Stop me if you've heard this one...

After his parents divorce, Little Billy is at his custody hearing. The judge asks him which one his parents he wants to live with. Billy looks up at the judge sheepishly and says "Well, I don't want to live with my Dad because he beats me."

The judge replies, "So I guess that means you'll be living with your Mom then?"

Billy exclaims, "Oh no Your Honour! I don't want to live with my Mom! She beats me too!"

Exasperated, the judge asks "If you don't want to live with your Dad and you don't want live with your Mom, who do you want to live with?"

Billy snaps up and says "Your Honour, I want to live with the Vancouver Canucks! They don't beat anybody!"

...and if you think that's funny....


Welcome to the Last Refuge of a Scoundrel

After the Harper government's near-death experience of the past six weeks, the Ignatieff ascendancy among the Liberals and the steadfast refusal of the NDP and the Bloc to back down, Conservative supporters have been badly burnt by Harper's Pyrrhic victory. The cannibal economists of the Fraser Institute, their fifth columnists at Canwest Global and Bell GlobeMedia, the hate mongering anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-women evangelicals, Alberta's toxic petrofascists and the 'Support our Troops' (or else?) bully boys need a cause to rally around, and rally around quickly.

This page believes that this will do nicely for them, which is probably why it's caught the attention of the Conservative Bullsh*t Cabal (CBC - home of 'Heartland, 'Wild Roses', Andrew Coyne and a bunch of other stuff Ralph Klein probably masturbates to). Scream away, all you SUV-driving, Legion-hopping, Don Cherry-cheerleading donut monkeys, scream away. It's too bad none of you can remember that your parents and grandparents spent a lot of time in Europe back in the 40's to put down a bunch of murderous thugs who were just as big on forced patriotic exercises and mob rule as you seem to be. It's also too bad that you don't understand how parliamentary democracy works, or that your boy Harper only rules by the grace of Rideau Hall and a Liberal Party restocking its war chest.

This page can't wait for the next federal election when my riding of Vancouver East is marked with the Palinesque brand of being 'Anti-Canada'. Hopefully all the Tory true believers can forget that when they're watching the Figure Skating and Short Track Speed Skating competitions live from the Pacific Coliseum, which, for those of you scoring at home, is surrounded by all those Anti-Canadian brown people, yellow people, gay people, and poor people who somehow learned the words to 'O Canada' on our own.


Freeze This.

The Harper Government plans to use the Federal Budget to attack the people who work for it.

As someone who, in real life, is a union member works in the public sector, I expect a harder time at the bargaining table when the economy crashes and burns as it has been doing of late, but the key words here are at the bargaining table. Imposing any wage freeze is an attempt to negate a legally binding Collective Agreement, just like Gordon Campbell's attempt to fire every front line health care worker in British Columbia (Bill 29) and force wage concessions (in many cases retroactive after workers were fired) negated the Hospital Employees Union's collective agreement.

The Supreme Court of Canada told Campbell and the B.C. Liberals where they could step off with Bill 29. Hopefully the court will ignore the troglodyte union-bashing echoing from York University and Ottawa transit stations and tell Stephen Harper where he can step off too. For a government hoping to stimulate investment, The Conservatives need to be reminded that investors prefer putting their money in jurisdictions where they know contracts will be respected.


Some Air Holes Would Be Nice

Back in the day on Parliament Hill, there used to be something called a Budget Lockup. The members of the Fifth Estate were led into a conference room and presented with copies of the new Federal Budget. While reporters pored over the details of the budget, they were locked in the room so that no details could be leaked until the Finance Minister finished presenting the budget in the House of Commons. The media complied, largely due to the fact that they wanted their confiscated laptops and PDAs back.

Wow, does that ever seem like a quaint little tradition today. This page guesses then when people get elected who have no qualms about systematically ignoring the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and don't care about breaking their own legislation, the paltry conventional stuff like the Budget Lockup was sure to follow. Is there anything that the Tories haven't leaked by themselves already? Hope somebody remembered to bring a deck of cards to the Congress Centre tomorrow afternoon.


