Category Archives: Organizations

The Duffy Show–Budget Motivations

The Senator Mike Duffy trial continues, exposing more of the compost heap.  For those not fully apprised of the contents of the testimony so far, here’s a reasonable recap

If you’re too lazy this Saturday morning to click a link, this is the short form:  Duffy as a Senator gets a budget to about $150,000 a year for the office and research.  Like all Parliamentary budgets, it’s on the basis of use it or lose it, meaning come March 31 any money left gets pulled and you start April 1 with a new pile of money for the office and research.  So if you’ve had a lazy year and spent most of it making puppies, there is this budget number that seems to demand you spend it. 

In the simplest of fiddles, you order a bunch of stuff and make sure the invoices all say March 31.  The budget used up, everyone goes on their merry way and some buddies get cash for oh, communications consulting? 

Having been on the vendor side more than a few times, we used to call it March Madness.  There were stories about companies that would ship boxes of phone books or bare chassis computers to the client that would arrive, be received and the appropriate weight duly entered into the books.  Since it was on the government shipping dock by March 31, it was deemed delivered, the invoice duly paid and as long as nobody looked to hard, life went on.  Speechwriting and research contracts?  As long as someone in the office said they got the document, the invoice was paid.  Long after March 31 would some kind of actual item truly arrive, but as long as there was something in their hands by March 31, the appropriate dollars were allocated from the appropriate year’s budget.

This speaks to exactly how people are motivated by budgets.  If you don’t use what was allocated to you by intelligent, sensible mandarins who know better than you ever will, then you obviously don’t know your job, so they reduce your budget the next year, usually by the amount you didn’t spend the year previously.  (/sarcasm on) After all, the wise and brilliant above you would never over-estimate what was needed, as they are intelligent, skilled, diligent guardians of the public purse, who have their fingers on the pulse of all public spending, with extensive systems, checks, balances and audit reports from consultants that back up every dollar allocated. (/sarcasm off)

Or, if you’re in the Senate, you take the unused portion of your budget and write up a contract to your buddy for a report called “The Age Wave” and have it paid for through another company, say Maple Ridge Media or Ottawa ICF, who got the lion’s share of the budget and also probably charges a fee to the Senator for ‘editorial services’ or ‘contract management’, takes their percentage over and above, then strokes you a cheque, not from the Senate, but from a private company. 

On the Hill, this is perfectly normal.  In private industry, this is called a ‘fuzz job’ as the source of the money and the reason for the money being spent is made as fuzzy as possible, preferably through several layers of companies.  Or, you could call it money laundering, but that has such a distasteful connotation doesn’t it? 

Which is why Duffy’s fitness trainer, Mike Croskery was on the stand in Ottawa last week.

Now, we do know some of the players in this game.  Gerry Donohue used to be the NABET (National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians) regional union rep at a joint called CJOH-TV.  He was the lead negotiator on the NABET contract and in the late 80’s/early 90’s just a negotiations were starting up, was amazingly and remarkably hired by the company to be their Human Resources guy.  So you had the situation of the previous union rep sitting across the table, as the company rep, during a contract negotiation. 

If this strikes you as a conflict of interest, then you don’t know Gerry Donohue. 

Needless to say CJOH-TV no longer exists, having been absorbed into Bell Media, gutted, populated with interns and turned into a low-rent cable access channel with tower space on the array at Camp Fortune.  Duffy used to work out of CJOH-TV back in the day and that’s most likely how he met Donohue.

Which is also why this trial for Expense Fraud and General Assholery is so much fun to watch. 

Duffy is being hung out to dry because there is no real expense oversight in the Senate.  As long as you don’t try to put your Miniature Weimaraner on the payroll, everything else, is fine. 

The rot starts at the budget office, with the negative implications of actually saving the taxpayers some money off the various budgets.  To turn it upside down and make saving budget a positive incentive, herewith our solution.

If you as a budget manager use smart thinking, creative use of suppliers, shrewd negotiations in keeping with the general Federal guidelines, act fairly and ethically, and manage to come in under budget, you personally get a cash bonus of 2% of the savings to divy up with your team.  The job still gets done, the things get procured under the usual standards and if you can save money, there is no implied penalty of having your budget slashed the next year. 

