today about a serious flaw in government’s vaunted “Accountability Act” that became law at the beginning of July.

According to the CP, it’s just now come to light that the federal Lobbying Act has a “trucksize” loophole in a clause involving the reporting of arranged meetings that would effectively allow for an owner or director of a private firm to lobby the government without ever having to report it. Incredibly, this loophole passed completely unnoticed at every stage on its way to becoming legislation by those responsible for vetting it; namely, Opposition MPs and the Senate. What makes that totally inexcusable is that the loophole is made completely obvious in a government interpretation bulletin and is actually being used as one of the five examples in materials explaining the new law to the industry.

The exception to the rule seriously undercuts the “transparency” that the government purports to be striving for and could easily be subject to abuse. If the CP’s report that the loophole “took even lobbyists by surprise” is to be taken seriously, then would it be fair to suggest that this is yet another example of poorly drafted legislation being put forward by the Harper government? If that’s the case, the parliament truly is “dysfunctional” because everyone responsible will have dropped the ball here from start to finish.

According to NDP MP Pat Martin “any reasonable person” would consider the example in question be a reportable activity, adding that he couldn’t remember it being discussed “because who could conceive of something so ridiculous?” Good question. Who indeed?

CNN Censors “Rude Giant”

Jeff Jarvis may well be right about political conventions these days being nothing more than contemptible “staged events to get media coverage” and therefore not worthy of reporting on, but they’re tailor made for the quirky news stylings of CNN’s veteran correspondent Jeanne Moos, whose “beat” is the offbeat, so to speak.

In today’s “Moost Unusual” bit, she zeroed in on a giant pizza cut into a wheat field near the Denver airport for Papa John’s that delegates (and the 15,000 reporters as well, presumably) to the Democratic National Convention will see as their aircraft are landing. To pad out the piece, Moos did a quick review of other giant “crop circle” advertisements as well as assorted giant figures cut into farm fields across the country and around the world.

Which brings us to the so-called “Rude Giant” (also known as the Cerne Abbas giant or, more simply, the “rude man”), a chalk figure carved into a hillside in Dorset, England that dates back to the late 17th century, although its precise origins are unknown. Some historians have speculated that it may have been a parody of Oliver Cromwell, the regicidal English dictator. Cromwell was, of course, a fanatical Puritan and if he was aware of the Cerne Abbas, doubtless would have found its giant phallus highly offensive.

The puritan spirit lives on at CNN apparently. For whatever reason, the network felt obliged to censor the Rude Giant’s “naughty bits” by pixelating them when they appeared in the Moos piece. The reason was probably less to prevent their viewers’ delicate eyes from being offended, than to avoid bothersome complaints about broadcasting something “obscene or indecent” in violation of the FCC regulations, but in either case, it seemed quite strange for a “news” network in the 21st century to apply that standard of prudery to a four hundred year chalk carving. For a country that treasures “free speech” and holds up the first amendment right as being almost sacrosanct, the daft constraints imposed by the archaic FCC regulations on broadcasters utilizing the public airwaves seem like a terrible contradiction to the right of free speech in this day and age.

Another Useless Poll

As reported in the Toronto Star a new poll conducted by the Privy Council Office, the senior advisory team to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cabinet, shows that the government is “underwhelming” Canadians surveyed on its management of healthcare (whatever that means) and its “attempt to fight climate change” (I wasn’t even aware they were making one — is that the nebulous “plan” that kicks in around 2018?), but scores better when it comes to handling the economy. All of which tells us not much about anything.

Forty-eight per cent of respondents said the Tories had done a poor job “fixing climate change” and 43 per cent said they have done a poor job on health care. The latter is a notoriously difficult area to garner positive ratings, partly because of the complexity of the problems and partly because provinces have primary responsibility for the delivery of health services.

But the poll stresses that economic concerns loom large in the minds of Canadians.
While almost half of respondents thought the national economy was performing well at the moment, 35 per cent think it’s going to deteriorate in the next year or so.

Yeah, get going on “fixing climate change” would ya, Mr. Harper? That’s too funny. As for healthcare, I can’t see what the Conservatives could really be doing much differently, except perhaps exercise more oversight and accountability over the funds transferred to the provinces for specific initiatives. Regarding the economy, I’d suggest that most people simply aren’t aware of what a shambles the government’s balance sheet is in at the moment as a result of increased spending and decreased revenues.

Update: Not only is the poll useless, it’s a waste of money — your money.

Hapless Posturing on Crime

It’s kind of sad to see the Minister of Homeland Security, err, Public Safety, pedaling another ill-conceived “law and order” scheme designed to pander to the segment of the public that will forever be terrorized by unseen threats to their personal safety no matter what this government, or any other for that matter, might do, or not do, about the problem of crime.

