Posted by: Rob | October 21, 2010

The Price of the Taste of Bacon

Hog confinement barn interior, slatted floor

Image via Wikipedia

Bacon.  It’s nearly ubiquitous in North American culture, added to all varieties of fast food, and craved by many.  Unless you’re a Muslim, for Muslims will not touch the “filthy swine“.  I am personally neither a Muslim nor a bacon eater.  I won’t touch the filthy swine either, but for a different reason.

You see, my family and I, and my neighbours and community are all paying the price for your bacon.  Our hamlet is a scant two miles distant from an Intensive Livestock Operation or ILO.  That’s just a fancy word for a factory farm.

The Scotford Colony was successful in their application a few years back for a permit for a 5,000 hog barn.  That’s right.  5,000.  You say, “That would generate a lot of manure.”  And you’d be right.  Do you know what that hog manure looks like and what is done with it?  It’s a dark, evil smelling liquid and it’s sprayed onto the fields.  Fields which are closer to our hamlet than the hog barn itself.  And when those factory farmers are spraying that manure on the fields, it stinks in our hamlet.  A lot.

You can not go outside.  You can not open a window in your house.  Or you will gag.  You might vomit.  Worse yet, if you have asthma, you may not be able to breathe.  The odour infiltrates everything, and you can not get it out.

I’ve complained to the NRCB.  I’ll complain again.  But I’m sick of it.  Something has to change.  Our quality of life should not suffer from this.  But it is and it’s not right.

Posted by: Rob | October 4, 2010

The Ridiculousness of Utility Deregulation

Y-axis: Dollars per cubic meter natural gas at...

Image via Wikipedia

One of the hallmarks of “King” Ralph’s* legacy from his tenure as Premier of Alberta was the misguided execution of the deregulation of the utilities in the province.  Conspiracy theorists would likely consider the timing to be slightly suspicious as this great initiative, which was supposed to save “consumers” money in the long run, came during the time of Enron‘s famous shenanigans.

I was perusing the details of my latest utility bill from Enmax today after having paid it yesterday in order to add the figures to my tracking spreadsheet – yes, I am that much a geek – and although I wouldn’t have thought it possible that more ridiculous charges could be added to a utility bill, it turns out I was wrong.

I remember (wistfully) the days after we moved back to Alberta from a brief sojourn stateside, when the monthly gas bill from ATCO (and it may have actually even been Northwestern Utilities still at that point) contained three lines:

  • Natural Gas used x price = total
  • Tax
  • Total Bill

Deregulation seems to have been code for think up as many ridiculous line items as you can to put on a bill and get the suckers customers to pay it or else we cut off their service.  It’s particularly maddening in the summer time, when natural gas consumption is nearly negligible since all we use it for is to heat water.   This past summer, the natural gas part of my bill has run $45 to $50 for about 2 gigajoules of gas use.  2 GJ of gas has been costing on the order of $5 or $6.  So that means, for preparing my bill and for the privilege of being hooked up to ATCO’s distribution system, I have to pay $40 to $45 per month.  Kind of sounds like I’m paying something for nothing.

Here are some examples of the bullshit line items that appear on my monthly bill:

  • Admin charge (presumably the cost of preparing my monthly bill)
  • ATCO Fixed Charge (cost for privilege of being connected to the distribution system)
  • ATCO Variable Charge (additional cost of connection floating on amount of gas they push through the line to your house)
  • ATCO Placeholder Rider (?  Sounds made up to me.)
  • Transmission Service Charge Rider (?  Sounds made up to me.)
  • ATCO Fixed Charge Rider (?  Sounds like “We fucked up and didn’t charge enough to cover Christmas bonuses.)
  • Weather Adjustment Rider (? Sounds like “We need to cover unbudgeted wintertime OT costs somehow.)
  • Interim Shortfall Rider (?  Sounds like “Oops! Raises were too large last year.  Need to make it up!”)

And this month’s two new beauties:

  • Deferral Account Rider
  • Pension and Benchmark Rider

I have no idea what these latest two charges are supposed to be for or what the justification for them is.  This is simply just out and out douchebaggery, in my opinion.

But, in all honesty, the figures attached to most of these line items are pretty small potatoes and barely worthy of a rant, other than on principle – as this one is.  I should be more upset about the magnitude of my monthly water bill from Strathcona County.