Budgets change every year, so if one year you didn’t need $100,000 worth of infrastructure improvements that were budgeted for and managed to safely stretch, maintain or otherwise do with what you had, instead of burning money because you could, you’d get a taste.  If the next year, you really needed to spend $150,000 to keep up, then no problem.  Over time, the government would come out ahead, spending when it needed to spend, based on the judgment of those who actually do the job, not on the uninformed esoteric guesstimates of bureaucrats and their consultants in their isolated silos of self-importance and business card title dick measuring. 

Duffy, having been duly briefed by the Senate Budget Office, as to what he can and cannot claim, does what any punk would do, looks for the loopholes.  He goes looking for the very specifics that say You cannot do X.  As soon as you see that they specify X, but not Y, bill for Y.  Which explains why Gerry Donohue became the defacto Royal Canadian Bank of Duffy to hide expenses under the general catchall of ‘communications and research’.

A good auditor, knowing that the Senate is populated by fart-catchers and bagmen for the party should be on high alert for exactly those kinds of fiddles, that in their former lives, the good Senators did as a matter of course, with no more moral baggage of ‘doing wrong’ than loading up on bacon at the breakfast buffet.

The wise betting line is that the Right Honourable Stephen (Call me Stephen) Harper will let this show trial play out, as a sterling example of how totally screwed the Senate is, and fortuitously add a plank to his fall campaign to remove the Senate, using Duffy as the poster child for what is wrong with the Senate and why it should be s-canned.

With any luck, it will distract the public from the real mess, Bill C-51 or the Ministry of Finance’s three-card montie trick of a balanced budget by deferring all spending to 2017.

Charleston and Duffy

We’ve got a bit of a two-fer today, as both events are causing us great vexation. 

First off Walter Scott being gunned down in North Charleston, SC.  If you haven’t seen the video of Walter Scott being shot by a police officer, here it is.  Aside from the obvious attempt of the officer to plant something and the fact they officer was charged not with manslaughter, or self-defense, but straight up murder, and the racial stink that permeates the whole thing, there is one more vexatious point:  How can a trained police officer fire eight rounds at a target moving away from him at no more than 30 feet and only hit the target once?  Where did the other seven rounds go?  The Projectile Fairy didn’t capture them and put them under the officer’s pillow that night, of that we’re fairly certain. 

Which tells me the North Charleston Police couldn’t train a goose to shit, let alone teach their officers how to use the spectrum of force and when to increase the amount of force used with a subject.  That’s Policing 101, usually about Day 2 of rookie orientation.  For those who don’t know about the spectrum of force, here’s a good discussion

From our perspective as a citizen it’s simple enough to follow.  Simple presence of the uniformed officer, a commanding voice and attitude, hand control, active restraint, or baton, then chemical (OC spray, or Mace) electrical discharge weapons like a Taser or a Beanbag Shotgun, then the firearm.  Notice the escalation, from simple, loud, commands (“Stay in your car and drop the keys out the window”) to pulling the sidearm and everything in between.

There are exceptions of course, based on the situation.  If you pull over a guy and he gets out of the car with a shotgun and brings it up, you tell them drop the weapon and get your firearm ready to go, as the suspect has escalated things (Suspects don’t necessarily care about escalation of force protocols) and you have to react appropriately, immediately.  We’ve got no problem with that, at all. 

The Walter Scott shooting is another thing.  That went from an out of shape 50 year old with no obvious weapon or threat to the officer, running away, to an officer planting evidence after firing a clip at the suspect.  Had it played out sensibly, the officer would have got back in his car and followed Walter Scott for another 200 yards until he ran out of run and collapsed on his own.  Cuffs, backup, done with minimal paperwork and less fuss. 

Was Walter Scott in fear for his life?  We don’t know, but the dashcam footage showed a reasonable traffic stop and a compliant citizen who panicked in front of a cop with less experience with spectrum of force than my dog.  At least the dog has the smarts to back off when the cats give that low, rumbling hiss that translates across species into “Eff Off!”  We would also strongly recommend that every officer in North Charleston go back to the range and prove they can actually hit targets, center of mass at 10, 20, and 50 feet.  We don’t need idiots sending rounds all over the neighbourhood because they can’t shoot straight and that includes the police.

Senator Mike Duffy’s trial for Expense Fraud and charges of General Assholery is in its first week.  Up here our Federal Senate is populated by appointment of the Prime Minister.  It’s a reward for being a fart-catcher with rules that are looser than Amish sphincters after a binge-eat at the All You Can Eat Burrito Bar at Applebee’s.  Hiring a convicted serial rapist as your personal assistant is considered bad form, but that’s about it.  The caveat with this kind of demented-emperor oversight is that you say good things about the government and every program they bring forward is simply wonderful for all Canadians. 

