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Tuesday, 12 February 2008
Another 'Greatest Collingwoodite'...
Topic: Odds & Sods

Some sad news for the Collingwood area; black activist and historian, Howard Sheffield, died on Friday at the age of 81 (an obit is in Wednesday's E-B...)

I met Howard and his niece Carolynn Wilson so long ago I couldn't even tell you when. But I can say that it was always a pleasure to interview 'Uncle Howie', as he was a charming gentleman with a keen sense of humour and love of life.

I have never met anyone who had such an in-depth knowledge and sense of family history as Howard; I'm pretty sure he could trace his family lineage back to Africa, and the moment his ancestors were captured by slavers and brought to America. He was extremely proud of his heritage, and the role his family had in not only settling the area (they were among the first families to live along the shoreline on land that would become Collingwood), but also their work in the area restaurants, hotels, businesses, factories, and on the ships that plied through the Great Lakes. They owned businesses, and as merchants played a part in building Collingwood's downtown.

There was many the time I would be at the Sheffield Park Black History Museum, poring over the old photos, and Howard would be there beside me, pointing out people and rhyming off their names.

Howard was proud of that history, and was determined not to let it disappear in the mists of time. His family started the Museum, and he went to schools to talk about his family's place in local history, and the role blacks played in building this community.

Did you know there are at least two Collingwood streets are named after black men? I didn't until I talked to Howard. That would be Rodney and Minto, both here in the east end.

And like the rest of the Sheffields, he was an avid sportsmen; the family has a rich past in local hockey, going right up until the early 90s with Reg on the Collingwood Blues.

As I stated a few weeks ago, as part of the Sesquicentennial celebrations, the Town of Collingwood should find a way to recognize the people who built this community. I think the Sheffields (and the Wilsons, and a couple of the other black families who first came to this area more than 150 years ago) are worthy of that tribute. And Howard Sheffield - at least in my books - certainly qualifies, if not my top-10, then certainly my top-20 list of Greatest Collingwoodites...


Posted by Scoop at 7:57 PM EST
The truth is out there...
Topic: Odds & Sods

With a H/T to Marg, comes this odd little link:

About 9:30 at night we noticed two large creamy white lights moving in a clockwise motion, one appeared to be almost chasing the other one. After about a half an hour one caught up with the first one and they circled for just a few more times until they just disappeared. At first we thought they were search lights but there were no beams of light, just slightly elliptical shaped soft white lights.

And nobody believed me when I said this was all a cover-up for an alien crash site...


Posted by Scoop at 7:26 PM EST
Monday, 11 February 2008
Not to be trusted...
Topic: Odds & Sods

Gee, I love coming to work on Monday mornings, listening to 97.7 The Screech and the Georgian Bay Today program.

This morning, Collingwood's Mayor Chris Carrier was on, discussing this and that with the town. Among the topics was the fire department negotiations.

While I'm not going to comment on the negotiations - other than to note that the arbitration has happened and both sides are now awaiting a ruling - the mayor was also asked about Councillor Ian Chadwick's recent blog posting on the subject, and the matter of an issue that happened during mediation in November.

Now, I won't get into that, nor the mayor's response this morning; suffice to say, the mayor and Chadwick do not see eye-to-eye on the release of the information with regard to discussing the negotiations or that issue.

It's what got discussed right after - the topic of 'blogs' and their role in the, um, spread of information.

Well, Screech disc jockey... sorry, I mean, announcer... Joe 'The Thrill' Cahill pipes up to say that pretty much all 'blogs' are nonsense; not to be trusted as a "news source," he says, in spite of the prodding of the lovely Marianne McLeod to the contrary.

Nope, Joe couldn't be moved from his position...

It seems to me that I spent two years, providing news (most or it original, some of it breaking), in a 'blog' format - which, it seems, only seemed to earn me scorn from certain politicians (though it did earn me a number of readers).