How did we ever allow ourselves to be manipulated into these traps of dependence where all we do is pay and pay and pay?

* Ralph Klein was dubbed, informally, as such.  During his acceptance speech after (I think) his last electoral victory, he actually used the phrase, “Welcome to Ralph’s world.”

Posted by: Rob | September 28, 2010

Grave Curiosities

Found this via an agglomerate blog I read.  Use “Ctrl +” to enlarge for readability (and “Ctrl -” to shrink it back down).  Mac users should use that “squiggly” key.  I think.

Funeral Facts

Via: Funeral Flowers at

Posted by: Rob | September 1, 2010

The Messenger by Daniel Silva

Flag (obverse) of Saudi Arabia with inscriptio...

Image via Wikipedia

Ann brought me a paperback book while I was in the hospital this past July.  It was a spy novel, The Defector by Daniel Silva.  Spy novels have not typically been something I’ve read and I’d never heard of Silva but gave the book a go, being a captive audience and all.  It had a slow start and I almost gave up on it before it became interesting.  The book featured a recurring character named Gabriel Allon.  Gabriel was a promising artist in the early ’70’s when he was recruited by “the Office” – a euphemism for the Mossad – to be an assassin deployed in Operation Wrath of God, the targets of which were the members of Black September.

Once I finished The Defector – the ninth Allon book –  I wanted more and so began wading through the Allon themed books available at my local public library.

The Messenger is the sixth book that centres around the character of Gabriel Allon, talented art restorer and Israeli assassin.  After having read nearly all of the Allon books, I’m finding that they follow a relatively predictable format, though I suppose that’s the most successful method employed purveyors of fiction.  So, why would one continue to read them, if they’re somewhat repetitive and predictable? Besides the entertainment value and the quickness of the read, I suppose I enjoy the aspect that there’s always some kernels of truth and the odd bit of profound philosophy incorporated into these fictional tales.

The Messenger explores the links between the USA, Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Royal Family and radical Islamic fundamentalism and jihad.  I found the following passages of particular interest:

Gabriel Allon, Israeli intelligence, in conversation with the pope:

“You seem to believe that the problem of terrorism and radical Islam can be swept away if they were more like us – that if poverty, illiteracy, and tyranny weren’t so prevalent in the Muslim world, there would be no young men willing to sacrifice their lives in order to maim and kill others.  But they’ve seen the way we live, and they want nothing of it.  They’ve seen our democracy, and they reject it.  They view democracy as a religion that runs counter to the central tenets of Islam, and therefore they will resist it with a sacred rage.  How do we deliver justice and prosperity to these men of Islam who believe only in death?”

Adrian Carter, CIA DD Operations, in conversation with Gabriel Allon:

“And then there are those in the Royal Family who are willing to play the game by a different set of rules.  We’ll call them the True Believers.  They think the only way the al-Saud can survive is to renew the covenant they formed with Muhammad Abdul Wahhab two centuries ago in the Najd.  But this new covenant has to take into account new realities.  The monster that the al-Saud created two hundred years ago now holds all the cards, and the True Believers are prepared to give the monster what it wants.  Infidel blood.  Jihad without end.  Some of these True Believers want to go further.  The expulsion of all infidels from the Peninsula.  An embargo on oil sales to America and any other country that does business with yours [Israel].  They believe oil should no longer be treated as simply an unending pool of liquid money that flows from the terminals of Ras Tanura into the Zurich bank accounts of the al-Saud.  They want to use it as a weapon – a weapon that could be used to cripple the American economy and make the Wahhabis masters of the planet, just as Allah intended when he placed that sea of oil beneath the sands of the al-Hassa.”

Sounds kind of ominous, doesn’t it?  I am certainly somewhat relieved that the fates intervened to eliminate the possibility of my ultimately travelling in-country to Saudi Arabia for a project assignment.  And before you respond with statements that the above is only fiction and is, therefore, not real, consider this excerpt from the Author’s Note at the end of the story:

Sadly, a central aspect of The Messenger is inspired by truth: Saudi Arabia’s financial and doctrinal support for global Islamic terrorism.  The pipeline between Saudi religious charities and Islamic terrorists has been well documented.  A very senior U.S. official told me that, after the attacks of 9/11, American officials traveled to Riyadh and demonstrated to the Royal Family how twenty percent of all the money given to Saudi-based Islamic charities ends up in the hands of terrorists.  Under American pressure, the Saudi government has put in place tighter controls on the fund-raising activities of the charities.  Critics, however, believe these steps to be largely window dressing.