Did Duffy go jowls-deep in the feed trough?  Sure he did; all the Conservative appointees do, just like all the Liberal appointees did when the Liberals were in power.  Up to the elbow in free trips, expense fiddles, hiring cousins with no work experience, or the easy fiddles of simply not showing up for work for two years at a stretch, but someone managing to cash the paycheque from your cushy digs in Mexico.  No committee work, no endless bladder-crippling meetings, no Question Period, nothing more exhausting than flying to Vancouver to do a 20 minute speech about how a government program is simply wonderful, words pre-written by the PMO and delivered with the standard half-hearted enthusiasm of a long-time party hack who has been phoning it in since 1988.  Then there is the crippling stress of having your assistant file the expense claims, which can only be relieved by flying to a foreign climate to rest and recuperate, on the taxpayer’s dime.

To be frank, our Senate is a joke beyond redemption that costs us millions of dollars every year for the members of the chamber of Sober Second Thought to roll around in the trough.  We get more value for money from the Dominion Carillonneur when she plays K’naan’s Wavin’ Flag on the Parliament Hill bells.  At least you can walk by the Hill and go, “What the heck is that song, holy crap, it’s that World Cup thing!  Kewl!”

With luck the Duffy Show will play out as expected just before our upcoming Federal Election in October.  The Harper Government will be painted accurately as mean-spirited micromanaging bullies.  Then the voting citizens will be confronted with a choice of None Of The Above on our ballots.




Mason Baveux Goes Oly

We turn the blog over to our pinch hitter Mason Baveux for his, um, unique take, on the Olympics in Sochi.  Mason?

Thanks for bloggery Davey as you know I watch er close enough for four people, let alone just meself.

The Openin Ceremonials were what I’d expect from a country what was Commie for so long.  It looks like they sold off the producin rights to the drug-addled dope heads what did the French Winter Olys in 1992 in Albertville.  There was dancers flyin all over the place while they shot pictures down on the arena floor and then reenacted the Battle of Kursk with flyin rigs and no tanks.  Plus they left out the bit about Stalin killin about a third of the population when he woke up from a four-day vodka toot.  Not all of us are as forgetful as that, doncha know. Citius, Altius, What the Fookius?

As for Sochi, there were enough stories about rooms without doors, or taps that dispensed hot and cold sewage that I don’t need to bring that back up.  Oh and the shots of the main drag in Sochi havin friggin palm trees for chrissakes.  Jesus Mary and Gord, do those dough-heads at the IOC not check an atlas before they give up the rights?  It seems they got snow alright, if you consider ground up ice that’s sloppier than the ex-wife’s twat to be real snow-snow.  Crap lads, hold the Winter Olys somewheres they have Winter.  Should maybe write that down as Rule #1. 

I was all wound up to report on the Snowstyle Skiing what it is a new Oly sport, when I come down with a case of of the flu what caused me to be on my arse for near close a week.  They fed me full of over the counter cold medicine that when mixed up with the rum I was takin for medicinal purposes caused a couple of issues.  I think Canada won some Gold Medals there, but all I could see was some girls and a couple of guys fallin down a hill arse over teakettle on skis, what then get a score.  Seems you get the high score if you don’t actually die.  I think I missed some in there from the medicine, so’s it not the whole story. 

I want to take a moment here and talk about the Gay Right thing what was all in the papers before the Sochi Games.  It’s like CCM or Bauer for skates.  Some like the Taks, other like the Bauers.  I’m a CCM guy, so don’t be wavin your Bauer’s at me.  And don’t come round with some raggedly ass Nike skates.  There just wrong and then there’s Wrong with a capital letter.  I’m from the old school of what you do in private is up to you.  If you like this or that equipment, that’s your choice and as long as you’re not offerin something I don’t want and are willin to accept a polite “Eff Off” then I got no issue. 

When the Russian government and Vladimir Putin gets up on the back legs about the gays not bein gayish in Sochi, then maybe they should look at some of the sports, like two-man luge, ice dancin or Bobsleddin then think for another eleven seconds afore openin your borscht hole.  Don’t be a bad host or a bad guest, but if your host is offerin you a roasted goat ballsack covered in chocolate sprinkles, you can just say no, politely and wait for the Chex Party Mix to come by again.  A good guest don’t do nothin to offend and the host don’t offer somethin that’s goin to make people angry.  A bit of give and take, is all I’m sayin.    