Though I'd be damned if anyone can say I made it up... and I'll be damned if someone says I didn't have credibility...

Certainly no more than credibility than, say, some disc jockey...


Posted by Scoop at 10:04 PM EST
Sunday, 3 February 2008
When you're using an example as a come-back...
Topic: Municipal Politics

... don't use the example when you got proven wrong...

Anyone reading the Connection this weekend would have seen the latest row between Collingwood Town Councillor Ian Chadwick and Mayor Chris Carrier (unfortunately, I can't find the story on the newspaper's web site)

At issue is the appearance of a letter on the mayor's consent agenda from the Collingwood Professional Firefighters Association, concerned that the town hasn't hired a deputy fire chief - especially in light of the imminent retirement of the current chief.

At issue was CPFA president Dan Thurman's use of the word 'CONFIDENTIAL' at the top of the letter, and the mayor's decision to make it public. Chadwick was concerned, as he noted in my story on Friday, that the letter writer had a reasonable expectation the letter would be treated confidential - and if not, that town officials would have the good decency to inform him of that decision.

Carrier did say he consulted with the CAO and the director of human resources prior to putting the letter on the public agenda - which is fine. But as Chadwick argued, the letter writer should also have been in on the discussion.

It was at that point that the conversation at the council table on Monday night got a little odd.

As soon as Chadwick made his point - and in a completely reasonable fashion - Councillor Norman Sandberg (always the first to leap to the mayor's defence, no matter how deep the ditch - remember the e-mail audit flap?) suddenly pipes up then stops with the comment, "I was about to say something hot-headed..."

The mayor then pointed to Chadwick's alleged abuse of confidential information, when the councillor published the opinion of the clerk on the legality of holding budget meetings behind closed doors, on the basis of the goofy little 'confidential' disclaimer on the bottom of staff e-mails.

The thing is, the opinion was not something that would be confidential, and in the end, between The Underground, The Connection, and Chadwick, it was quickly proven that the town's interpretation of the Municipal Act was incorrect - and budget meetings were, indeed, open to the public.

(After the mayor's poke at Chadwick, Sandberg then took the opportunity to make the same thing; a snivelling 'yeah, so there' that reminded me of those cowardly kids who used to hang around the bully in public school.)

But it hasn't ended there, which brings me back to The Connection's article in their Friday e-dish-un. As Chadwick noted in his latest post, this was the second item with regard to the firefighters that was made public; the first was when the town published its negotiation points with the Association on the back page of the E-B back in November (which, you know, is a funny thing, since the mayor, on Friday's Chats program on The Peak, commented that labour negotiations were something done behind-closed-doors until an agreement is reached.)

Of course, the town and the Association are still in negotiations - though, I wouldn't really call it negotiations, as it's going to an arbitration board in another couple of weeks or so.

Now, this is where it gets fuzzy. Chadwick, in his post, commented that at a mediation session back in November, the town "got its collective knuckles sharply rapped" by the arbitration board back in December for publishing the negotiation points. My understanding of it from Underground sources was at the end of the day of mediation, the town's ad got shoved under someone's nose, and the town was told in rather sharp terms by the representative for the firefighters that the results of the day of mediation better not be published, either. Remember, this was a mediation session, so it was more of someone acting as a go-between between the two sides; the board wasn't really involved at this point.

Different interpretations, certainly, but the same result: the town was told in no uncertain terms that the publishing of the negotiation points amounted to bargaining in bad faith.

Still, Chadwick's post was enough for the mayor to tell The Connection:

"This is a complete fabrication or a lie, one or the other," Carrier said.

The thing is, um, stating someone 'lied' is a big no-no - especially when it gets published like that for all to see. It's one thing to state that you don't agree with the councillor's interpretation of something, or that his interpretation is incorrect, and here's why; completely another to call it a "complete fabrication."

I get the feeling this one ain't over...