An example of Saudi Arabia’s new commitment to stemming the flow of money to terrorist organizations came in April 2002.  Eight months after 9/11, with Saudi Arabia besieged by inquiries about its role in the attacks, state-run Saudi television broadcast a telethon that raised more than $100 million to support “Palestinian martyrs,” the euphemism for suicide bombers from Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.  The telecast featured remarks by Sheikh Saad al-Buraik, a prominent government-sanctioned cleric, who described the United States as “the root of all wickedness on earth.”  The Islamic cleric went on to say: “Muslim brothers in Palestine, do not have any mercy, neither compassion on the Jews, their blood, their money, their flesh.  Their women are yours to take, legitimately.  God made them yours.  Why don’t you enslave their women?  Why don’t you wage jihad?  Why don’t you pillage them?”

The Messenger was published in 2006, but if you’ve kept up with news you’ll know that not much has changed.  The current controversy over the “Islamic Mosque” in downtown Manhattan a couple of blocks from “Ground Zero” certainly reinforces that idea, with unpleasant consequences.

When your response to the American uproar about the New York mosque is summarized with statements like, “We are getting even more messages of support and solidarity on the mosque issue and questions about how to fight back against this outrage.” and “I expect we will soon be receiving more American Muslims like Faisal Shahzad who are looking for help in how to express their rage,” and “The more mosques you stop, the more jihadis we will get,” then you know that this is a problem that won’t be resolved any time soon.

Posted by: Rob | July 26, 2010

Sorry, Right Number

I still marvel at the way “things” work, and by “things” I mean my own bio-organism.  Have you ever wondered what would trigger an old memory?  Like, for instance, what would suddenly cause one to remember a piece of short fiction read years ago?  I didn’t question why the details of a Stephen King piece of short fiction – a teleplay, actually – bubbled to the surface of my consciousness a few months ago, although I probably should have.  I could not remember the name of the piece and so my search through the collection of Stephen King in our house came up empty.  I had wanted to re-read the piece and share it with Ann.

A google search today, however, identified the title of the piece as well as the collection in which it was published: Nightmares & DreamscapesSorry, Right Number is a compelling short, especially, in retrospect, for young widowed folk.  Wikipedia sums it up as well as I could:

One night, while the children are arguing about whether or not to watch Spider’s Kiss, the gory TV adaptation of her husband Bill’s novel, Katie receives a strange phone call in which the person at the other end of the line sobs, “Take… please take… t-t-,” before the line goes dead. She at first thinks it’s her daughter Polly, away at boarding school, then believes it’s her mother, then her sister Dawn; she discovers that none of them were the source of the mysterious call. The incident is quickly forgotten. Later, she finds her husband slumped in his chair, dead from a heart attack. The story then jumps forward in time to Polly’s wedding day, five years to the day of Bill’s death. Katie is in Bill’s old office when she finds a tape of Spider’s Kiss and puts it into the television. She is hysterical with grief over the death of her husband and accidentally dials the old house number. She is startled when it rings and is answered by herself five years previously. She tries to warn herself of the terrible tragedy that is about to befall her/them but is unable to speak her intended message of “Take him to the hospital! If you want him to live, take him to the hospital!” In her shock, she is only able to get out “Take… please take…” before the line goes dead. It’s then that she realizes the truth of what happened that night. The story ends with Katie crying over her lost chance to save her husband and a close-up shot of the ominous looking telephone.

Okay, so it’s a bit of a depressing story; what does it have to do with anything, you ask?  Well, sometimes context is all that is needed and a happening of some sort will make seemingly unrelated events gel into a pattern heretofore unrecognized.  Cryptic enough?

Let me explain.  Yesterday I discussed how I missed or misread physical signs and symptoms of an impending cardiac issue.  But I now realize that, given the history of interactions we’ve experienced with those on another plane, I also missed the hints coming from the other side.

After several knocking, creaky stair and bedside lamps turning themselves on incidents, I reported to Ann that I’d experienced a couple of odd encounters where something unseen had brushed the top of my head as I walked through the bedroom doorway and where I’d felt something unseen tickling the back of my neck as I stood at the kitchen sink.

“Well, maybe the message is for you then,” she’d said.

She was right.