Fancy Skatin:  Patty Chan did a fine job today, nailin a Silver in the Fancy Skatin and that Japanese 19 year old kid is goin to be a killer come 2018 wherever the hell they’re hostin next.  I was confused, or mebbe I didn’t hear right, but one of the Oly commentators said Patrick Chan had a chink in his armour.  I didn’t near but laugh my rum across the room in a spit take that Sid Caesar woul’d laughed at and now he’s dead, don’t you know.

Girl’s Ski Jumpin:  Holy Fook me!  I’m for it.

Cross-Country:  Mother of Pearl those folks are fit.  I’d like to see them change up the biathalon though.  Two loops, one clockwise, one counter, but they meet in the middle where the gun range is.  No targets, except your competitors across the way.  I think that’d change it up a bit and harken back to the early days of WWII when Finland took on the Russkies and damn near beat their asses.

Tag Team Luge:  This’ere a new one, but I think they missed the boat.  They should start side by side and be allowed to duke it out on the way down.  Sort of like the bike pursuit in the Summer Olys.  One chasin, and one runnin away from the other, but we’d have to say no to the spikes in the gloves.

Canada’s gettin’er done over there.  And I’s back to the Benlyn with the Codeine and the Captain Morgan chaser.  Later.

Ramping Up for the Olympics

The Winter Olympics are coming soon to Sochi, Russia and like all Good Canadians, we are waiting with baited breath.  That is a bald-faced lie of course, we do not give a red-circled damn about the Olympics.

Our man on the Olympic Games, Mason Baveux, has recovered from his recent bout of what he calls the “shakey-jakes” from industrial-grade drinking over the holiday season.  Unfortunately he got bronchitis from his nephew “The Arsehole” who came to visit and Mason had to stand a two week course of codeine-based cough syrup consumption to keep his lungs in his body.  We suspect the combination of Benyln and Blue contributed to the shakey-jakes, but Mason assures us he is in fighting trim to cover the Olympics for us:

Ise been watchin the tube in this here ramp up to the Olys Davey, just so you know and Ise ready to give’er, you know, with them sporty commentatin insights.  Looks like we’re about as ready as we’ll ever be.

We await the opening ceremonies with a mixture of fear and sleeplessness and for Mason’s first missive.

Winifred Elizabeth

We have a number of companion animals in our nuclear unit here in the Great White North.  There are four cats, Bella, Charlie, Gus, and Tommy, all rescues from either the Humane Society or privately. 

Previous incumbents have included a Black Lab, Ebo, Ralph the Collie/Hound cross and Joseph Arthur Lonley our first cat of nearly twenty years standing.  Ebo, Ralph and Joey are still here, their ashes in three urns on the bookcase, keeping watch over us.  They’re marked as Present, but not Attending.

A little while ago we added to this mix:  Winifred Elizabeth, came to live here. 

Winnie had a rough start, being the punching bag for an abusive couple who split up, then after a few moves wound up essentially living only in the kitchen of her previous ‘caregivers’, full time.

Through some connections, we met Winnie and arranged for her to stay where she could be cared for properly and made part of our family.  Winnie, of course, accepted.

The first few days with the cats were, to be generous, chaotic.  Winnie didn’t know what cats were and tried to play with them like she would play with another 60 pound, 15-month old puppy: Vigorously, with much leaping, bounding and ear-splitting barks. 

The cats were of one voice; “What the fcuk is THAT!” as they scurried under beds, or up onto cupboards as high off the floor as possible, hissing and cussing imprecations of a fearsome nature.  We were told a few times to “Take THAT THING out of OUR house and drown it in the river NOW!” the chorus usually led by Bella, our 10 year old Queen of the Manor.  We are constantly amazed that four of the gentlest, most loving cats can turn so nasty with such rapidity.  However, this is evolving.

Winnie is learning her manners and commands, like sit, stay, down and heel, as well as to use the nearby park for waste elimination, instead of the hallway carpet.  Being a rescue, she does have a few issues, like a distrust of males, loud noises and a higher level of timidity than one would expect, but she is starting to relax, learn and adapt. 

The cats are adapting in their own way, letting Winnie walk by them on the floor without cussing under their breath or offering to open Winnie a new orifice or two.  We are not finding the cats rummaging through the knife drawer for my 14” Sabatier chef’s knife (“Gus, help me pick this thing up, it’s too heavy for me.  Goddammit, we haven’t got opposable thumbs!”).  They have managed to go nose to nose often with Winnie, without a trip to the vet for suturing up Winnie’s snout.  Several meals have been taken as a group, without the cats going after her kibble, or Winnie going after their soft food. 