Posted by Scoop at 9:07 AM EST
Friday, 18 January 2008
Harper: "we do need better efforts from Pakistan..."
Topic: Federal Politics

... no, the Prime Minister wasn't responding to Stephane Dion's comments that perhaps NATO should be offering its services to Pakistan to help root out Taliban.

No, those comments were made just around this time last year, when he was responding to questions about Vice-president Dick Cheney's visit to Pakistan:

"We will concede that the Pakistan situation remains a long-term problem and we do need better efforts from Pakistan on that problem, not just for the security of Afghanistan but for the security of the region," Harper said in Ottawa. 

The thing is, one of the things Cheney was talking about was, gulp, getting NATO involved in Pakistan:

With winter turning to spring and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces just over the border in Afghanistan expecting a fresh offensive by Taliban fighters from bases in Pakistan, Washington wants to see an end to excuses and some vigorous action by Musharraf's military.

Washington's warning to Musharraf is that unless he takes action against the fighters, one, he will lose the economically essential nearly $800 million US a year in American aid and, two, NATO will mount its own raids on the Taliban camps in Pakistan.

The next story below that details what seems to be going on - that the Americans routinely chase insurgents across the border, depending on the threat level they appear to exhibit.

It seems NATO has been pressing for this since 2006:

Since last September, North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan have been pressing Islamabad for the right to conduct extensive hot-pursuit operations into Pakistan to target Taliban and al-Qaeda bases.

According to Asia Times Online contacts, NATO and its US backers have gotten their wish: coalition forces will start hitting targets wherever they might be.

As Big City Lib points out, former Canadian defence minister Gordon O'Connor made the suggestion - then quickly had to backtrack.

So, is Dion actually ahead of the game, here, and Harper the one behind the 8-ball? All Dion said was that NATO and Pakistan should be working together...


Posted by Scoop at 5:45 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 18 January 2008 6:18 PM EST
Thursday, 17 January 2008
Ontario's energy retailers: younger, dumber and uglier...
Topic: Odds & Sods

... OK, maybe that last one was harsh, but I really have to wonder about the two gawky teenagers who turned up at my door tonight (a little after 8 p.m.) in an effort to sell me on an energy contract.

I don't know whether it was gas or electricity; I didn't really give him the opportunity to get three words out.

The one who appeared oldest (17; the other looked like he was 13 or 14) started off with the name of his company and barely got off the line about wanting to review my bills.

Of course, I stopped him right there.

"I know what you're after, and I'm not interested."

"But, sir, you don't know what we want..."

Uh, never tell me I "don't know" something, especially when it's "something" that I've written numerous times about for the newspaper. At that, I point to the sign on the mailbox: 'No agents, peddlers or solicitors'. Can't be any clearer than that. I point to it, and ask the kid what it says. He looks dumbfounded...

"I know what it says, but we're not..."

Again, I have to stop him. "It says no agents, peddlers or solicitors. You guys are soliciting, and I'll ask you to get off my property."

The kids are still standing on my porch, as I'm attempting to close the door. The older one once again attempts his pitch. Again, I have to stop him and tell him slightly more emphatically - while refraining from swearing - to get off the porch. This time he complies; a good thing, because force was about to be used.

Aren't there rules about this kind of thing, i.e. age of the salespeople, time of the call, and the fact that after the potential customer has declined, that the pitch needs to be over? Because I can't find a damn thing under Ontario legislation, and this document is totally not helpful. Someone point me in the right direction...


Posted by Scoop at 10:13 PM EST
Partisanship quickly killing rationale debate...
Topic: Federal Politics

Remember the good ol' days of political debate? The Liberals would state a position, the Conservatives (or NDP) would say, "We disagree, and here's why...", or vice versa. Each party staked a position, and the voting public would be able to judge the ideas on their merit.

Today's form of political debate - at least, as it appears to be practiced by the Conservatives - consists of levelling ad hominem attacks, and twisting words in a calculated bid to spread disinformation.