Posted by: Rob | July 25, 2010

The Meatball Sub

Back in the ’90’s, when I was working at the old Coffeyville refinery, my colleague Dave and I would often head downtown for some lunch.  We cycled through the majority of the fast food options, often times ending up at Subway.  Dave’s preferences were usually from a narrow range of selections and one of his favourites was the 6″ meatball sub.  This epicurean delight he had nicknamed “the heart attack”.

Do you know what the signals or symptoms are for a heart attack?  I thought I did: severe chest pain – centre and left, with pain or numbness radiating into the left shoulder, down the left arm and up into the jaw area.

It turns out that symptoms can be as individualized as we are and I’m claiming that to be the reason I did not recognize that I was experiencing some heart trouble recently.

We were camping up at Garner Lake for the weekend.  On Saturday we were hiking the trails around the lake and in the afternoon had taken the trail that loops out over an off shore island.  The back half of the trail veers away from the lake and the terrain goes from flat to rolling.  As we started climbing the low hills, I started to feel a cramp in the front of my left shoulder.  As I started rubbing it a bit to try to alleviate it Ann asked me what was wrong.

“Just a cramp.  Must be due to a muscle spasm in my back.”  I went on to rationalize that it couldn’t be heart related; I had always had excellent cardio-vascular fitness levels and no family history of heart disease that I was aware of.

That night, as I was preparing to take a quick shower, I was nearly overcome by a wave of severe nausea and dizziness.  Afterward, as I crawled into bed, Ann remarked that I looked terrible.

“Must be a touch of that flu you’ve had this past week.  I should be better after a good night’s sleep.”

I had some more brief chest pain on Tuesday night after cleaning the outside of the trailer, but this was easily chalked up to the wiping work.

Thursday morning, however, I was awakened by strong pain sensations again in my upper left chest and shoulder area.  I rolled around a bit, but it would not go away until I sat up.  It was too early to get up for the day so I lay back down.  However, the pain returned so I decided to get up and start the day.

I wasn’t feeling all that great and as I got ready to head to work, Ann came downstairs.

“I think I’m going to go to the ER and get this checked out.  Just to be sure.”

“Good idea,” she replied.

Heart trouble it indeed was.  I was admitted to the hospital and an angiogram was scheduled for the next day.  Friday found me city-bound via ambulance and I was soon experiencing the delightful sensation of a “snake” in the artery up my right arm and into my chest.  A blockage of 90% was discovered; this was angioplastied and a stent installed.

I felt better almost immediately.

In retrospect, I had seen the signs but hadn’t recognized them for what they were:

  1. Blood pressure creeping up.  I’d noticed this during my last several blood donations.  It was higher than historical, yet not high enough to be deemed hypertension.  All it prompted were soon forgotten mental notes that I’d best get working on physical fitness.
  2. Shortness of breath.  I probably should have known better and recognized this as a significant symptom.  I’ve always had better than average lung capacity – about 140% of average – and to become winded going upstairs to read to Dee at bedtime should not have been happening unless something radical was wrong.
  3. Occasional bouts of nausea and light-headedness.  Every now and then I would feel a bit “off”.  I usually attributed this to a touch of the flu or something like that.  It was likely really a blood clot or something “sticking” in my reduced diameter heart artery.  Once it would clear, I’d feel okay again.
  4. Fatigue.  I’ve been “tired” a lot, but lately it had been a little worse.  Coinciding with the Summer Solstice and the resultant lack of sleep at this time of year, it was hard to single this out as symptom of other issues.  Thinking about it now, I was really tired for the last week or so before I went to get the chest pains checked at the hospital.

Now, thanks to the heart mechanics, I’m feeling much better physically, but have to deal with the emotional and intellectual working out of what this all means going forward.  There will have to be lifestyle changes – modifications, at least – so that I may continue to hold up my end of a certain bargain.

For the rest of you, try to learn from my example.  Don’t take life for granted.  And don’t ignore the signs.

Posted by: Rob | July 20, 2010

Conrad Black Granted Bail

Well, what do you know?  Conrad Black was granted bail yesterday as he continues his quest to have all the convictions against him overturned.  There’s not much sympathy for white collar criminals these days, whether alleged, perceived or guilty, and I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily a big Conrad Black fan, but there is something about his – and I paraphrase – “Fuck all of you naysayers” panache that I find compelling.