More recently, there has been some sharing of the bed, with one or two cats, Winnie, then finally the two humans taking up the last remaining square millimeter of covers that the animals have deigned to let us have.  Cat and Dog owners understand this situation, as the Laws of Cat Physics require a 10 pound cat to barely fit on twenty-five square feet of bed.     

Winnie has met many of the other neighbourhood dogs that congregate in the park a few doors down our street.  The roll call includes: Winston, Moose, Lucky, Sally, Jake, Maggie and perhaps a dozen other unnamed dogs.  They have taught Winnie that chase-me-chase-me is fun and so is dodge-human.  Dodge-Human, or Bipedal Bowling involves several big, fast, strong, athletic dogs running straight at the bipedals and veering off at the last moment.  Most of the time.    

We’re not all the way there yet, but we will soon see a sofa full of ears, snouts, butts, legs and tails, all snoozing together, all perfectly comfortable with each other and with us.

Welcome to your Forever Home, Winifred Elizabeth.  We’re glad you are here. 

Also an Unusual but Urgent Request

A few of us who blog on a semi-regular basis come together with the same objective from time to time.  The Windy City Wonder and I have corresponded for couple of years now and he’s a frequent commentator on RoadDave.  He’s posted a bit on his page regarding the situation in the Philippines and the urgent need for aid in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

Marylou has several dozen friends in the Philippines from her job in the call-center business and has been to places like Bacolod and Cebu many times.  Her colleagues are all safe so far, but many have families or relatives in Tacloban, the hardest hit area from the typhoon.  Tacloban has basically been wiped off the map. 

When these kinds of disasters go down what is needed is money.  Not that the Red Cross is going from area to area handing out pesos, but so that the Red Cross can use their emergency supplies that are pre-staged now, then use your donations to replenish their inventory for the next disaster, wherever and whenever that might be.

The Red Cross is the preeminent disaster relief organization world-wide.  The Canadian Red Cross, here, needs your donation for Typhoon Haiyan relief now.  The Canadian government will match you dollar for dollar, so if all you can spare is $2, then the government will match your deuce, with another one.

I don’t do charitable outreach here, except in exceptional circumstances.  This is one where your money can double and be put to urgent use now. 

I’m asking you to donate if you can.  I’m also asking you to repost, or link to this or Jon’s posting, to spread the word. 

Thank you.       

Duffy, Wallin and Harper

We’re going to go there.  Unfortunately, there also has to be translations for our non-Canadian readers.  If you do remember your Canadian civics class, you can skip through the first few ‘graphs.

Canada has a Senate, a chamber of sober second thought that reviews what is passed by the House of Commons and votes for or against it, with the resulting mess being given Royal Assent and whatever madness that results, later becomes Law.  With a few exceptions, the Senate is a rubber stamp operation up here, as compared to the US.  Other exceptions are also notable:  Our Senators are appointed by the Governor-General on behalf of the Queen, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.  They’re not elected.  Use that yellow highlighter marker you have there and highlight not elected.  Ooops, sorry about that.  

It used to be that a Senate appointment was for life, but that’s been scaled back to 75 years of age with a pension that is freakin’ amazing.  About all they don’t get is a lotion boy.  Technically the 105 Senators are appointed from each of the territories and provinces to provide a cross-Canada representation of seats, as well as experiences, backgrounds and expertise.  In reality, a Senate appointment is a payback for party hacks, flacks and clingons who have kissed so much ass that their noses aren’t merely discoloured; they’ve got a brown ring around their necks that show their Depth of Commitment.   

Canadian Readers can pick up here:

Three Senators, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau have been in the news with revelations that they have been playing either fast and loose with the expenses or have been victims of rules that are at best confusing.  Rumour has it, retired Senator Dr. Wilburt Keon, an internationally renown heart surgeon and medical researcher, with degrees out the wazoo (Harvard, McGill) and brains from here to Moncton took one look at the expense rules and said “Fooked if I know!”  We suspect the story is apocryphal.  (Disclosure:  I’ve met Duffy several times (he’s an ex-television reporter) and have shared breakfast more than once with Wallin when she hosted Canada AM at CJOH in Ottawa, in that toxic cafeteria at 1500 Merivale, 800 years ago.  Brazeau, we wouldn’t know from a knothole in a fence board).