It's overheated political rhetoric, and it's intellectually dishonest; and when the message gets carried by the winged monkeys, it tends to insert itself into the public conciousness even though the premise is totally false.

Those tactics brought themselves into sharp focus this week, as our Member of Parliament, Helena Guergis, was tasked to tackle Dion's visit to Afghanistan. If the Conservatives were smart, they wouldn't have even touched it; instead, they used it as an opportunity to twist the truth. Let's look at what Helena said:

"It has taken more than a year after becoming Liberal leader for Stéphane Dion to finally find Afghanistan on the map."

The thing is, it takes several months to make the appropriate arrangements to visit Afghanistan; Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre eventually made the trip last October after he grew tired of waiting for permission from the government. And when he did, he was criticized by Peter MacKay for a publicity stunt. Interestingly enough, Coderre commented that he hoped Dion would have permission to go by the fall; so even back then, four months ago, it was his intent to go, but the arrangements hadn't come together yet... 

"The irony of Dion and Iggy being in a war zone and being protected by the same troops who protect Afghan women and children is palpable. I think he should apologize to our troops while he is touring the PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) in safety because the same reason he needs bodyguards is why our troops need to stay to protect democracy, women and children."

Why does Dion need to apologize? Because he doesn't believe the combat phase of the mission should go beyond next February? The Liberals' position on Afghanistan and its so-called 'support of the troops' are two different concepts - and yet the Conservatives continue to have success linking two incongruous ideas together. It's similar to when the Liberals questioned the protocol of handing prisoners taken by Canadian soldiers during operations over to Afghan authorities; when torture appeared to be taking place by the Afghans, and the opposition parties asked questions, they found themselves accused of siding with the Taliban. Rather than address the issue, the Conservatives would rather use it as an opportunity to shoot the messenger and brand him or her as unpatriotic.

Let's look at Dion's comments from earlier this week on Pakistan:

"We are going to have to discuss that very actively if they (the Pakistanis) are not able to deal with it on their own. We could consider that option with the NATO forces in order to help Pakistan help us pacify Afghanistan, As long as we don't solve the problem in Pakistan, I don't see how we can solve it in Afghanistan."

Somehow, the national media interpreted Dion's comments as 'intervention' (I don't know that I've seen a story in which Dion says the word "intervention"), and the Conservatives seemed eager to emphasize the misunderstanding:

Defence Minister Peter MacKay told Canwest News Service Dion's comments were off base.

"Mr. Dion can't be serious to suggest NATO "intervene," in another country while simultaneously saying Canada should abandon its United Nations-mandated NATO mission in Afghanistan," he said in an e-mail.

"He has to explain to Canadians why he wants an "intervention" but wants to turn his back on Afghanistan, which has asked and continues to ask for Canada's help. It's inane."

The theme gets picked up by his boss, and ups the ante:

 At a news conference in Saskatchewan, Prime Minister Stephen Harper mocked the Liberal leader for proposing that "Canada abandon Afghanistan and invade Pakistan."

Remember the 'winged monkeys'? Well, here's an example of how it escalates, like some viral, out-of-control meme:

If we allow that dion did make a slip about invading Pakistan, we must look at the rest of his plan in Afghanistan.

If you go back to the original statement by Dion (no word of 'intervention', much less 'invading'), it's no different than the position of the U.S. or NATO over the last 18 months (and here as well).

And it goes on. Unfortunately I have friends who, as ardent Conservatives, tend to eat up every ill-concieved Harper notion, from destructive tax policy to the contradictory 'accountable'-unaccountable government; I consider them reasonably intelligent people, but they have no problem when this nonsense gets thrown around.

And if we want an election? Well, we don't want a vote because the public suffers from "election fatigue" - though I have yet to read a poll. It seems more of a theory thrown out by the punditocracy - and as a means for the Conservatives to goad the opposition into not forcing an election...  