Admittedly, much of my goodwill toward Conrad is rooted in the text of a speech he gave at a Fraser Institute luncheon back in November of 2001 (a text of the complete speech is available for download).  At the time, Black had recently renounced his Canadian citizenship to accept a British peerage (he is now known as Lord Black of Crossharbour).  He had been blocked from this, apparently, by the wily interventions of then Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.  Black does comment on this matter in the speech.

In the speech – loosely titled “Reflections of an ex-citizen” –  Black spoke rather bluntly, as he is wont to do, about the state of various affairs in Canada, touching upon such things as Canada’s identity, its place in the world and reasons for its dearth of leaders.  Although the speech has stuck with me for going on a decade now, at the time I read it I was still actively pursuing a career move that would move us back to the United States on a more permanent basis.  That dream, however, was starting to erode as the US began to subtly – and not-so-subtly – change  following the events of September 11, 2001.  Following are some of my favourite passages from Black’s reflections; any emphasis on text is mine.

On Canada’s best and brightest, many of whom choose to leave our country:

From the age of 8, a regrettably long time ago now, when I first saw New York and London, in both of which cities I am a homeowner now, I dreamt of a Canada where the most talented and ambitious people would not feel irresistibly drawn to those and other great foreign cities.

In 200 years more than 4 million Canadians have emigrated to the United States, including Alexander Graham Bell, James J. Hill, Saul Bellow, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jack Kent Cooke and many of Hollywood’s greatest stars, such as pre-war America’s designated sweetheart, Mary Pickford. If they had remained here, Canada’s population would be twice as large and more than twice as productive as it is today. We have peace, order, and what most Canadians profess to accept as tolerably good government. If Canadians were a little livelier, freer and happier, fewer Canadians would look or move to the United States and elsewhere in pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

The movement of talented Canadians to the United States has grown steadily to between 75,000 and 100,000 per year. The head of the Canadian government says they will be replaced by Haitian taxi drivers. They will not. A country needs good taxi drivers and many of them will be upwardly mobile but it also needs leaders in every field. Too many of Canada’s leaders live in New York and Chicago and Los Angeles and London, which is one of the main reasons why the leaders in Ottawa and Toronto and elsewhere tend to be inadequate.

I thought, and still believe that if the social safety net were rolled back from being the hammock Trudeau made of it to buy votes from the separatists in Quebec and distinguish Canada from the United States, many of those who have left this country, most of them reluctantly, but lured by greater opportunity, lower taxes, and a less envious social ambiance, could be attracted back. In any case, the drain could be stopped or drastically reduced and Canada’s talent pool would rise.

On Canada, it’s culture and how Canadians see themselves:

I think most English-speaking Canadians and a large number of French-speaking Canadians are pleased to be Canadian. Most regret, as I do, that Canada is not better recognized in the world and did not produce more people whose talent was recognized internationally. Most Canadians became fatigued as well as embarrassed by the intractability of constitutional problems. The fact that 90% of Canada’s high culture and 80% of its popular culture come from elsewhere, mainly the United States, created serious ambivalences.

Being a gentler and less vulgar but less creative and confident country than the United States while being less formal and often more enterprising than the British in my judgement never really wholly satisfied the ambitions of citizenship of most Canadians. Defining Canadians in subtle terms of what they are not is not a compelling rallying cry.

Let us, at least between ourselves, face facts. Canada is, compared to other G-7 countries, a plain vanilla place or, to paraphrase our distinguished travel writer, Jan Morris, “a good second prize in the Lottario of life”. The status of being good but not great afflicts French as much as English Canada. I know of few parts of the world more terminally self-absorbed than Quebec, but this interest in Quebec is shared by virtually no foreigners. Interest in Canada is like Canadian Art; it has no market outside the country. Believe me, I’ve tried. If pressed, a few Frenchmen will admit to a passing Châteaubriand interest in “messieurs les sauvages” and some Englishmen will express solidarity. Americans, with the best motives, don’t regard Canada as foreign.

Canadians are rightly heartened by those United Nations surveys that show Canada to be one of the world’s most agreeable countries for the average person. But most Canadians in my experience are frustrated by the country’s lack of recognition as a significant nationality compared to the Americans or the principal countries of Europe. And almost all practising Canadians, including me when I was one, felt the urge to help lift the country that final rung we were told in school we were pre-destined to climb, to the summit of national achievement.

