Friday, January 30

Soccer Mom Budget

I have nothing against women who can afford to stay home and raise their kids, or those who can follow a successful career outside their home and afford a nanny or other costly daycare. However, they are not the majority of women.

The budget conjured up by Harper and Flaherty, under threat from a potential coalition government, does not address the needs of the most vulnerable, and that includes many Canadian women.

The income tax cuts will mostly help fairly affluent households. Upping the "baby bonus" amounts will not address the need of affordable day care and is just another perk for affluent households. Ditto for tax credits in support of kids' hockey camps and piano lessons. The "cottage deck" initiative does nothing to provide affordable housing for low income, fixed income, under-employed, unemployed and unable to work women across this country. There is also the failure to change Employment Insurance eligibility to provide income relief to many women who work in jobs that make them ineligible or hold onto part-time work that doesn't allow them to access the program.

I didn't expect better from Harper. Nor did I expect him to respect pay equity. You only have to look at the list of resolutions passed at the last Conservative Party convention to recognize how despised women's rights are in his party.

What really burns is to recognize that neither pay equity nor the failure to address the needs of the most vulnerable was not considered a "poison pill" by the official opposition.

Sadly, I was hoping that Ignatieff would prove me wrong and display some courage. Unfortunately, I was wrong. It seems that vulnerability is an abstract concept for this Ivy League "human rights" expert.

Thanks to the Regina Mom, who reminded many of us that Anita Neville is the LPC critic for Status of Women, I fired off this letter:

Dear Ms. Neville,

I live in a riding adjacent to yours so I am not writing as one of your constituents but as a concerned Canadian woman. I am writing to you today since you are the Liberal critic responsible for the status of women.

The budget presented by Harper's Conservative government is a failed attempt at addressing the severe recession we are entering. Mr. Ignatieff seems to recognize this but still insists on supporting it with the proviso of periodic report cards. This is a meaningless gesture that does nothing to protect the most vulnerable, which includes many women across Canada. This budget provides little of no relief for low income, single income, unemployed and working women.

Those who are fortunate enough to still have jobs need meaningful childcare supports, something former PM Martin recognized but didn't act upon fast enough. Those without jobs or earning low incomes need refundable tax credit mechanisms to supplement household income and not increases in income exemptions and bracketing that fail to provide women with non-taxable incomes little relief. Many of the women who will lose their jobs will not qualify for EI benefits based on the current system. And lose their jobs they will since most women are employed in the retail and services sectors (including health care) and the taxation and economic stimulus measures will not create very many opportunities or protect jobs in these sectors.

But what really galls me is that the Liberals have failed to demand a reversal of the government's attack on pay equity. We have known that this was on the table since Flaherty first presented his economic update in November. Failing to demand that this loathsome and regressive move be struck from the budget is reprehensible. While President Obama moves the US a step forward, PM Harper with support of the official opposition moves Canada two steps backwards.

I beg of you that you vote with your conscience and engage your caucus to re-examine their official position. This is not the time to play petty politics.

Yours respectfully,

Beijing York

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Sunday, January 18

Who's the terrorist?

Is Izz el-Deen Aboul Aish a terrorist? Is that why his daughters had to die?

Izz el-Deen Aboul Aish, who speaks Hebrew, worked as a gynecologist in an Israeli hospital. Even as the crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel had largely been closed in recent months, he had traveled frequently from one place to the other. But he had remained in Gaza since the Israeli offensive began 21 days ago. He gave frequent interviews to the Israeli media on living conditions in the seaside enclave. He spoke of having tanks around his house and of passing through checkpoints; he told Israelis what it was like to be Palestinian.

Minutes away from a scheduled phone interview on Israeli TV 10 with newscaster Shlomi Eldar, Aboul Aish called Eldar’s cellphone, screaming and weeping in Arabic and Hebrew. The doctor’s home had been struck by a shell:

“Oh God, oh my God, my daughters have been killed. They’ve killed my children. . . . Could somebody please come to us?”

Sitting at his news desk for one of Israel’s main evening news broadcasts, Eldar held his phone up. For three minutes and 26 seconds, Aboul Aish’s wailing was broadcast across the country.

Some more pictures of terrorists from Guerrilla Radio:

From Da Arab Mcs: Who's the terrorist?

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Friday, January 9

Bang, zoom, straight to the moon!

In Michael Ignatieff’s recent mea culpa , not only does he acknowledge that he was wrong about the Iraq invasion but he reveals a humility that has endeared so many Canadian voters — not. Peppering his earlier paragraphs with quotes from the philosopher Isaiah Berlin, he faults his error in judgment on the academic’s propensity to view the world through ideas and knowledge rather than simple understanding of reality. This convoluted explanation of the difference between the intellectual and politician serves as some kind of proof that he has rappelled the walls of his ivory tower to embrace the simplicity of thought of the common man. And who better to represent that common man than Ralph Kramden!