It has been a disappointing week for political debate in this country; it's been a disappointing two years. It seems less about discussing ideas, and crafting the 30-second television sound-bite that is more likely to stick in the minds of an increasingly distracted public...


Posted by Scoop at 4:23 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 20 January 2008 6:18 PM EST
Wednesday, 16 January 2008
Dion calls for Helena's resignation...
Topic: Federal Politics

I don't think this could be entirely unexpected:

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Helena Guergis must be removed from cabinet and stripped of her privileges as Privy Councillor for knowingly breaching Canadian security regulations and putting the lives of the recent Canadian delegation to Afghanistan at risk, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said today.

“In publicly revealing in advance the itinerary of the delegation which included Deputy Leader Michael Ignatieff and myself, Ms. Guergis violated the news blackout put in place for our protection, jeopardizing the security of the Afghan and Canadian military and civilian officials who welcomed and accompanied us during our trip,” wrote Mr. Dion in an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

<SNIP>

“Ms. Guergis’ claim that only those who agree with the government are entitled to the protection of the men and women of the Canadian Forces abroad is ridiculous,” he said. “Political views should never have an impact on the treatment Canadians receive and I have every confidence that no one would feel more strongly about that than the members of the Canadian Forces who are putting so much on the line in Afghanistan fighting for values like democracy and tolerance.”

Mr. Dion regretted that Ms. Guergis’ comments are just the latest example of the Harper government’s exploitation of Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan as a partisan wedge issue.

And that 'partisan' business is the subject of today's editorial in the E-B:

For someone who in the past has decried the acerbity of political debate in this country, it's ironic that the Member of Parliament for Simcoe-Grey stoops to such low levels of petty, partisan sniping.

<SNIP>

What's truly unfortunate is that Guergis' remarks likely received the blessing of the Prime Minister's Office. Too often, Guergis has allowed herself to be trotted out by Canada's so-called New Government and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in order to level overly partisan attacks at the Liberals. It's doubtful that was the intent of the people who sent her to Ottawa in the first place.

Simcoe-Grey Liberal candidate Andrea Matrosovs echoes those feelings.

The thing is - I don't think the message will get through...

As an aside: Helena's aide, in this Friday's E-B, continues to say - as he did in the Globe - that there are lots of Provincial Reconstruction Team bases throughout Afghanistan, and, gosh, who knows which one Dion was visiting...

The only thing is - there's only one PRT administered by Canada. Why would Dion visit someone else's PRT?


Posted by Scoop at 8:23 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 16 January 2008 9:05 PM EST
Monday, 14 January 2008
"Decorum had been shot in the House long before I arrived..."
Topic: Federal Politics

And it seems, it just continues to take a beating, in and outside of the House...

In 2006, those were Simcoe-Grey MP Helena Guergis' comments to CTV; it was something she was pressing for prior to the Conservative win in 2006 as an Opposition MP - better decorum between Members of Parliament.

So I was more than surprised to see this:

"It has taken more than a year after becoming Liberal leader for Stéphane Dion to finally find Afghanistan on the map," Helena Guergis, secretary of state for foreign affairs, said in a statement Saturday.

"The irony of Dion and Iggy being in a war zone and being protected by the same troops who protect Afghan women and children is palpable," Ms. Guergis said.

"I think he should apologize to our troops while he is touring the PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) in safety because the same reason he needs bodyguards is why our troops need to stay to protect democracy, women and children," she added.

Aside from the improper use of the word 'palpable' ('impalpable', perhaps? Or maybe you were looking for the word 'ironic', since the thrust of the Conservative position on Afghanistan is to label anyway unsure of Canada's role as alligned with the Taliban), this is an overboard partisan attack. Perhaps if she had at least referred to the pair as Mr. Dion and Mr. Ignatieff, rather than "Dion and Iggy," my personal reaction to her comments wouldn't have been as negative. As 'Mr. Sinister' states:

I am no fan of Stephane Dion, but the Canadian Armed Forces belong to the people of Canada.