On Canadian competitiveness, especially with the U.S. (note that these remarks are under the paradigm of a devalued Canadian currency which, nowadays, flirts more frequently with parity with the US dollar.), and its economic ties to the U.S.:

From the Diefenbaker regime on, Canada has generally accorded higher social benefits to virtually all categories of employees than did the United States. Our productivity levels steadily lagged those of the U.S., the wage and security components of our industrial cost structure were higher than the American and the result was that in the last 45 years Canadians maintained their ability to export to the United States, upon which 87% of Canada’s foreign trade and 43% of its Gross National Product now depend, by reducing the comparative value of the Canadian dollar by over 40%. Thus Canada’s standard of living, compared to that of the United States, factoring in tax reductions and productivity increases in the U.S., has declined by almost 40%. It is 30 years since Pierre Trudeau set out to reduce the U.S. percentage of Canadian foreign trade with spectacularly unsuccessful results. Canada is now more integrated into the U.S. economy than California is. In addition to moving resources to people we defined ourselves as a nationality through social programs, another original concept that is unlikely to find many emulators. I believed and often wrote, that these policies would lead to a painful day of social and fiscal reckoning, that they encouraged underachievement, the spirit of envy and that they dampened individualism. I have not seen any reason to alter that opinion.

I supported free trade in the great debates of nearly fifteen years ago not because I thought it would greatly expand trade prospects but because I hoped Canadians would realize that they could compete successfully with the United States without recourse to protectionism. And I hoped that Canada could then be less self-conscious, less defensive, in its relationship with that country than it often has been.

I always dissented from those who claimed Canada was more generous or humane than the United States because it is more socialistic. But I am one of those who believe Canadians can be fully competitive, as employees and as executives, as farmers and as policy-makers, with that country. This is no small achievement. Whether the bedraggled Canadian left likes it or not, the United States is by far the most successful and powerful country in the history of the world. To keep pace with it is a challenging yardstick and Canada’s media should have done a more efficient job than they have of informing Canadians of their exemplary competitive performance. Even though too much of it is based on currency devaluation. Instead Canadian media have tended to focus excessively on perceived American shortcomings.

On Canada’s identity and its destiny:

I believed Canada could evolve to a more confident, spontaneous, individualistic, enterprising and unenvious society than it had been by its own methods, not imitative ones. With only 11% of the U.S. population and a less temperate climate, Canada had a less complicated sociology. I thought most Canadians perceived that Canada does have the potential to be one of the world’s ten most important countries and a fairly distinct and much admired political laboratory. I believed it myself for a long time, and advocated it strenuously, as a commentator, a business spokesman, and ultimately as a publisher, arguably the country’s leading newspaper publisher. What I was proposing was not annexation, as I was regularly accused of favouring but did not, or even American imitation. It was successful competition with the United States. I thought, and still believe that if the social safety net were rolled back from being the hammock Trudeau made of it to buy votes from the separatists in Quebec and distinguish Canada from the United States, many of those who have left this country, most of them reluctantly, but lured by greater opportunity, lower taxes, and a less envious social ambiance, could be attracted back. In any case, the drain could be stopped or drastically reduced and Canada’s talent pool would rise.

The way to make this society constructively distinct from and truly competitive with the United States was never fabricated righteous collectivism, but civilized individualism.
This was essentially a cultural and philosophical change but so was the over-socialization of Canada in the sixties and seventies.
The problem was greatly compounded when, as a skilful tactical antidote to the agitation for increased provincial rights, Trudeau produced the Charter of Rights. The other provinces, incidentally, after the briefest pause for unctuous demurral from Quebec’s antics always demanded the same jurisdictional treatment as Quebec. The Charter was designed, I don’t doubt sincerely, to emphasize individual over jurisdictional rights.

The majority of Canadians are still profoundly seduced by notions of the country’s surpassing virtue, the world’s indispensable peace-keeper. Without mocking the forces involved, my own view, heresy in this country, was that if you have peace you don’t need peace-keepers and if you have war, they are of no use. Most Canadians remain resolutely oblivious to their country’s objective decline.

And, finally, Conrad’s side of the story around his renunciation of his Canadian citizenship:

… these issues became confused with the minor controversy between the Canadian Prime Minister and myself. Because this was a personal matter insusceptible to general interest, I haven’t much commented on it. If you will indulge me, I will say a few words about it now.