“As a former denizen of Harvard, I’ve had to learn that a sense of reality doesn’t always flourish in elite institutions. It is the street virtue par excellence. Bus drivers can display a shrewder grasp of what’s what than Nobel Prize winners. The only way any of us can improve our grasp of reality is to confront the world every day and learn, mostly from our mistakes, what works and what doesn’t. Yet even lengthy experience can fail us in life and in politics. Experience can imprison decision-makers in worn-out solutions while blinding them to the untried remedy that does the trick.”

The “bus driver” has a shrewder grasp of reality because he bumbles along in life and picks up a few “what’s what” by learning from mistakes. You have to wade through some 15 or 16 paragraphs that grapple with the obstacles faced by politicians and the challenges of dealing with Iraq before Ignatieff actually and clearly acknowledges that he was wrong because others were less wrong. Those who were against the Iraq invasion were too common and simple to know they were right!?! How else can we interpret this:

“We might test judgment by asking, on the issue of Iraq, who best anticipated how events turned out. But many of those who correctly anticipated catastrophe did so not by exercising judgment but by indulging in ideology. They opposed the invasion because they believed the president was only after the oil or because they believed America is always and in every situation wrong.”

Ignatieff’s so-called apology is pompous and self-serving. In the paragraph that follows, he basically calls those who demonstrated good judgment callous cynics who didn’t suppose the human rights ideals that fueled his own belief that a free state could arise on the foundations of 35 years of police terror. His vision and good intentions, like those of Bush and such honourable Iraqi exiles as Ahmed Chalabi, were his failings? Ignatieff and his fellow neo-conservative pundits do owe an apology for defending and boosting the Bush administration’s ridiculous and illegal plans to liberate Iraq by bringing ruin and insecurity to a nation that had not posed any threat to the US or its allies.

Ignatieff might learn a thing or two about the common man by renting The Honeymooners on DVD. Robert Svedi had this to say about the appeal of this television classic:

“Another reason for The Honeymooners long shelf life is that the problems that the Kramden's and the Norton's faced some fifty years ago, are the same problems that still plague people today. Money shortages, being stuck in a dead-end job, housing and relationship issues and the desire to better one's condition are all things that are dealt with on a daily basis for most of the population every day. The Honeymooners allow us to laugh at ourselves while teaching us that the most valuable commodities are really love and friendship.”

Jackie Gleason’s bus driver has more insight into the human condition than this wannabe Prime Minister.

UPDATE: For the sake of political expediency, I thought I would bite my tongue on the LPC's coronation of Ignatieff as the de facto leader of the party. I've expressed my doubts that he would put his personal ambition aside to work for solutions for Canadians, including working within a coalition government should Harper fail to deliver anything but a just and effective budget. But his recent comments with respect to the brutal assault of Gaza by the IDF was just too much to remain silent. My fellow progressive bloggers have been raking Iggy over the coals and provide great insight as to why he is an utter disappointment. Some have suggested I repost this because it is just too damn easy to dismiss this latest pronouncement as just a gaffe when in fact, Ignatieff has been pretty consistent in his views.

Here is a list of some excellent posts about Iggy's "not an occupation" statement worth reading:

Ignatieff Gets a Huge Pat On The Back - from The National Post

Gaza: "Big Concentration Camp"

Israel faces UN war crimes probe

Not Good Enough

Ignatieff the Bloody

Wanker of the day

An Israeli atrocity

Oh, Iggy

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Thursday, January 1

CBC: Prognosis Critical

Harvie Andre was one of three partisan panelists on yesterday’s Year End Political Panel on The Current. He was so over-the-top that it was hard to remember points made by others. In fact, Warren Kinsella almost sounded bashful in comparison. I was surprised that they got Peggy Nash on that panel to represent the NDP. That was actually much better than their usual “left” (NDP) stalwart and sometimes Harper cheerleader, Janice McKinnon.

I used to listen to CBC Radio for most of the day and evening (combo of work and cooking) but these days I have a hard time keeping the radio on. Ideas is still top notch as is Eleanor Wachtel's Writers & Company but so many of the other programs that were worthwhile have been diluted, skewed or replaced by crap.

It’s not just the content of programming that has gone downhill. You can hear the cutbacks in almost all aspects of Radio One. There is so much repetitive programming that I have to keep tabs on whether I already heard something on the weekend or on a weekday morning/afternoon/evening. And it seems like they have laid off technical staff because there are far more glitches than ever before. Between news broadcasts mixing up tapes, intros and extros being out of whack, and phone line connection screw-ups — I experienced better quality control on campus/community radio.