<SNIP>

The only apology necessary here is from the government of Canada to the people of Canada, for acting like they are some kind of Latin American junta, instead of a democratic government. Politicizing the army is worthy only of a third-world dictatorship. It is completely unworthy of the Prime Minister and his party.

And now, according to the Liberals, Guergis may have broken the news blackout of the Liberals' visit:

"She effectively told the Taliban that they would be leaving base to visit the Provincial Reconstruction Team," Mr. del Torchio said.

<SNIP>

It all began on Saturday, when the Liberal Party of Canada put out a statement announcing Mr. Dion had just concluded a successful visit with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Almost immediately that same evening, Ms. Guergis shot back in a message circulated to reporters. "The irony of Dion and Ignatieff being in a war zone and being protected by the same troops who protect Afghan women and children is palpable," she said. "I think he should apologize to our troops while he is touring the PRT in safety."

There was a problem with that statement: At that point, Mr. Dion and Mr. Ignatieff had not yet been to the Provincial Reconstruction Team base, or PRT, as it is known. At the time the statement was circulated, they weren't due to be there until the following morning.


Posted by Scoop at 6:54 AM EST
Sunday, 13 January 2008
Obama black? Who woulda thunk it...
Topic: Odds & Sods

Last Monday to open the Georgian Bay Today on The Screech, hosts Mariane McLeod and Joe Cahill kicked off first with a discussion of Britney's latest woes (really? Wot, exactly, can a local radio station in Wasaga Beach add to this topic, when it would just as worthwhile and relevant to talk about Simcoe-Grey MP Helena Guergis' colour change from brunette to 'raven-haired'... as in, it's not worthwhile and relevant), then lumbered into the debate of whether or not Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama is... black...

Mariane brought it up first, innocently querying why Obama refers to himself as a 'black' man when - in reality - while his father is black, his mother was white.

To which Joe replied, that's right, he's "mulatto."

At which point, the car veered off the road.

First off, I really don't think the issue of whether or not Obama is a black man is up for debate; if 'black' is what he identifies with, then great - let's move on and discuss his positions on public policy.

But the use of the word 'mulatto' is a different kettle of fish altogether, though whether the word can be considered, um, 'charged' is up for debate. My initial reaction (choking and sputtering) could be, you know, white Liberal guilt; I don't know if it would be a word I would allow used in the pages of the E-B. If the racial background of someone we were writing an article about came up - and I don't know why it would unless it were entirely relevant to the article - I would be more likely to use the term 'multi-racial'.

The Wikipedia entry may be more aligned to my initial reaction: "This word is regarded as pejorative or even offensive by most English speakers, because it also means "small mule", and was also used during slave times to define a person of mixed heritage. Terms such as "biracial" are preferred. Its cognates in other languages are not necessarily offensive."

At the same time, people of a multi-racial background embrace the word, in an effort to reinforce positive self-image and stereotypes.

CBC's use of it a couple of years ago generated an interesting and informative column in its Words: Woe and Wonder feature. And, I believe, an excellent summation:

To outlaw mulatto because of Spanish and Latin roots few are probably aware of has a tinge of breeding enforcement about it, like the old laws against mixing races. It suggests that our language must be kept pure, clean of anything that could be remotely read as offensive by one group with a knowledge of etymology.

On the other hand, it may be best to avoid describing people as mulatto in news stories, not merely because the term originally meant mule but because it shores up pseudo-scientific attempts to classify us by blends of skin colour. People who identify themselves this way, of course, have every right to do so. But others have an equally valid prerogative to steer clear of the word, the same way they would give quadroon or octoroon a wide berth.

And I think that last point is one I whole-heartedly agree: why are we discussing someone's racial background (much less discussing it on a local radio station) and attempting to classify someone based on skin colour? As Dr. King once said, we need to judge a man (or woman) by their deeds, not by the colour of their skin...


Posted by Scoop at 10:35 PM EST

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