The National Post had exposed the fact that the prime minister had improperly influenced a government agency to make grants to a commercially dubious hotel in his constituency. It is adjacent to a golf course in which the prime minister had an interest and he had misled Parliament about it.

As we were exposing this story, the prime minister deliberately gave false advice to the Queen of the United Kingdom and Canada, that I was ineligible under Canadian law for the British peerage to which I had been nominated. The British government had initially asked the Canadian government’s view of this as a courtesy, and Ottawa had suggested that I seek British citizenship and be a dual citizen. I did so.

The Canadian Prime Minister then used the fact that I was a dual citizen, and the fact that the Queen cannot choose between conflicting advice from two prime ministers, to both of whom she is technically Chief of State.

I had not lifted a finger to achieve this honour and to become a member of what is certainly the most talented legislative chamber in the world. But the honour having been offered, I wasn’t disposed to be deprived of it in this outrageous way. I was assuredly happy to be asked. As I am not under the illusion that I have any aptitude for electoral politics and this is almost certainly my only chance to be any kind of legislator, and it is a fascinating time in British politics, I wished to accept. I sued in Canada for recognition of my rights as a citizen of the United Kingdom.

I was always impressed, as a law student and as a non-practicing lawyer, by the independence and cogency of Ontario’s high courts. When seized of the fact that the Canadian Prime Minister had exploited the anomalous position of the shared monarch to compromise my rights as a U.K. citizen, these courts simply denied that they had any right to review the prime minister’s advice to the monarch. I was, as I said when the Court of Appeal decision came down, the only adult, sane, solvent, unincarcerated citizen of the U.K. ineligible for an honour in that country because I was also a citizen of a country with a capricious and antagonistic prime minister without a serious political opposition or the discipline of a reliably independent judiciary.

Commercial and personal and political factors came together.

And so, some old thoughts from the scion of a wealthy and privileged former Canadian.  Conrad Black has continued to provide us with his opinions, more recently written from his cell in a Florida jail and printed as letters to the editor in the National Post, a newspaper he helped found and once owned.  With these latest U.S. court decisions, he may yet regain his full freedom someday.  Perhaps he will come back to Canada, resume his citizenship, become a political leader and drag us, kicking and screaming, towards the future he has envisioned for Canada.

Posted by: Rob | June 18, 2010

Take a Load off Mikey

I have not been much enthused about blogging of late.  Even blog reading has seemed almost obligatory.  Yet, I still look at my stats pretty much daily.  I’ve got something like three hundred and change posts.  Granted, many of them are fluff pieces or lazy blogging pieces, but it seems to be sufficient to be critical mass.  Critical mass in that there appears to be enough crap material for search engines to direct the unwary to my little corner of the interwebs.

However, the truth is, there is one post in particular that draws a lop-sided number of visitors.  It was one I put together just earlier this year and it’s about Mike Prysner.  Remember Mike?  He’s the former American soldier whose Winter Soldier testimony for the IVAW went viral around the internet via youtube.

To date, that post about Mike has garnered nearly 3600 views, more than double the next most popular post on my blog (which, for those interested, was the one I put up during the Vancouver Olympics  featuring the video of Tom Brokaw “explaining” Canada to Americans).  My blog isn’t one of those big traffic ones, so if I’m averaging 40 or views per day – when I don’t post anything – it’s almost solely due to interest about Mike.

The stats on search engine terms pretty much says the same story, except searches for “mike prysner” are nearly tenfold as numerous as those for the Brokaw piece, although that’s not including variants like the disturbing “mike prysner died” or “mike prysner death”.

I’ve been content to just let it ride as I sort out my relationship with blogging and try to figure out if I really want to continue.  Truth is, while there is a lot going on in the world, I no longer feel compelled to comment on it.  Partly because it really seems irrelevant, partly because I don’t care as much anymore, and partly because the delusion that anyone who reads this cares anything for what I have to say* has mostly slipped away.

But I suppose I should – as they say – shit or get off the pot.  And by shit, I mean resume semi-regular blogging.  So, we’ll see.

* No, this is not a ‘pity me’ plea, simply a statement of fact.

Posted by: Rob | May 22, 2010

Blogging – Updated


UPDATED: Found this one at


“Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.”

Posted by: Rob | May 4, 2010

I love my baby back ribs!

Shamelessly stolen from Ærchie’s Archive.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »