Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Careful on the countdown tonight

Everyone knows about leap years, but did you know about leap seconds? No? Well tonight there is going to be one. From CNN:
    Immediately before midnight a leap second -- the first for three years -- will be added to atomic clocks around the world by official timekeepers.

    Peter Whibberley, a senior research scientist at Britain's National Physical Laboratory, said the Earth's erratic rotation meant an extra second needed to be added.

    "The difference between atomic time and Earth time has now built up to the point where it needs to be corrected, so this New Year's Eve we will experience a rare 61 second minute at the very end of 2008 and revelers... will have an extra second to celebrate."

    Traditionally time has been based on the passage of the Sun across the sky -- a modern version of this is still used by astronomers to track distant stars and spacecraft.

    However, since 1967, an atomic timescale -- the extremely accurate Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) -- has been the world's official clock and is used for broadcasting time signals across the world.

    The accuracy of UTC is essential for the smooth running of GPS and the Internet.

    By comparison, the Earth is far less reliable. It does not rotate at a constant speed -- it can even wobble -- and disruptions to its core, extreme weather, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes can influence the length of a day.

    Therefore, leap seconds are occasionally added to align atomic time with astronomical time and ensure that the Sun remains overhead at noon.

    Whibberley told British media anyone sober enough and who had a digital clock that picked up leap second information from a reliable source, would see the final seconds of 2008 as 57, 58, 59, 60, 00 -- with 60 being the extra second.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

From the 'things that make you go awww!' department


Debate is good. But with whom?

Winnipeg South MP Rod Bruinooge proposes to reopen the abortion debate, and Globe and Mail blogger Robert Silver, who stands firmly on the pro-choice side of the question, acknowledges that debate is good:
    It is ludicrous to suggest that abortion is a topic that is taboo to debate. Earth round or flat? No debate. Holocaust happened or not? No debate. Abortion laws in Canada: a good thing or bad? A totally fair subject of debate.
He goes on to suggest that the point of the debate is to provide cover for prolife Conservative MPs by exposing a smaller number of Liberal MPs.

The parliamentary prolife caucus, however, prefers to keep its membership a secret, and so the question arises: who is going to undertake this debate and where will it take place? Presumably not in parliament, where debates about changes to the law are supposed to be conducted, and not amongst parliamentarians, who are supposed to conduct that debate.

This again underlines the basic irrationality of the position that Bruinooge and his secret caucus have taken. If they're not willing to identify themselves, how can they hope to engage in a debate?

Monday, December 29, 2008

My two cents on Bruinooge's secret group

The Globe and Mail reports (here) that Rod Bruinooge has recently become the chair of a secretive, parliamentary anti-abortion caucus. Why the secrecy?
    Mr. Bruinooge declined to provide details about the membership of the caucus – which he described as “sizable” – on the basis that MPs from other parties fear internal repercussions if their activism is known.
Bloggers have not been silent. Lulu points out that the deception implicit in the secrecy is not new for Bruinooge; Impolitical wonders whether Rod Bruinooge has gone rogue; JJ points out the ridiculousness of it all.

Add me to those who disapprove. A secret AA chapter? Fine. A quilting klatch? No problem. A Dungeon-and-dragons cell? Whatever. MPs have a right to keeping their personal lives personal. But Bruinooge's caucus advocates a change to public policy, and as such it should be operating out in the open.

Indeed, it is rather surprising that they do not want to operate in the open, because they can hardly hope to change public policy otherwise. If they are not going to argue their case in public, how do they expect to persuade anyone? win any votes? pass any laws?

What is one to make of all this? The point is surely that the pro-life movement is not only exceptionally weak in this country, but largely disfunctional. I've already pointed out that the prolife backlash to Morgentaler's Order of Canada award was surprisingly anemic: a handful of returned awards, a couple hundred protesters, an online-petition that immediately stalled (details here).

At one-time the Campaign Life Coalition identified prolife candidates so that prolifers could support them at the polls. Not recently, however, and the reason is not to guess: being prolife is a political liability in most parts of the country.

