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Felix dies natalis Christi

Cooper, Austin (1890-1964). For the Empire Marketing Board, c 1926-1934. (Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-27-89)

Cooper, Austin (1890-1964). For the Empire Marketing Board, c 1926-1934. (Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-27-86)


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Summation of the Jaffer/Guergis affair

Helena Guergis tries to hold back her emotions while speaking to reporters at her campaign office in Collingwood, Ont., Friday, April 15, 2011. (Canadian Press)

The Toronto media establishment is positively giddy over the announcement that the Hon. Helena Guergis—a former MP and  junior minister in the Harper government—has launched a defamation suit against many former colleagues, including the Prime Minister.  Mrs. Guergis is skilfully playing the tearful victim, and the press—as it always does when there is the potential for blood in the water—is lapping it up.

If the press had a reasonable memory—or was prepared to salivate less at the thought of inflicting damage upon the government—it might recall that Guergis and husband Rahim Jaffer may not have committed any criminal acts warranting prosecution, but in the eyes of Parliament’s ethical watchdogs, they fell afoul of professional codes of conduct.  An editorial by the Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin does a good job of summarising the alleged professional misdeeds.

On Jaffer:

In a report released on Monday, [Lobbying Commissioner Karen] Shepherd criticized the actions of Jaffer and his business partner, Patrick Glemaud, who were involved in a political controversy which also snared Jaffer’s wife Guergis, the former Simcoe-Grey MP.

Shepherd said that while Jaffer and Glemaud were unsuccessful in attempts to secure $178 million in federal Green Infrastructure Fund funding, they should have registered as lobbyists.

… This matter has been investigated by the RCMP, which determined there were no grounds for criminal charges.

But Jaffer and Glemaud broke federal rules by failing to register as lobbyists before trying to obtain taxpayers’ money.

— “Jaffer, Guergis still acted contrary to what is ‘right’.”  Editorial, Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin, 17 December 2011.

On Guergis:

Last summer, federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson determined that Guergis broke Parliament’s conflict of interest code by sending a letter to Simcoe County officials, encouraging them to hear a presentation from a green waste management firm’s owner, who had business links to Jaffer.

According to the conflict of interest code, politicians are prohibited from using their position to further their private interests, or those of their family members.

Guergis responded to Dawson’s findings by saying there was no proof she had done anything wrong. She was also investigated by the RCMP and not charged criminally

… Part of her responsibility as an MP, however, is to know what the conflict of interest guidelines are and adhere to them. Most politicians know enough to steer clear of any potential conflicts of interests.

— “Jaffer, Guergis still acted contrary to what is ‘right’.”  Editorial, Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin, 17 December 2011.

Anyone who watches police and lawyer shows on television will know that giving the police no grounds to pursue criminal charges is not the same thing as being spotless and squeaky-clean.  In the eyes of the Lobbying Commissioner and federal Ethics Commissioner, there were violations of professional codes of conduct.  Those details will certainly be relevant to the defence in the defamation suit.

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X’mas Parade (I’m Rob F**King Ford), originally uploaded by PeacefulHeart.

It’s all but certain that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is going to spend the next three years tripping over landmines laid down by his own hyperbole, clumsiness and lack of forethought.  His Worship has done rather a lot to erode the goodwill of his supporters and, according to the Toronto Star, is now alienating the swing voters [1,2] on City Council.

I understand the Star‘s distaste for the current mayor; following his first term as mayor of the amalgamated city, I had an overwhelmingly negative view of Mel Lastman (and what I judged to be his appalling lack of vision and competence).  In the 2000 municipal election, I voted for one of Mel’s opponents; the tranny rather than the troubled hippie, mainly because I judged the hippie to be an unserious fringe candidate—and if one is going to vote for an unserious fringe candidate, that person should at least be entertaining.

As I said, I understand there will be opposition; what is less easy to understand is the Star‘s analysis.  Writing for, John Michael McGrath looks at the newspaper’s methodology and finds it wanting:

If we go to the Ford Council Scorecard (an always-useful resource for council-watchers), we see just how broad a group these [eight swing-vote] councillors are. Moeser has voted with Rob Ford more than 80 per cent of the time, while Bailão (Ward 18, Davenport) has voted with the mayor only 30 per cent of the time. That’s a huge range, which makes the idea of a “swing” bloc questionable.

— McGrath, John Michael.  “Ford losing the swing votes on council, but what’s a swing vote anyway?”, 21 December 2011.

McGrath posits that the swing councillors are more properly those whose votes accord with the mayor around 40-60% of the time, rather than the 30-80% range the Star uses.  In which case there are just three swing voters—not the Star’s eight—on a council of forty-four.

It’s a short piece, but well worth the read.

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The Nutcracker: Mouse King / battle scene

As performed by the North Atlanta Dance Theatre, circa 2006. The audio and video quality isn’t the greatest, but for my money this clip’s choreography best captures the scene as I remember it from my own childhood. And since this is dance, choreography wins.

The Mouse King gets to ham it up a lot, and is pretty entertaining.

I’m more than a little disappointed that here in Toronto, the National Ballet of Canada is still cranking out James Kudelka’s bowdlerised version which replaces the “tin soldiers versus mice” battle for one where cat archers fight mouse archers. It’s not entirely clear to me why Kudelka needed to have the toy soldiers excised; E.T.A. Hoffman’s original story (upon which the ballet is based) is called The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. It’s what you might call a key plot point.