Senators are allowed a housing and travel allowance if their residence is more than 100 kilometers from Ottawa, but here’s where it gets murky.  Is it your full-time residence or a residence of convenience to say you are representing a particular region or province?  Duffy said he lived in PEI and did in fact have property there, but didn’t have a PEI Driver’s License or health card, the presence of which would suppose actual residency.  Wallin said Wadena, Saskatchewan was home and she does own a joint there.  Brazeau lives up past Maniwaki, PQ and that meets the 100 km rule.

Being Senators and clever, they made sure they also have digs in Ottawa for when they’re in town, as nobody wants to live on borrowed sofas or shady guest rooms on an Ikea futon.  Four Senators, (let us not forget Mac Harb claiming a garden shed up in Eganville, ON as his permanent residence) got rousted by the Board of Internal Economy for fascinating travel and housing claims.  Duffy was on the hook for $90,000 worth and a few months ago paid it back, thanks to a timely loan from the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff at the time, Nigel Wright who bucked up the $90,000 as Duffy didn’t have the coin immediately to hand.  Wallin has paid back most of what she got dinged for out of her own pocket.

Except the story doesn’t end there. Wallin and Duffy were both journalists of long standing with many friends and acquaintances in the Fourth Estate as well as the Opposition party.  Many hundreds of very pointed questions were asked of Stephen “Call Me The Right Honourable Prime Minister Stephen Harper” Harper to the point that Harper prorogued Parliament this summer in the hopes that no media coverage and the black flies would make the very pointed questions go away.  The questions are really only three:

1) Did the PMO give the $90,000 to Duffy to shut up the Board of Internal Economy and the investigation of just how fast and loose everyone plays with the expenses?  The RCMP is already looking into just how sloppy everyone there plays with the rules and a real RCMP investigation would reveal so much mud that the Conservatives would be doomed politically for an eternity up in the nosebleeds on the wrong side of the House.

2) Did the Prime Minister broker the deal, holding a figurative gun to Duffy’s head (and by implication Wallin and Brazeau) with a simple, “Pay it all back, sit down, shut the fcuk up, play the way we say and don’t ever contradict the PMO again” ultimatum.  Considering how hard the PMO bullies the House members, it takes about four milliseconds to assume that they do the same to anyone on the Hill and that includes Senators appointed by Harper.  You play by the PMO rules, or you’re dead to the PMO, forever. 

3) Is our Prime Minister a lying sack of ordure who will do anything short of actually gunning people down, to get the uncomfortable questions to stop?  Well, the Opposition won’t let up now that the House is back on the job and the PMO has demanded that Wallin, Duffy and Brazeau be suspended without pay or privileges right now.  That means being booted out of the Senate.

Monday, Duffy stood up in the Senate and essentially said he was jobbed by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the PM was in the room with Duffy and his Chief of Staff when Duffy was read the riot act.  Harper has always said that the loan was on his Chief of Staff’s own bat and he didn’t know about it.  (See Question 3) 

Wallin, yesterday. demanded to know why she was being railroaded with the PMO acting as judge, jury and executioner before any charges have been laid, or any proof of malfeasance has been brought forward and proven.  There was also an interesting sidelight about another Senator, Marjory LeBreton essentially being Harper’s consigliore in the Senate, who lead the charge to have Wallin s-canned.  LeBreton is the Leader of Government in the Senate which means she is the PMO’s enforcer: She packs serious heat and if she says so, then be assured Stephen says so.  LeBreton  is the Senator who brought the motion to the Senate.  (Disclosure:  We have dined with Senator LeBreton a couple of times back in the mid-90’s)

On the face of it, knowing some of the players at least a little bit, the PMO is doing everything short of producing a private porno of the Senators rolling naked in a pile of money, to make Duffy and Wallin go away, to stop the embarrassing questions from the Opposition in the House. 

The PMO wants the questions to stop because it is coming to light that what was only whispered about for the last nine years:  The PMO and the Prime Minster are desperate to gain and keep power as long as possible.  If that means being the biggest and baddest bullies on the Hill, then so be it: Grandma is going to get her hip broken.  They’re terrified that it will come out that the PMO couldn’t run a vending machine without their business buddies telling them how to stick a quarter in it. 

