Thursday, August 28, 2008

That must have been some trip!

Junketeering Toronto councillor can’t remember where he slept or who he met on May trip to Quebec City (with audio link)

Yesterday the Toronto Sun reported that 17 Toronto city councillors and staffers participated in a $41,854 trip to Quebec City in May, for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' (FCM) 71st annual conference:

Turns out, during an era where there was fear of not making budget, the city fathers miraculously found $41,854 to cover expenses for 17 people to go to beautiful old Quebec. C'est bon.

"It's unacceptable," says Kevin Gaudet of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation who made the discovery though a Freedom of Information request. "It's just a waste of money."

According to Gaudet, with Miller were councillors -- mostly his pals -- Pam McConnell, Paula Fletcher, Joe Pantalone, Howard Moscoe, Suzan Hall, Shelley Carroll, Joe Mihevc, Michael Thompson, Adam Giambrone, Norm Kelly, Adam Vaughan and Janet Davis, who were accompanied by staffers Kevin Sack, Don Wanagas, Philip Abrahams and Barbara Sullivan.
--“Joke’s on us as mayor, 16 pals go on junket,” Joe Warmington, Toronto Sun, August 27

Today, the junket was the topic of tightwad councillor Rob Ford’s regular weekly appearance on John Oakley’s AM640 morning show in Toronto. One of the junketeers, councillor Norm Kelly (pictured, on a different occasion), got the bright idea to call in to defend himself and his fellow troughers.

The interview quickly degenerated into a gentle but embarrassing interrogation, during which Kelly offered as a reason for the trip, participation in Quebec’s 400th anniversary celebrations.

Kelly could not answer what hotel he stayed at, or the details of the “terrific” conversations he had with people about the “challenges facing urban Canada.” Oh, he did remember one, about geothermal heating, with some guy from Northern Ontario whose name he could not remember, but he did have his business card and was planning to visit this fall (I’ll bet!).

When pressed for details on what city budget the expenses were paid out of, Kelly suggested archly that Oakley make a freedom of information request.

Kelly was so inept, he made Rob Ford – considered by some a doppelganger for late comedian Chris Farley in both appearance and demeanour – look like Johnnie Cochran.

Enjoy the audio replay here, click on “Rob Ford with Norm Kelly.” It’s really quite unbelievable.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Toronto two years from now?

Panhandling rampant in US cities with “a reputation for being liberal and tolerant”

Last week one of the big stories in Toronto was news that the Chinatown Business Improvement Area has hired a private security firm to patrol the Spadina Avenue district, to reduce theft and aggressive panhandling, starting with a three-week pilot project.

A new article by Steven Malanga in the City Journal, "The Professional Panhandling Plague," explains that New York’s vigilance in reducing panhandling and squeegee people has not been repeated in other American cities, with very unpleasant results:

But over the last several years, the urban resurgence has proved an irresistible draw to a new generation of spangers. And while New York City’s aggressive emphasis on quality-of-life policing under two successive mayors has kept them at bay, less vigilant cities have been overwhelmed. Indeed, panhandling is epidemic in many places—from cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Memphis, Orlando, and Albuquerque to smaller college towns like Berkeley. “People in New York would be shocked at what one encounters in other cities these days, where the panhandling can be very intimidating,” says Daniel Biederman, a cofounder of three business improvement districts in Manhattan, including the Grand Central Partnership, which grappled effectively with homelessness in the city’s historic train station in the early 1990s. “Panhandling has gotten especially bad in cities that have a reputation for being liberal and tolerant. They have tried to be open-minded, but now many of them see the problem as out of control.”

Like their counterparts back in the eighties, some spangers refuse to take no for an answer. Aggressive begging has grown so common in Memphis that a group of residents, members of an online forum called Handling-Panhandling, have begun photographing those who act in a threatening manner, seeking to help police catch those who violate the law. “One of the guys we photographed for the Handling-Panhandling group last summer was obviously a loose cannon,” forum host Paul Ryburn writes. “When employees of a Beale Street restaurant asked him to stop begging in front of their door, he threatened to stab them.”

Reports of similar incidents are on the increase in many cities. A pizzeria manager in Columbus, Ohio, told the Columbus Dispatch earlier this year that panhandlers were entering the store asking for money, then following women back to their cars to scare them into giving it. “One of the bums threatened to stab me when I asked them to leave two women alone,” the restaurateur added. In Orlando, panhandlers have started entering downtown offices and asking receptionists for money, prompting businesses to lock the doors. San Francisco police have identified 39 beggars who have received five or more citations for aggressive panhandling, racking up a total of 447 citations. Tourist guidebooks and online sites are replete with warnings from travelers. A business visitor to Nashville, sharing his experiences on, writes: “Every day I was there I was not just approached but grabbed or touched by folks asking for money.” A traveler to San Francisco, describing his trip on, warns prospective tourists about the pervasiveness of persistent beggars: “If you come to San Francisco and are not hit up for change, you have spent too much time in your hotel room.”

The lengthy and very interesting article is here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Justin Trudeau profiled in US fashion glossy

“For all my history, I’m a political neophyte” but he couldn’t wait to run “until I’m 50 and have the gravitas and all that stuff.”

Story says Trudeau “purposely avoided a safe seat” for working-class Papineau

I think it’s safe to say that, even if he were to win three majorities, Stephen Harper is unlikely to ever receive a glowing profile in the oversize American fashion glossy W magazine, much less the September edition (the most important issue of the year for a fashion mag).

But, as the Canadian media have been telling us since Trudeau père died in 2000, Justin Trudeau is no mere mortal, no dull economist from a family of accountants. So in a way it’s no surprise that an American publication finally jumped on the bandwagon.

W's enthusiasm, was rewarded with some pretty good access. The profile titled “The Son also Rises” includes quotes not only from Trudeau, but also from his wife and mother. There's also a quote from pollster Michael Adams, who took a breather from telling us how different we are from Americans, to speak to a US magazine. Some excerpts:

While Canadians prefer understatement and scorn comparisons to their neighbor to the south, they are apt to compare the Trudeaus to the Kennedys—as close as it gets to Canadian royalty. Last year, when Justin won his party’s nomination to run for a seat in the House of Commons, 40 percent of Canadians polled said they’d like to see him as the next leader of the Liberal Party—even though he has yet to hold office. Now 36, he’s a rising political star and likely to become a member of Parliament when he runs in the next federal election, which is expected to take place in the coming months. Few doubt that he’ll make a bid at some point for the leadership of the Liberals—the party his father dominated for 16 years and, for now, the opposition.

To the party faithful in search of the lost Trudeau magic, Justin is the future, the one who can draw a younger generation into the political fold, much as Barack Obama has done. [Don’t speak too soon!] To his detractors he’s an inexperienced lightweight simply leveraging his father’s fame.

Handsome and boyish, his dark curls flopping into his blue eyes, he’s dressed in tidy jeans and a navy blazer. With his mother’s good looks and warmth and his father’s élan and idealism, he has an ease and buoyancy about him that makes it hard not to like him. “For all my history, I’m a political neophyte,” he says. “The actual mechanisms of politics are something that I’ve stayed away from all my life, deliberately.”

After studying English literature at McGill University, Trudeau became a schoolteacher and later earned a master’s degree in environmental geography [his official bio refers only to “graduate studies” – not a master’s]. A regular feature in local society pages, he chaired a national youth service program for four years and has also spoken out on winter-sports safety after his brother Michel, the youngest of the Trudeaus’ three sons, was killed while skiing in 1998 when an avalanche sent him into an icy lake in British Columbia. Increasingly, Justin felt that to effect change, he had to enter the fray, not “wait until I’m 50 and have the gravitas and all that stuff.”

Finally, there’s this:

In Canada candidates may choose where to run [clearly, the author Diane Solay has never met Doug Finlay], and [Trudeau] purposely avoided a safe seat in an affluent, mixed English-French area, selecting instead a working-class district of immigrants and Francophone professionals where his two rivals had long-standing ties. His against-the-odds win there and the fact that his former opponents are now cochairing his run for the House of Commons are all part of his personal campaign to “prove my chops in politics and work my way up from the grass roots,” he says. “I want to demonstrate that it’s all about what I bring, not the name and not the past.”

Hmm, I wonder where W got the idea that that’s how it played out As anyone who follows Canadian politics knows, Trudeau first set his sights on a nomination in the safe Liberal seat of Outremont, but Stéphane Dion had other ideas, thinking he could afford to run one of his professor pals there instead.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A movie with a big, juicy target

"An American Carol" opens October 3rd

The holiday in An American Carol is not Christmas and the antagonist is not Ebenezer Scrooge. Instead, the film follows the exploits of a slovenly, anti-American filmmaker named Michael Malone, who has joined with a left-wing activist group ( to ban the Fourth of July. Along the way, Malone is visited by the ghosts of three American heroes--George Washington, George S. Patton, and John F. Kennedy--who try to convince him he's got it all wrong. When terrorists from Afghanistan realize that they need to recruit more operatives to make up for the ever-diminishing supply of suicide bombers, they begin a search for just the right person to help produce a new propaganda video. "This will not be hard to find in Hollywood," says one. "They all hate America." When they settle on Malone, who is in need of work after his last film (Die You American Pigs) bombed at the box office, he unwittingly helps them with their plans to launch another attack on American soil.

The entire film is an extended rebuttal to the vacuous antiwar slogan that "War Is Not the Answer." Zucker's response, in effect: "It Depends on the Question."

Zucker had originally hoped to cast Dan Whitney (aka Larry the Cable Guy) as Malone, but a timing conflict kept him from getting it done. After briefly considering Frank Caliendo, a fellow Wisconsinite, a colleague passed him a reel from Kevin Farley, the younger brother of the late Chris Farley, and Zucker, who recalled seeing Kevin Farley in an episode of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm, was interested.
--"Hollywood Takes on the Left," Weekly Standard, August 11

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ti-Dolt's Conditional Apology

Read: "I'm sorry that partisan jerks deliberately misinterpreted my comments to make me look like a sexist, 'cause that's totally not who I am, but if you're not a partisan jerk who exploited my comments to serve your own agenda, and if you were really offended, then . . . I'm, uh, sorry."

Macleans' excellent Blog Central is reporting that Nova Scotia Liberal MP Robert Thibault is sort of apologizing for telling Marjory LeBreton to get back in the kitchen (or whatever he meant by his "figurative" reference to tea-making -- see update to post below).

“I would like to clarify my statement that appeared in the Hill Times this week. My comment was not meant to be gender-specific and I in no way intended it to be interpreted in that way. If anything I said can be interpreted as sexist, I unequivocally and wholeheartedly apologize and withdraw my comments. I have always been a strong supporter of women in politics and want to encourage not hinder their participation in the public sphere.”

Well, we've seen these kind of non-apologies before, and we'll probably see them again.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Thibault steeped in stupid

You know, I've always thought that Nova Scotia Liberal MP Robert Thibault had the voice of an educated thug. Turns out he has the attitudes of an uneducated one.

In a slam reminiscent of Eric Cartman’s faux-bravado towards imaginary women who should know their place, i.e. “bake me a pie!” or "knit me a sweater!" Thibault has tried to be John Crosbie to Senator Marjory LeBreton's Sheila Copps:

Three-term Liberal MP Robert Thibault has got into an angry and heated public war of words with Government Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton, saying that she took his "ageist" comments out of context and that the Senator "should go back to making tea for Brian Mulroney and stay out of serious people's business."

"Yes [I stand by] the comments that I made, but not the comments that are attributed to me," Mr. Thibault (West Nova, N.S.) told The Hill Times, laughing at the apparent incongruity of his statement. But he went on to explain: "[I do not stand by] the intent [or spin] that idiots like Marjory LeBreton would put onto my comments. Marjory should go back to making tea for Brian Mulroney and stay out of serious people's business."
--The Hill Times, today

This comes on the heels of Thibault's ill-advised shouldn't-you-be-in-a-rocking-chair? putdown of his Conservative opponent in the next election.

You know what they say. When you’re in a hole, the first thing you should do is stop digging. In doubling down on his ridicule of Greg Kerr, by demeaning a female senior (a key demographic in Atlantic Canada), Thibault seems determined to dig his political grave.

Update: The Halifax Chronicle-Herald was able to get ahold of Thibault for comment Monday:

Mr. Thibault said Monday that he does not plan to apologize.

"Tea, firstly, is figurative, not planning to be sexist in any way," he said. "Marjory LeBreton is a very partisan person who was appointed to the Senate by Brian Mulroney and has been seen as being Brian Mulroney’s proxy in cabinet."

Mr. Thibault said he thinks people will understand his comments weren’t sexist.

"I think people will understand that my comments about Marjory LeBreton are a reference to a very partisan Conservative who is looking for any opportunity whatsoever to get my goat," he said.

Really. Making tea is figurative? Does that mean it's a euphemism for some other act?

Anyhow, thanks to Thibault's intransigence, LeBreton has now been joined by women's groups not normally known for their Conservative sympathies, while female Liberal MPs are unavailable for comment:

"We do a lot of work to get women involved in the political process, and one of the things that keeps them out is disrespectful behaviour," said Brigitte Neumann, executive director of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women. "Whatever your party affiliation, you shouldn’t have to put up with sexist comments."

Francoise Gagnon, executive director of Equal Voice, a group that works to get women involved in politics, said the comments are sexist.

"We always hold the line that it’s very unfortunate that these kinds of comments are made," she said. "They don’t reflect the hard work of all the members from all the different parties who contribute."

Ms. LeBreton challenged female Liberal MPs to respond to Mr. Thibault’s remarks, but two women who play a prominent role in the Liberal women’s caucus — Maria Minna and Belinda Stronach — did not return calls on Monday.

Neither did communications officers for Liberal Leader Stephane Dion.

Ms. LeBreton said Liberal women should speak out.

"If they sit there and say nothing, that says a lot about them, too," she said.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

McCain: The grandpa who undermines your parents

The King of Old Media, Barack Obama, must be puzzled over how old man John McCain is lately the King of YouTube:

Paris Hilton may think John McCain is just a “wrinkly white-haired guy,” but the Republican presidential candidate apparently has figured out the younger generation just fine. Over the past two weeks, his “celebrity” attacks have stomped Democratic presidential opponent Sen. Barack Obama in YouTube hits.

Mr. McCain has pumped out a series of brutal yet entertaining attack ads and Web videos mocking the press and Mr. Obama, and the combination of wit and insult has pushed his YouTube channel to the sixth most watched on the site this week. Mr. McCain has beat Mr. Obama's channel for seven straight days and 11 of the past 14 days, in a signal he intends to compete for the YouTube vote.
--“McCain takes lead on YouTube hits”, Washington Times, August 7

Now, just maybe, to some young people, McCain reminds them not of their hovering, boomer parents (like the Obamas with their over-scheduled daughters), but their grandparents.

McCain kind of reminds me of Cotton Hill, Hank Hill’s father on “King of the Hill.” Cotton slaps his much-younger second wife on the butt in public; he shouts at diner waitresses: “Hey missy! How ‘bout some sammidges?!” and talks about how he killed “fiddy Japs” in WWII, where he also lost his shins. He doesn't make Hank's son, Bobby Hill (whose life ambition is to be a prop comic, not a quarterback), feel like he is an ongoing disappointment.

Yes, he’s stubborn as a mule, and sometimes he’s an embarrassment. He addresses Peggy Hill to her face as “Hank’s wife.” But Cotton Hill is real. He doesn’t give a s*** what people think – the root of all genuine cool – and that makes him oddly compelling. Maybe that’s what McCain has tapped into.

McCain is the grandfather who lets you ride sans seatbelt and will lend you his car without your parents knowing. He shows you the war memorabilia that he isn’t officially supposed to have. He gives you cash on the sly (real cash, not $5 cheques on your birthday, like the writers on “Saturday Night Live” think). He lets you drink a beer at his house. He takes you hunting and teaches you how to shoot.

McCain wasn't the goody two-shoes who soared above his family's origins and has been running for president since the age of 25, like Obama. McCain was the screw-up of the McCain clan of naval officers, who finished at the bottom of his class at Annapolis. Come to think of it, he's kind of the black sheep of the Republican party, too.

And now, as if following some kind of TV script, along comes dad to kill the party:

Mr. Obama's campaign has studiously avoided talking about Mr. McCain's celebrity attacks, instead responding to the substance of the attacks included in most ads.

But Mr. Obama himself couldn't resist, telling voters last week that the Spears-Hilton references were demeaning to the election.

“Given the seriousness of the issues, you’d think we could have a serious debate,” he said in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “But so far, all we’ve been hearing about is Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. I mean, I do have to ask my opponent, is that the best you can come up with? Is that really what this election is about? Is that what is worthy of the American people?

Yup, that sure sounds like a parent lecturing a teenager.