Keeping the story but modernising the costumes—bringing them up to contemporary times, as many artistic directors love to do with Shakespeare—would probably have been a non-starter. If that course had been taken, then the title character would look like… well, like that image to the right. And one can imagine how many parents might get the vapours if kids onstage were dressed in ACUs.  Still, it’s a shame to fundamentally alter key scenes just because one deems 19th century toy soldiers less relevant than cats and mice; such is the anemic cultural memory of our times. It is not as if kids have stopped playing at war; the average kid has probably played a half-dozen Battlefield or Call of Duty games on their gaming consoles.

Oh, and because you may find it useful this Christmas season:

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17 December 1939: British Commonwealth Air Training Plan agreement signed

Seventy-two years ago today, representatives of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand signed the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan agreement.  This agreement committed the countries to training 50,000 airmen per annum until the conclusion of the Second World War—the goal was roughly 22,000 aircrew per year from Great Britain, 13,000 from Canada, 11,000 from Australia and 3,300 from New Zealand.  Under the plan, the aircrews would receive introductory air training with their home air forces, then travel to Canada for advanced flight training.  More than 130,000 Allied airmen—pilots, navigators, bombardiers, wireless operators, gunners and flight engineers—had received training in Canada by war’s end.

Here are some photos of BCATP activity drawn from LIFE magazine’s online archive:

An aerial view of RCAF Station Trenton. 1939. (John Phillips / LIFE magazine)

Instructor teaching a bombing course at RCAF Station Trenton. 1939. (John Phillips / LIFE magazine)

Cadet screwing the fuse into a bomb, RCAF Station Trenton. 1939. (John Phillips / LIFE magazine)

Squadron Leader W. I. Riddell, walking and chatting with four flight instructors. RCAF Station Trenton, 1939. (John Phillips / LIFE magazine)

Mechanics checking a Fairy Battle Bomber outside of its hangar at RCAF Station Trenton. 1939. (John Phillips / LIFE magazine)

A landed Harvard trainer aircraft after night flying training. RCAF Station Trenton, 1939. (John Phillips / LIFE magazine)

Porcelain Black: This Is What Rock n’ Roll Looks Like (2011)

I can’t help but chortle when I listen to this song; the combination of multiple incongruities adds up to a sort of juvenile entertainment.

Imagine Chad Kroeger or Scott Stapp had a kid sister who was trying her damnedest to emulate their scratchy singing voices, all while dressing like Taylor Momsen and mistaking the bass line of a mid-90s Real McCoy club track for genuine rock and roll.  (I am a guy who can enjoy dance pop tracks, but they are not rock and roll.)

Any one of these things on their own would be less than noteworthy, but mashed all together they make me chuckle.

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Destroying the past

Your correspondent would not characterise himself as a fan of the Prophet Mohammed; let us say merely that the man’s understanding of the Divine is at odds with our own experience.

That said, defacing a 900-year-old mosque isn’t just insulting to Muslims, it’s an assault upon humanity’s shared heritage.  Harming the centuries-old relics of a religion at odds with one’s own can hardly erase past history, and the effort says less about the evils of the target than it does about the mind of the perpetrator.  The world didn’t enjoy this sort of thing when the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas back in 2001; it’s not any more entertaining or worthy when others try their hand at it.

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Amnesty International prides itself on being a non-partisan, non-sectarian campaigner for human rights, an advocate for the oppressed. And certainly at its foundation (and for much of its history) that was indeed its goal. But one can be forgiven for thinking that it in recent years it has experienced a certain drift toward the partisan—focusing on the motes of dust [1, 2] in the eyes of reasonably well-behaved nations, rather than the planks in the eyes of egregious abusers.

For example, a woman was executed for “witchcraft and sorcery” in Saudi Arabia yesterday—actually the second person in the kingdom to be executed for that crime this year. The woman (with the rather lengthy moniker of Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser) was in her 60s, and had been arrested way back in 2009. According to the Saudi religious police, she tricked people into giving her money and claimed to be able to cure their illnesses; a crime that might more properly be characterised as fraud, which doesn’t carry the death penalty upon conviction in most jurisdictions.

But the human rights group Amnesty International, which has campaigned for Saudis previously sentenced to death on sorcery charges, said it had never heard of her case until now, he adds.

A Sudanese man was executed in September on similar charges, despite calls led by Amnesty for his release.

— “Saudi woman executed for ‘witchcraft and sorcery’.” BBC News, 12 December 2011.

What’s Amnesty International doing this month? Lecturing the world on how George Bush ought to be arrested. Well, what’s the life of an elderly Saudi woman when there’s a class enemy to be persecuted?

UPDATE: Richard A. Clarke, counterterrorism advisor to three presidents, notes in his 2004 memoir Against All Enemies that Clinton and Gore were the first US administration to ignore the objections of their legal counsel and authorise extraordinary rendition against employers of terrorism.

While Amnesty International called for investigations into alleged war crimes during the 1999 Allied Force campaign against Serbia, it has thus far neglected to call for Clinton’s arrest, despite originating the practices that the NGO objects to in Bush’s case.

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The Screen Traveller: Hong Kong, Gateway to China (1938)

Here is an 11-minute travelogue showing the colony in happy times, 3 years prior to hostilities in the Second World War.

On November 16th, 1941, Canadian reinforcements from the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of Canada arrived in Hong Kong to bolster the colony’s garrison. The Japanese launched their invasion on December 8th, and three days later, D Company of the Winnipeg Grenadiers became the first Canadian Army unit to see ground combat in the Second World War.

CBC has an interesting audio account from survivors of the battle, along with some interesting nuggets of information. Perhaps most illuminating is the fact that more Canadians sent to Hong Kong died as prisoners of war (550+) than in the fighting (290).

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