And they’re terrified that it will come out that the Conservative party is little more than an unelected oligarchy running the PMO, determined to manipulate our country into some kind of Reform Party masturbatory fantasy from 1953 where the “proper” people rule by fiat, the women wear slips, hats, white gloves and makeup while the children are all required to go to Sunday school every week.  And the rest of you had best shut up and be thankful we let you exist.

Twelve Years Later

A dozen years after 9/11 and it is still weird seeing that date on the calendar.  There is a smaller psychic wobble now as we’ve moved on from 2001, not really healed, but at least being able to cope with how we feel about things.

Like most, we remember where we were when it happened, in our case on a flight to San Francisco from Ottawa, to start building out some Hands-On Labs for that little company called Microsoft.  The flight got as far as Lake Ontario, when it was told to turn around, go back to YOW, land, get the pax off and shut it down to await further instructions.  That’s all the flight crew knew.  I called home to a tearful spouse who told me the rest of the story:  A plane had crashed into the WTC in New York.  I passed that data to the other passengers and the flight attendant nearby, who passed it on to the crew.

Landing and disembarking, we were confronted with 3,000 deadly quiet others in the Ottawa Airport, staring open-mouthed at the TV screens, not making a sound, not comprehending what they were seeing as the second plane had just punched a hole in our collective innocence.  I got the bags and met Marylou at the curb.  We hustled home and parked on the sofa for the next two days, unbelieving, uncomprehending and confused.

To this day those scenes are burned into our minds as they should be.  They caused a ripple of hurt, anger and confusion as there was no valid reason for this to happen to us.  Or so we thought. 

We haven’t fixed any of it.  Some would say that the military-industrial-security complex that suddenly popped up made sure we would never feel safe again.  A fearful populace is a compliant populace who will pay for and demand every possible protection and agree to every possible intrusion on our privacy as long as the government promises to never let that happen again.  As long as we didn’t have to see a tower turn into powder and fall to the ground, we bent over.

A dozen years on now, we should revisit how we reacted and what has been done in our name to ‘protect’ us from that hurt. I’m not saying it was all good, nor all bad:  Like all humans making decisions on the fly we may have made mistakes that we should go back and look at again.

And at the same time, remember those who lost so much on September 11, 2001.

Easter Catch Up

Sorry about not posting sooner, but life intrudes once in a while. 

We’ve made it to Easter, Good Friday specifically and am sitting here puzzled. 

The meme of Good Friday for those of us who do the Judeo-Christian thang is a religious holiday commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus around AD 33.  It is preceded by Maundy Thursday, the day of the Last Supper and followed by Easter Sunday celebrating Jesus’ resurrection.  One would suppose nothing much happened on the Saturday, except getting the camel washed at a Sabbath Camel Wash, where you didn’t actually have to do anything, except walk the camel through and go to Temple.  Like Walter Sobchak, most folks back then didn’t roll on Shabbos either.

What is puzzling is the conjunction of marketing and occasion-hype with a religious holiday.  Here’s the story, as told by advertisers:  Easter Sunday all good children get chocolate eggs delivered by a rabbit or a ginormous chocolate mould of a bunny that weighs more than the kid.  Official colours are purple and fire-engine yellow, with a bale of chopped paper or plastic excelsior stuffing to ‘cushion’ the 14-pound chocolate eggs from damage. 

Or, the young ones search for brightly wrapped ‘eggs’ again hidden by the mysterious Easter Bunny all over the back yard, with the attendance of parents screaming fearsome encouragement at their offspring to find more than the other 3-year olds who can barely walk, let alone understand the confluence of bunny-egg-chocolate-purple-yellow-basket-uber-competition they’re being immersed in as a cultural touchstone of their faith.  Then we sit down to a massive meal that must feature ham and scalloped potatoes, otherwise what kind of shitheel parent are you, ignoring the whole pork-kosher thing.

Yeah, yeah, we get the bunny-fecundity-spring-renewal thing and wonder exactly why a manufactured spring ritual is now tied to the peak of the holy story of crucifixion-resurrection-redemption of one of the bigger religions out there.  It sits poorly.  There’s no marketing tie-in with March Madness college hoops, uncontrolled sports wagering and specials on carpet, siding or replacement windows at special prices to celebrate some guy getting nailed on a cross a long time ago? 

Heck, if all we wanted to celebrate was an execution, Gary Gilmore was executed January 17th 1977 and we could use the energy to lasso in some last-of-Christmas season sales by pairing a cute groundhog mascot with Little Debbie cakes (Gilmore Dusties!) as a swing-holiday between Christmas and Groundhog Day on Feb 2.  Dammit, Stella, get me the Coast!  We got us a movie-tie and merch to move!

For those of us who have a clue, we are left shaking our heads while the neighbour’s kids carom off the second floor siding, in the grips of a sugar-buzz that would stun a buffalo.  At least there’s a holiday out of the deal. 

An Offensive Team?

The Nepean Redskins are in a mess of trouble because of their name and we’re going to deal with it in our usual straightforward manner.  For those too lazy to follow the link, the Nepean Redskins are a tackle football team for kids in the National Capital Amateur Football Association with various divisions for players age 8 to 19 around our hometown of Ottawa.  The beef is with the name “Redskins”

Some consider the name Redskins, unless you are referring to peanuts or potatoes to be racist.  Considering the Nepean Redskins logo is a stylized First Nations caricature, we’re fairly certain they’re not conjuring up images of spuds.  Which brings us to the sticking point of the question.  Is the name offensive to First Nations or are we being over-sensitive? 

Looking through the other end of the telescope, would you consider the following mythical team names offensive?

Picton County Picaninnys

Jonestown Spics

Rockford Kikes

Chattanooga Fighting Chinks

Tampa Bay White Trash

Of course you would.  They’re offensive, conjuring up stereotypes of ethnic groups, using derisive terms that we have mostly abandoned from our regular speech.  Redskins is no different, in that it was a derisive term for North American aboriginal peoples that we commonly call First Nations.

Now before you get up on your back legs, consider these:  The Atlanta Braves.  The Chicago Black Hawks.  University of Illinois Fighting Illini.  Cleveland Indians.   

Again, a somewhat dicey use of stereotypes to describe a sporting team.  The University of Illinois Fighting Illini have had their share of grief, as recently as 2007, with Chief Illiniwek being the made-up, non-historical mascot of the University of Illinois.  “Illinois” itself is a Hobson-Jobson of irenew wa through Ojibwe and Ottawa dialects, into French, meaning “he speaks the regular way” from as early as 1670 in the current spelling of “Illinois”

For that matter, we find some offense with “Indians”  The only reason North American aboriginal peoples are called “Indians” is because of Christopher Columbus.  He was absolutely positive he landed in India in 1492, therefore anyone who was already there had to be Indian.  The name stuck but it’s horribly inaccurate.  We much prefer to use either First Nations or Aboriginal to describe those who met the boats.  At least Columbus didn’t call them what he likely said when he got off the Santa Maria:  We’d be swamped with hundreds of branches of the Fuckawyu tribes across our continent.

To simplify, as we should, one would not consider calling a sports team the Cuyahoga Chinamen.  Therefore would we consider calling another sports team the Redskins?  No. 

However, there is another side to being overly politically correct and that is historical accuracy.  We can’t rename the Negro Baseball League to the African American Baseball League as the Negro League was the actual, legal name.  There has to be an element of tolerance for what existed in the past, historically, no matter how inappropriate it is today.  For example, rooming houses in the 1800’s in New York City would have signs that said “No Blacks, No Jews, No Dogs, No Irish” proudly displayed out front.  That was the social reality of that time period and we can’t change that without forfeiting where we’ve come from.  Sanitizing history does not make the future better. 

At the same time, there are always exceptions. Kinky Friedman had a great band named Kinky Friedman the Texas Jewboys. Despite the offensive name, we’ll cut Friedman some slack as the whole operation was a hellacious satire:  There has to be some grey areas in there for outrageous fun.  Very little in our world is black or white. 

So what to do now?  The Nepean Redskins have been the Redskins since 1981 or so.  The Cleveland Indians were previously the Blues, Naps and Molly McGuires eventually coming to the Cleveland Indians in 1915. 

What we have to do is to be sensitive about it and still use common sense.  Nepean should look at changing the name of the team to something less fraught.  Not this afternoon, or even this season, but at least recognize that Redskins isn’t quite appropriate and work towards a new name sooner rather than later. 

We will respectfully suggest either the Nepean Sandstones or the Nepean Quarrymen, both associated with two common features of Nepean.  Both are tolerable names that are butch enough to be acceptable to a kid’s football team, or more correctly to the parents of the players.  Nobody wants a bumper sticker saying “My Kid Plays for the Nepean Cello Stringers” and the parents pay the shot.

And we’re certain someone will bitch about Quarrymen as it’s sexist.  Oh well.