Which is presumably why Bruinooge's fellow caucus-members are so shy about identifying themselves: the issue loses more votes than it wins.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Reform movement officially dead; Harper killed it

The Reform party was formed over two decades ago, and its hard to believe that it is now eight years since it formally ceased being part of our political life. Hard to believe because in many ways it hadn'treally gone away — its personnel, policies and culture largely rolled directly into the Alliance and then, with some dilution, into the Conservative party.

An important part of the Reform movement was its call for changes to Canada's governance. Four planks were central to their program:
  • recall
  • referenda
  • fixed election dates
  • an elected and equal senate
Recall was the first to be dropped and hasn't be mentioned in years. Referenda were abandoned not much later — an inevitable decision after Rick Mercer turned them into a joke with his famous 'Doris' proposal.

Having fixed election-dates, by contrasts, was achieved and passed into law in 2006 by the new Harper government. The problem? The law was a legal sham, as Harper himself showed this fall. A chance at a majority beckoned, and he called an election despite the law.

And now the senate. An elected senate was always a long-shot, since to do it properly would require a constitutional amendment, which in Canada is practically impossible. Harper, however, thought he saw a short-cut. Appoint those whom the provinces elected. The problem? Apart from Alberta, none of the provinces were interested in running such elections, and the vacancies began to pile up. Once Harper's near-death experience revealed how tenuous was Harper's grip on power, he moved to appoint 18 new senators.

In appointing these senators, of course, Harper abandoned his promise to appoint only elected senators. That's politics, and many have and will point out his inconsistency.

The important point, however, is surely that these last vestiges of the Reform agenda were undone by Harper, an old Reformer, and in doing so he surely has killed it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Five more top blogs

Michael Taube at the National Post's Full Comment identifies a top-ten of the left-wing blogosphere, which somehow I was made part of. There are three categories:
  1. The blog had to be partisan.
  2. The blog had to be active.
  3. The blogger had to have a blog of his/her own.
I'm not sure I pass the first two of these: I've been active lately, but I often go months without blogging. And this may strike some readers as self-delusion, but I've always thought of myself as rather non-partisan — I don't belong to any political party and do not always vote for the same party. But leave that where it is.

Taube is offering only ten top lefty-blogs, rather than the fifteen from the right (where his reading is wider). So I offer him five more that are worthy of inclusion.
  1. Dr. Dawg's Blawg — Dr. D. and Marie-Ève have some of the best writing in the Canadian internet, and they are consistently perspicacious, expressive, independent, and (a rarity among political bloggers) consistent. I read it everyday. Sometimes twice. So should you.
  2. A BCer in Toronto — Jeff is up-to-date, concise, and intelligent.
  3. Canadian Cynic — a guilty pleasure of many, including me. He's rarely fair and often foul, but loads of fun.
  4. Red Tory v. 3.0 — is what you'd get if you were to cross Dr. Dawg and Canadian Cynic: snarky like CC; smart like Dawg.
  5. — he had to deny stealing Ed Stelmach's personality some time back — how many bloggers can say that!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

How to make money in the stock-market

  1. Buy shares in a company that makes an obscure product;
  2. Get someone to throw said product at an internationally loathed figure;
  3. Watch the money roll in.

More problems with WBTA Policy Chair's c.v.

BCL points out some problems with the profile of WBTA policy chair, Sheldon Johnston, which claims that Johnston filed a complaint against the Forces over his rejection for its champlaincy program.

top copy
The problem? Johnston didn't win the case, as he claims. It was dismissed because he consistently disregarded its deadlines and seems to have lost interest in the case (read the details in the tribunal ruling). Nor does he seem to be correct in his claim that the case paved the way for others: there was already a Muslim chaplain appointed before the Tribunal had dealt with his case (CBC story here). Johnston's complaint did attract some attention, it was profiled in a lengthy feature in Christian Weekly (a copy is archived behind the thumb-nail to the right, and here), but it seems that no one in the military or the church community or the press regarded his complaint was valid. One thing is clear Johnston was not rejected because he was a Pentacostal, as he claimed — there were (as the Christian Weekly story makes clear) other Pentacostal chaplains in the Forces. Rather, it seems that he was rejected because he was underqualified and openings were few.
    Update. Rev. Johnston points out a National Post article on his complaint that he regards as fairer to himself which I've dug up and archived here for your reading pleasure.
There are, in any case, other oddities in his profile. Here is a snippit:
As you can see, the profile claims that after earning his Th.M. Johnston served as a minister of Grace Presbyterian Church in Castlegar in 2003-4.