As for their TV line-up, shriek! Seriously, how could they axe such great drama as Intelligence and This is Wonderland for the dreck that they now have?

I suspect that their money-maker, Hockey Night in Canada is next to go, or is that already official. Failing to negotiate a renewal of the contract for the theme song was definitely a death knell. TSN doesn't exist on making lucrative offers. That music was CBC's to lose and had little to do with Dolores Claman’s renegotiation demands for the rights to use her iconic music. Even on last night’s As It Happens year end current affairs quiz, none of the panelists (Elizabeth May, Pat Martin and Scott Brison) could hum the contest-winning replacement theme, Canadian Gold. (It reminds me of the theme from Dallas but with a flourish of bag pipes.)

I am convinced that Harper is trying to destroy the CBC from the inside. I also think that Ignatieff will not put up a fight with the proposed cuts to the CBC. What the hell would he know about the CBC or what it means to many of us when he has spent so much of his time outside this country! He probably will think of it as nothing more than an archaic nation building tool.

Thanks to decades of insufficient funding and government pressure to compete against media giants, what was once an institution started by a visionary leader is now stacked with executives who think they can hang on to their jobs by helping the CBC transition into something new -- perhaps privatized or member supported.

Tuesday, December 30

Auld Lang Syne

B from Politics ‘n Poetry tagged me in an interesting exercise consisting of writing 19 +1 things about yourself. I ended up writing a list of remarks and insights that were frankly far more personal than I intended.

Perhaps it’s the time of year. This holiday has resonance as a marker of days gone by, and somehow I found myself swept with a myriad of memories of events, observations and feelings that define me.

This is my list:

1. Late in my teens, I discovered that I was born two years prior to my parents being married. That was big given when I was born. I never did discuss it with my mother and I should have.

2. Of my father's four children, I was the only one who consistently loved him despite his faults. That probably didn't help my relationship with my mother.

3. I grew up in a discordant household but one thing that was strong and still influences my brothers and I, was the strong commitment my parents had for equality and social justice.

4. I was an extremely shy kid who spent loads of times living in my dreams.

5. I almost failed kindergarten because my teacher assumed I was immature and unable to communicate in English. My dad wrote a note to her calling her a bigot who never took time to get to know me. He said the problem wasn't my lack of English knowledge but the fact that I didn't like her. To this day, I think that is one of the best things my dad did for me.

6. I got to travel to France and Paris as a kid and even witnessed the running of the bulls in Pamplona. That is one of my most cherished childhood moments.

7. In almost a dream like memory, I remember meeting this woman who lived in a shack on the edge of the rail tracks near the back of my home. I remember her as a tragic figure but not much else.

8. I was a pretty straight-laced kid, even throughout high school, but I had this childhood friend who lived in Quebec that I would visit every year. Her life was wild and I felt like I got to experience another life every time I visited. Those visits led to my first french kiss, drag off weed, popping of mescaline and LSD, near intercourse and other experiences. She also taught me how not to fear downhill skiing.

9. I always loved animals and couldn't stand watching any movie that included the death of any living creature. I was probably 8 years old when we adopted our first cat. I nearly went crazy when he disappeared for a week and years later was heart broken when we had to give him away. But I love them all. Not just cats. I remember my dad bringing in a dog during a snow storm. I have no idea what happened next. But I remember him being kept warm in our living room on that very snowy, cold night.

10. I think I had a mini breakdown of sorts at the end of my first year at university. I know I had very dark thoughts but I also had spent two weeks on dexidren doing all nighters studying for my exams. It was a bleak and emotionally self-indulgent period.

11. I was very angry for much of my youth. I didn't like following norms or experiencing lack of freedom. I was basically stubborn but quiet in my rebellion.

12. I moved out of home when I was eighteen. I didn't need to but chose to, to escape my mother mostly. I don't think it ever helped my relationship with her but it did bring my dad and I closer.

13. I think I only discovered wanton freedom in my mid-twenties. And I did so with a vengeance. I have no regrets and had a hell of a good time.

14. During the hey day of my party days, I would meet my future husband but I would never have guessed that I would end up with him. Life is funny that way.

15. Leaving for and living in Japan would prove to be one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. I developed self-esteem through hardship, loneliness, strong friendships and hard work. It was probably the most energetic period of my life.

16. I also got to back pack through Asia for some seven months. It was the most profound experience I had ever had and that is despite the fact that my mother was dying. Don't get me wrong, I cared very much about my mother but had become hardened to her pleas when she insisted she was dying some five years before. I did cut my travels to go home when I heard from my father that it was actually happening.