Flogging the Conservative party’s latest initiative under the rubric “Tackling Crime” (or “attacking” crime en français) Stockwell Day had this to say:

We’re not looking at this in a punitive way. We want to see people, if they’re going to be in jail for a number of years, let’s get them in a training program, an apprentice program, maybe work towards a journeyman’s certificate, some type of occupational standard that, when they finally are released from prison, they have some way of taking care of themselves, rather than doing that illegally.”

Surely Day couldn’t be so obtuse as to be unaware that to his base, “attacking” crime should be looked at “in a punitive way”? In fact, the more the better!

If the Liberals had trotted out some lame kind of “occupational therapy” program like this for inmates, they would have been mercilessly excoriated. So what gives? Are the Conservatives going “soft on crime” now to get that mushy-middle of the vote? I’m very confused.

Update:
Oh look! One of the “Blogging Tories” dopiest slackwits is stepping up to the T-ball plate now to take a swing at this nettlesome issue…

Future Interfaces

In more interesting matters… Behold, the mobile search engine!

This is what I wish the internet search will be able to do with a mobile device in the NEAR future. Touch screen, built in camera, scanner, WiFi, google map (hopefully google earth), google search, image search… all in one device. Like this way, when you can see a building through it, it gives you the image search result right on the spot.

Part of a series on the “Future of Internet Search” at Petitinvention, a site that bills itself as presenting “better designs for a better life.”

“Doctor” in the Nuthouse

According to a story in the Globe & Mail this morning, it seems that the self-styled “Doctor” Charles McVety, an inveterate fabulist, extreme right-wing political activist and evangelical “Christian Zionist” (or whatever name his creed’s brand of God® goes by these days), is “unimpressed” by the fact that Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin (who is a real PhD., by the way) didn’t actually cast a vote in the controversial appointment of another Dr. (another real doctor) Henry Morgantaler to the Order of Canada.

“If Canadians cannot count on non-political, non-ideological justice from the Supreme Court of Canada, it compromises the whole justice system,” said McVety, proud owner of an honorary doctorate from an unrecognized “Christian” university cum diploma mill, “president” of the Canadian Family Action Coalition lobby group, and reputed confidante of Prime Minister Stephen Harper who is also an evangelical Christian.

Ah yes, “Dr.” McVety wants judges on the bench that are “non-political” and “non-ideological”… And if you believe that, well, then I’ve just been elected to my 10th term as President of the Republic of Tajikistan.

Bonus “Doctoral” Idiocy:
In a bitchy letter to William Thorsell, the CEO of the Royal Ontario Museum from March 2008, “Dr.” McVety writes, “The exhibit displays the legacy left by Darwin. Does it only display the positive or does it also display the negative? i.e. Hitler, Lennon, Mao, etc.” Who knew that John Lennon was such a monstrous figure of evil incarnate?

Update: Dawg puts the hammer to the Globe & Mail for its appalling coverage of the ridiculous antics of McVety and other “conservative Christian” political activists.

So there we have it: a whole slew of Potemkin village false-front organizations signing a complaint submitted by an evangelist with a fake doctorate. Come on, Globe. Is none of this worth a mention? A Stephen Harper favourite speaking in (forked) tongues? Or — a wicked thought — are the professional scribblers on Front Street not even aware of it?

Sad to say, that may well be the case.

Anti-Green Shift Astroturfing

Let’s see what “average Guelphite” Barry Osmond is
up to these days, shall we?

That name might ring a bell with some of you from the indignant letter he wrote to the Guelph Mercury on August 2nd regarding all of the negative sniping by Liberal supporters at Gloria “MIA” Kovach, including “implying she’s just a Stephen Harper sock puppet.” Apparently, Mr. Osmond doesn’t understand the meaning of the word “imply” but whatever.

The next day, Progressive Blogger “Skinny Dipper” speculated that Mr. Osmond might actually be the “Blogging Tory” that posts anonymously as “Christian Conservative” because of the distinct similarity of wording used in the letter to the editor and a blog post by the redeemed one also whinging about the negative attacks on Kovach. That would appear not to be the case, but one never knows for sure about these things.

Be that as it may, Skinny also wondered whether Mr. Osmond was, rather than just an average citizen, perhaps a Conservative partisan based on the strength of his name appearing as the contact on an invitation to 2007 Conservative Party fundraising dinner ostensibly celebrating the birthday of Sir John A. Macdonald featuring Preston Manning as the guest speaker. Perhaps so.

Now, it seems that Mr. Osmond has launched a website called “Stop the Carbon Tax” that another “Blogging Tory,” the pseudo-conservative pundit and Sun Media hack Gerry Nicholls promoted on his blog yesterday this way: “Grassroots opposition to the Liberal Carbon Tax is growing as evidenced by this cool new site” which linked to Osmond’s site. Yeah, right… “evidence” of “grassroots opposition” — from Conservative party operatives masquerading as average citizens. Cool? Try pathetic.

Update: Jeff Davidson has brought the picture above to our attention. “Average citizen” Barry Osmond is part of “Team Kovach” — he’s the one without boobs.