The published proceedings of the 2004 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (pdf here, p. 585), however, reports the dissolution of Grace congregation in Castlegar on Nov. 14, 2003, and the proceedings of 2003 (pdf here, p. 668) report the Grace pastorage as 'vacant'. Both proceedings include a lengthy address list of all the denomination's professional church workers. In neither is a Sheldon Johnston listed.

Now, I'm sure there's an innocent explanation for this. But at the very least this speaks to a carelessness on the part of Rev. Johnston, something that is not a good thing in a policy chair.

Update.  Rev. Johnston's profile has been removed.  Here is what it looks like at 1 pm on Saturday, Dec. 20:

Presumably a new version will eventually appear here.

Slump dumped

WBTA VP Dan Doherty:
    Dear Readers

    The Western Businesses and Taxpayers Association has contacted Ernie Slump (BC Chair) for clarification of his questionable comments. Consequentially, Mr. Slump and the WBTA have mutually decided to dissolve the relationship based on incompatible philosophies.

    I would like to clarify our position on this matter; our policy is one of inclusion therefore the Western Businesses and Taxpayers Association does not support any offensive remarks and or actions, particularly regarding ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

    The Western Businesses and Taxpayers Association is not a political party but an association formed to gather information and garner support for a political party yet to be selected.

    Warmest Regards
    Dan Doherty
    Vice President

Thursday, December 18, 2008

WBTA VP grumps at Buckets' Slump dump pump

Apparently I pumped the story of the dumping of Ernest Slump just a little too soon. WBTA VP Dan Doherty writes to assure me that there was in fact no internal coup, merely a slight snafu updating the website. (He didn't actually do it grumpily -- he was quite friendly -- but I couldn't resist the rhyme.)

He also asked that I inform my regular readers of the WBTA's position vis-a-vis Slump's controversial statements.
    This letter is in response to the recent comments circulating regarding Ernie Slump. The Western Businesses and Taxpayers Association does not support any offensive remarks and or actions, particularly regarding ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation. David Crutcher and our Council have contacted Ernie to provide him with a forum to explain his comments.

    Our policy is one of inclusion and we deeply apologize to anyone this may have offended. I will keep you up to date of any new developments.

    We greatly appreciate you bringing this to our attention and I look forward to any comments or questions you may have.

    Warmest Regards

    Dan Doherty
    Vice President
    Western Businesses & Taxpayers Association.
We thank Mr. Doherty for this clarification. Nonetheless, I have one concern. So far, four offensive remarks have been attributed to Mr. Slump.
  1. his observation that "the White man" is better at killing than other races (here),
  2. his stated desire to exclude Vancouver from a new western Canadian state (here)
  3. a call for all Liberals to be executed (here),
  4. his offer to point out Liberals to invading marksmen (here)
Now, given the WBTA's commitment to inclusion in matters of ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation, we can probably assume that:
  1. white men will be thankful no longer to be considered especially homocidal.
  2.  Vancouverites (an ethnicity? I suppose in a stretch) will be glad that the WBTA does not want to discriminate against them
I'm troubled, however, that the WBTA has chosen not to include Liberals among the protected minorities in their new regime.

This is surely an oversight that the WBTA will correct soon.

(Comments open.)

Slump dumped? Night of the long knives? Incompetence in the control room?

To judge from the webpage of the executive council at the WBTA there's been an enormous shake-up. All of the old councillors were gone, including controversial BC-chair, Ernie Slump! (On whom see here and here and here) Crutcher seems to have expelled them all and installed a new Saskatchewan chair!


(Or it could be a clumsy web-administrator. Stay tuned!)

UPDATE.  The dumping of Slump has been bumped!  Apparently Ernie Slump is still BC chair; the others councillors are returned to their positions!  What a difference 15 minutes can make!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Separatists on parade, 9: Harper once supported separatist Erik Gregson

Returning to Erik Gregson, who will be Chair of the founding convention for the WBTA (thumb-nail to the right).

As we have seen, Gregson came out as a separatist on his radio show in 2005. By this point he had an impressive history within the Reform, Alliance, and now Conservative Party, according to the profile on his WBTA page:
    Erik got involved in the Reform Party in 1993 and has since sat on various boards for both the Reform Party and the Canadian Alliance …

    During his time in the Canadian Alliance, Erik has been a key planner, organizer and moderator of three Alberta Policy Conferences. …

    Over the past 15 years Erik has been involved in numerous political campaigns for other candidates. On April 16, 2003 Erik was the Chief Returning Officer for Stephen Harper's nomination.
Given his resumé, it is not particularly surprising that in 2004 (only a year before coming out as a separatist), his prospects within the party were good enough that he sought the nomination of the federal riding of Macleod. Nomination would have guaranteed his election, since Macleod is one of the safest Conservative seats in the country.

In the end, however, Gregson lost the nomination to Ted Menzies, Macleod's current MP. He made a race of it though, especially after he was endorsed by Stephen Harper (who was then campaigning for the leadership of the newly merged Conservative party). Below is the story from Ft. Macleod's local paper, the Western Wheel from Feb. 18, 2004.

A few points deserve special attention. Harper's endorsement was regarded as unusual at the time, and is explained by Gregson's earlier support for Harper and by the fact that he was Harper's personal friend.
Western-Wheel Harper Gregson
      The Western Wheel from Feb. 18, 2004 (vol. 29, no. 29, via

Other posts in this series:

Separatists on parade, 8: WBTA BC Chair comments on race war

The WBTA has appointed as their BC Chair a certain Ernest Slump. As we have seen (here), Slump has rather disturbingly called for the execution of all Liberal officials and ex-officials.

This isn't the only disturbing thing that he's written. Even worse are his views on race (thumb-nail below and to the right; google-cached here):

Given that Slump is a western separatist, no one should be surprised that he holds views that are politically incorrect. But regarding "the White man" as congenitally superior, as this passage shows, is more than a little worrying. That he includes within that superiority a belief that whites are better at killing their enemy is simply astonishing.

Now, the WBTA should feel uncomfortable having someone with these views as a member. To have him as their official face in British Columbia is unthinkable. Did they do any vetting at all of their council?

Update.  More about Slump at BCL: Slump doesn't want all of BC to separate, Vancouver will apparently be left out. 

Update 2.  The WBTA informs BCL that they are asking Slump for clarification.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Separatists on parade, 7: WBTA BC Chair called for the execution of all Liberals

The Western Business and Taxpayers Association council is slowly taking shape. They may, however, want to rethink their BC Chair, who at the moment is Ernie Slump. As BCL has pointed out, Slump is the publisher of Truckspeaker magazine (which has the dubious distinction of having the ugliest website I've ever seen).

He also has anger management issues, at least if he's the Ernest Slump who called for the execution of all Liberals a couple Christmas's ago. His whole screed can be seen via Google-cache, here, but here is the most unbalanced bit:

Now, I'm sure that there are many in this country whose heads are filled with voices saying bad things. But its best not to repeat what they say in public.

In the meantime one wonders whether the WBTA might not have another member in British Columbia who may be more suitable.

(The whole thing can be read in the screencap behind the thumb-nail to the right.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Separatists on parade, 6: Erik Gregson comes out of the closet

Over at BCL, Ti-guy has a question about this passage from the profile of Erik Gregson at the new separatist site, the Western Business and Taxpayer Association (I've corrected the typo).
Ti-Guy's question:
    Erik Gregson "lost belief" in Canada in 2005? Disregarding the mental retardation manifested in that statement, I wonder what was the final straw?
An interesting question, Ti-guy. What would be especially helpful is if we knew exactly when this happened. Or, better still, a copy of his statement. Something like this:
Now, as you can see the date of the program is June 18 2005. What was going on in mid-June 2005? Two names come to mind. Stronach and Grewal. Which (as you may have guessed) makes this blogger nostalgic for happy times.

Other posts in this series:

Separatists on parade, 5: Separatists bungle copy-and-paste

For those tuning in late, the new separatist organization the Western Business and Taxpayers Association has announced the date of its founding convention (here) and its chairman, ErikGregson.

Along with this comes a fancy new biographical sketch for the chairman -- well, actually not so new. As you can see in the graphic below, the new biography (here) is almost entirely a copy-and-paste from Gregson's profile at the Radio Freedom Network (here).

I say almost completely because as you'll see some (but not all) time periods have been recalculated, and a new paragraph on Gregson's conversion to separatism has been added.

The result is not quite confidence inspiring. Several minor errors were introduced into the copy:
  • Gregson is said to have "strated" a business in the second paragraph
  • Gregson has been turned from a "cub scout leader" into a "club scout leader" in the final paragraph
  • "separatist" is misspelt (you'd think that a separatist group could spell this word correctly!)
Those last two mistakes are especially odd, given that this was surely a copy-and-paste. How do you insert mistakes like that in a copy-and-paste? Fat fingers, I guess.

Now, typographical errors are easy to make, and criticizing them is pretty lame.

Given, however, that Alberta separatists a few years ago expressed the ambition for Alberta to acquire nuclear submarines, the question Albertans have to ask themselves is whether these are the fingers you want near the trigger?


Other posts in this series:

President Bush and the Flying Shoe: The True Story

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Separatists on parade, 4: Erik Gregson to chair WBTA convention

The new separatist group, the Western Business and Taxpayers Association, apparently met yesterday to choose their council.  Only rumours, so far. But high-level sources have sent me the following screenshot, which says that their convention will be held on January 30-31st and its chairman, Erik Gregson (whose involvement with this group we've already noted here).

It's already been noted that the WBTA council is still secret, with only the name of its executive director David Crutcher known (here).  Gregson's email in the above screenshot is, so we can assume that he will be the group's policy chair.

More as it comes in.

Update.  The convention page has now gone live here.

Other posts in this series:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Separatists on parade, 3: western separatists in the CPC

Conservatives were outraged two weeks ago when the Liberals and NDP planned to form a coalition and the Bloc Quebecois pledged to support if for 18 months. Indeed, Harper himself, in his five-minute televised address to the nation on December 2, mentioned “separatists” four times: “This is no time for backroom deals with the separatists”.

In response Saskatchewan blogger, Buckdog, asks an important question: If Harper And The Conservatives HATE Separatists ... (the Quebecois version) ... Why Don't They Also Condemn Western Separatists? A fair question, as I'm sure anyone would admit.

Another question. Wouldn't it be best if the Conservative Party restricted its membership to non-separatists? A case in point: David Crutcher is the Executive Director of the new separatist Western Business and Taxpayers Association. His profile on the WBTA's website happily identifies him as federal Conservative. Here's the screenshot: CrutcherProfileWBTA
Nor is Crutcher the only one.
The question, then should not be whether or when Harper will criticize western separatists. It's whether and when he'll kick them out of his own party.

    *Re-reading press reports of Brown's participation at the AIP's founding convention, it is not clear whether Bert Brown spoke; over here, Jane Morgan, the wife of the man who became leader of the party at that convention, insists that this did not happen.

Other posts in this series:

separatists on parade, 2: WBTA claims to have ex-MPs

Over at the Blogging Tories a few days ago, Western Separatist David Crutcher claimed to have raised oodles of cash and that his new separatist group counts former MPs among its supporters (here's a screen cap):

The BTs, to their credit, were mostly unenthusiastic.   In any case skepticism is in order.   The claim to fund-raising cash is a little bit hard to believe, but let's leave that aside, since it is unlikely that the WBTA's funding will ever be transparent enough that this could be proven or disproven.

The claim to have the support former MPs, on the other hand, is striking, since these should eventually come forward to support the group. Who could they be?

Two names that come to mind are Myron Thompson and Darrel Stinson, who caused a bit of a scandal back in 2001 when they attended the founding convention of the Alberta Independence Party. (See an old essay of Andrew Coyne criticizing them for this archived here.)

Regardless of whether these are the former MPs who support Crutcher's new group, it'll be interesting to hear who else is involved in this new separatist group.

Other posts in this series:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

separatists on parade, 1: Erik Gregson

Erik Gregson has recently pledged his support to the new western separatist group, the Western Business and Taxpayers Association. Here is the announcement from the WBTA site:

Eric Gregson
Who is Erik Gregson? He is one of the hosts of the Calgary talk-radio show, Freedom Radio, together with Craig Chandler (a long-time Crutcher associate). Here is his biography:

Eric Gregson
Now that he's come out as a separatist, it'll be interesting to see what role he plays in the soon to be announced WBTA council.

Other posts in this series:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

New contest: help the separatists pick a council!

Regular readers of BCL found a startling headline this morning: New Western Separatist Organization Consists Of One Guy! He's referring, of course, to the new Western Business and Taxpayer's Association", which so far as anyone can see, has only one member, its executive director David Crutcher, a Calgary businessman active in provincial politics.

The rest of the council, as you can see from the screenshot below, is TBA.

It would be churlish of us not to pitch in with the helping hand by holding a contest to pick a council for them. There are, as you can see, eight positions vacant. You can nominate someone for each position, or some of them. Or you can make up your own new positions and pick who is best to fill it! Prizes for the best suggestions!


Monday, December 08, 2008

Tick, tick, tick

There were lots of political surprises last week. One thing, however, that was totally predictable was the creation of another separatist group, this time the Western Business and TaxPayers Association, whose website is charmingly called  

Several points occur.  First, one wonders whether there is any irony in their choice of .ca as their top-level domain? (If separation ever occurs they'll have to give up their website!) 

Secondly, one notices that the website (screencap below) promises an operational website by Monday, Dec. 8 (today).  Now, there are a few hours left before this promise goes unfulfilled. But it looks very much like Crutcher and his colleagues are going to miss their self-imposed deadline.

Update. It looks like they met (just!) their deadline: a new site is up this morning, here.

Did someone say perogies?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Pay equity and Harper

Antonia Zerbisias points out that the Harper government has consistently undermined women:
    during his first minority government, casualties included a national childcare plan, 12 out of 16 Status of Women Canada (SWC) offices, the court challenges program, which helped women and minorities fight for their rights, the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL), a research and advocacy group, and the very word "equality'' from the SWC mandate.

    Then, last week, when Finance Minister James Flaherty delivered his ill-fated financial statement, he fired another blast at women's rights.

    KABOOM! to pay equity, the idea that women's work is just as valuable as men's.

    That despite Section 11 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which states that, ``It is a discriminatory practice for an employer to establish or maintain differences in wages between male and female employees employed in the same establishment who are performing work of equal value.''

    But, in seven convoluted sentences, Flaherty not only misrepresented the concept of equal pay for work of equal value, he dumped the onus on obtaining fair and equitable wages on unions.

    As if every sewing machine operator and restaurant dishwasher has access to collective bargaining.

h/t BCL.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A better way forward: Harper should resign as CPC leader

Not to be one to sign out of tune, but I'm dubious about the coalition and its stability. The Liberal Party is between leaders and the Bloc's goals can change quickly. I doubt whether it will last more than a few months and am concerned that it might become the basis of a Dolchstoßlegend for Alberta and the Conservatives, somewhat the way the NEP.

A better solution would be for Harper to step down as leader of the CPC and for the Conservatives to choose an interim leader to face Parliament on Monday.