17. My mother's death had a profound effect on me. I did get to spend time with her in her last three months and it was devastating. Being by her side sooner would not have changed the impact it had on me. We had a failed and painful relationship and it would have taken another ten years to resolve. I miss her terribly and wish she had been around to see how well her children had done. I would have like to have had the opportunity to talk to her as a woman and not as a girl.

18. I have written and hope to continue to write poetry. I think that I see and describe things differently because English is not my first language and yet my only comfortable language. It's weird how that has worked out. I have a handful of dear friends who have consistently encouraged me and for that I am eternally grateful.

19. I have made short films and I hope to finish a feature film that was first inspired back in 1997. It has been an albatross around my neck. It changed so many times that I almost lost sight of how it could be a meaningful story. But it is and I have to finish it. Plus so many people lent their talent on this project for nothing but a credit that I would never forgive myself not finishing it.

20. I hope to slay all the albatrosses in my life, including the film and settling my father's estate. I look forward to moving beyond them and writing a series of short stories as well as turning my mind to new film projects. I hope all these things are possible.

And with that, I wish you peace, good health, happiness and success in the new year.

Wednesday, December 24

Freedom 85

I’ve been working for some four decades. Hard to believe at times and given my choices, my working days are far from over.

I was tagged by my dear cyber pixie buddy fern hill of DAMMIT JANET! to take part in a blog community-building exercise that consists of listing the jobs that define you. This event is the brain child of blogger balbulican of Stageleft: Life on the Left Side.

So here is my list:

* baby sitter
* server (catering company)
* kitchen staff (Burger King)
* typist (35 wpm — yeah, that bad!)
* sales clerk (we actually won a car for best service at the maternity fashion store I worked at and us part-time employees fought to share equally in the prize – my first Norma Rae moment )
* waitress/manager (Wildflower Café – a losing proposition from the get go)
* marketing/promotions coordinator (orchestra/music school)
* research assistant (rating anger management performances for psych project)
* immigrant/refugee employment/training coordinator
* public relations clerk (University of Ottawa - got to meet Stanley Knowles and Maureen MacTeer during convocation events)
* hostess/waitress (Marble Works – known for feasting with your bare hands like in the good old medieval age)
* bilingual proof reader/graphic layout (diesel engines/military manuals – rumour was our manager lost the plot after making a mistake in de Havilland engineering manual that led to a horrific crash – he was a very angry task master )
* office administration clerk/manager (software development firm)
* radio producer/ host (CKCU – it was a volunteer position but still one of the most important gigs I ever had)
* poet (never got paid but did get published for over a decade)
* Tokyo nightclub hostess (I was actually fired by the mama-san after a short 3-4 weeks of moonlighting – her assistant got drunk and fell in love with a sumo wrestler so I was asked to wash the whiskey glasses and refused)
* promotions “model” (including dressing up like a cow girl to pass out coupons for the Pollo Loco outlet in a Tokyo shopping mall – I could barely say hello in Japanese)
* radio DJ (Tokyo – best job ever even though I was constantly berated for not playing enough top 40 hits)
* chorus girl (Children’s musical theatre – another volunteer experience but very eye opening given that I was blind and off-key most of the time)
* ESL instructor (Tokyo and Ottawa – reprimanded in one school for dressing to provocatively so I protested by wearing the same black school marm dress for three weeks straight)
* copywriter (marketing firm – biggest client was the opposition Liberals under Jean Chretien)
* film maker (shorts – first film the most successful and all has been downhill ever since, sigh)
* production/training coordinator (film group)
* film CCA/tax credit officer (Cdn Heritage – there for the transition from one subsidy support to another)
* cultural/arts policy analyst/adviser (Cdn Heritage – highlight was working on the WTO Split Run Magazine challenge)
* VP marketing (failed international development start-up – but got to go to conferences in Portugal, Austria and Italy)
* consultant (arts/culture/marketing/communications – current contract is taking me into more environmental and FN resource development areas)

As for selecting five bloggers to tag, my list is:

Mentarch at Another Point of View

Catchfire at Blind Man with Pistol

skdadl at Peace, order and good government, eh?

900 ft jesus at In the House and Senate

Simon at Montreal Simon

Wednesday, December 3

Another Point of View: Crisis? What Political Crisis? In Which Deluded Universe Are We Living In?

Another Point of View: Crisis? What Political Crisis? In Which Deluded Universe Are We Living In?

An excellent must read. And seriously, who is paying for Harper's televised crisis address that airs tonight? His party or our pocket books?

Me, I rather watch the competition for Top Chef.