The Lines Are Open

The CRTC set up a National Do-Not-Call list to protect Canadians from unwanted phone calls from telemarketers. It now turns out that anyone who registered for the DNC list is more likely to get these kind of calls since the CRTC has been putting up the list for sale online. Of course, these are the same people who gave us the three-headed cellphone monopoly, officiated all those marriages of convenience between Global TV stations the CanWest papers across the country, and lifted the 'local' out of local radio - anyone remember CKST AM 1040 when it was the edgy alt-rock "Coast 1040"? How about 104.9 XFM? One is now an all-sports station with ample syndicated filler, the other is some kind of wishy-washy elevator music this page can't be bothered with. BTW, CRTC does not mean Canadian Radio & Telecommunications Commission, it means Can't Regulate Telecommunications Coherently.

As far as protecting oneself from unwanted telemarketing calls is concerned, this page offers this advice for those of you who can't be bothered to subscribe to call dispaly. Usually, the phone jockeys are calling from some kind of autodialling terminal, so there's a gap of about a second and a half before someone comes on the line with their pitch. During that pause, press down on one of the keys of your touch-tone phone - the caller usually thinks they've dialled a fax machine and they hang up. Or you can just screen all of your phone calls.


Let's Get Evicted

Last November, Spencer Herbert won the Provincial byelection in Vancouver Burrard for the New Democrats. The bulk of Herbert's support came from residents of Vancouver's West End, where the overwhelming majority of constituents rent, rather than own their homes. From this page's experience of living in the West End for three years, most of these people were seniors, students, and working people. The other major component of this riding (which will be divided into two for the 2009 election) would be the owners of expensive/overpriced condominiums in Yaletown, who solidly backed Liberal Lorne Mayencourt during the 2001 and 2005 votes.

One would think that an MLA with two such disparate and distinct groups in his riding would make sure that both of them would be heard, but in the case of West End renters, the evidence would clearly show otherwise. The Liberals' deliberate deaf ear towards British Columbians poised to lose their homes at the expense of greedy landlords smacks of the same bloodthirsty revenge politics Gordon Campbell inflicted on public sector workers when he took power in 2001. Put down one's enemies, or at the least make sure they stay put down, comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted.

For those of you scoring at home, this page couldn't give a rat's about the 'market value' of apartments in the West end, and Spencer Herbert is bang on in that rent increases shouldn't be allowed to go over 3.7% The near-death experience of the Olympic Village should have taught The Powers That Be a little something about the speculative nature of the market. This isn't EBay, these are people's home, and people shouldn't be expected or forced to bear what the market pretends to bear.


A Bridge Too Much

That anguished groan coming from the south that many of you have been hearing over the past few days? That would be the auto-addicted of Surrey and the Fraser Valley, trying to cope with life after the closure of the Pattullo Bridge. The bridge was closed by the Mounties and the Ministry of Transportation after a fire which is alleged to have been started by homeless people living under it.

This page says that among the estimated 80,000 commuters facing a few weeks of 'hardship', many are getting exactly what they deserve for spreading the pathogen of urban sprawl in the Lower Mainland, failing to pay the true cost of their Big Box freeway lifestyles, and screaming like spoiled children that every transportation planning and policy decision must be tilted in their direction. The Kevin Falcons and Gordon Campbells of the world do nothing to discourage them while visions of 16-lane superhighways flattening East Vancouver dance through the heads of a B.C. Liberal party bankrolled by contractors and auto dealerships. *NOTE TO GREEN PARTY SUPPORTERS - THIS IS WHY MARKET-BASED ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY FAILS: WHO'S GOING TO STOP DRIVING WHEN OIL IS $25 A BARREL?

Many of these zealously selfish patrons of the Church of the Traffic Report, as result of the Pattullo's prolonged closure, are now finding themselves boarding a SkyTrain for the first time. Translink has already bent over backwards to calm their fears of the unknown by banning cyclists throughout the SkyTrain system indefinitely, as opposed to a reasonable response, like prohibiting bikes during rush hour between Columbia and King George stations. Let's not forget that many of these new riders are people who think that anyone who doesn't own their own vehicle doesn't exist, or simply doesn't matter. They make the sweeping turns at intersections without slowing down and looking for pedestrians who have a 'walk' light. They yap on their cellphones while driving over the speed limit. They routinely push cyclists to the curb, even on streets clearly marked as designated bikeways. They're also the ones who cheered on the 2001 transit strike because those "ugly" and "stupid" buses weren't in front of them on Vancouver streets.

This page encourages any and all readers who use SkyTrain and the connecting buses to keep an eye out for your new fellow passengers. If you hear them barking about great it will be to twin the Post Mann Bridge, whining about how living without a bridge for a month is a tragedy but living under a bridge is not, and insisting the rest of us should 'shut up' and not stand in the way of 'progress', by all means, feel free to give these people the welcome they so richly deserve.


Where the Baracktion is

In less than three hours, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. While this page is somewhat reluctant to relish in Obamamania for what should be some obvious reasons, it's hard not to ignore the incoming President's momentum when one could see the Stars and Stripes flying from from apartment and store windows on, of all places, Commercial Drive last weekend. For those of you scoring at home from outside the Lower Mainland, the Drive is East Vancouver's de facto main street and the social hub for much of the left-leaning community.

Anyway, enjoy the show.


Lost (Accountability) Weekend

Update from Wednesday - Gordon Campbell has recalled the Legislature for a brief sitting tomorrow to address the Olympic Village fiasco. Of course, being a Saturday, there will be no Question Period so that the Opposition New Democrats can't press the B.C. Liberals as to how much influence they exerted on their Non-Partisan Association henchmen on Vancouver City Council to approve the backroom deal with Millennium Properties and their Wall Street bagmen in 2007.

This of course, would be the same B.C. Liberal government headed by a Premier who, just weeks earlier, chastised his federal counterparts for not respecting 'democracy' in forming a coalition against Stephen Harper. For those of you scoring at home, the Campbell gang is poised to amend the Vancouver Charter (i.e. the municipal constitution of Canada's third largest city) with the absolute minimum of debate, so that Vancouver taxpayers can be put on the hook for almost half a billion dollars without having to go through the mess of a referendum (i.e. letting municipal taxpayers decide).


The Five Ring Crisis & The Retractable Goof

City Council wants the Provincial Government to amend the Vancouver Charter so that the City can borrow $458 million to pay for cost overruns on the Olympic Village. While Gordon Campbell says that his government is open to the idea of dropping off the oversized credit card at 12th and Cambie, the last thing the Premier wants to do is recall the Legislature pass the necessary legislation, not with NDP Leader Carole James calling on the Auditor General to investigate exactly what was agreed to and who's going to pay for it.

This page is wondering why Victoria couldn't just front the money, especially since the Premier has staked so much of his government's credibility on a successful skate n' ski party. The amount the City is trying to secure is not that much more than the $365 million for upgrades to BC Place Stadium, the biggest upgrade being a retractable roof. Can anyone explain to this page a stadium which is home to 10 CFL games (and hopefully 15 or 16 MLS matches in 2011) need a retractable roof? Just take the roof and don't replace it with anything: It's only baseball that rains out, unless you're in Seattle where the American League's Mariners paid for their own rollaway roof at Safeco Field. Wouldn't the BC. Lions and Vancouver Whitecaps want to sell their supporters a few souvenir sweatshirts, jackets, hats to keep warm while watching their favourite teams?

As far as ancillary events that take place at BC Place are concerned, we're building a shiny new convention centre on the waterfront, and a big speed skating oval in Richmond in anticipation of the 2010 Rapture. I'm sure some of the action can be shovelled in those directions. Boat Show patrons could try out their new purchases on the Fraser River rather than False Creek.

If anything, the $458 million will buy something for the people of Vancouver: a crystal-clear illustration that Public-Private Partnerships simply don't deliver the kind of value for taxpayers that their proponents insist they do. The current economy dries up credit on the private side, which in turn threatens the credit rating of governments on the public side.


Apres W, le Deluge

In a week's time, the administration of George W. Bush will be over. This page has been in existence for much of the Bush years. Together we have witnessed the illegal wars, the fear-mongering, the flagrant violations of the Geneva Convention, wiretaps, outright electoral fraud in Ohio which cost John Kerry a chance to end the madness in 2004, institutionalized corporate welfare, the myopic whistling past humanity's environmental graveyard, the polarization between the True Believers and the "Reality-Based Community" and Vice-Presidential shots to the Constitution, and of course, to the face.

While Bush has admitted that the "Mission Accomplished" banner was a mistake, I honestly can't tell if his assertion that America has not lost any moral standing during his time in office is comic or tragic. At least Bush doesn't have to look back after he gets on the helicopter on January 20. The rest of the world will be stuck looking back at the reign of terror of this flippant idiot and his arch-fascist minions, to try and explain why the precipice of an apocalypse has never looked closer.


I like my economic collapse with celery, parprika, and a little dill

Today's Globe and Mail features an article about the return of 'Lowbrow Chow' as a result of the impending economic recession. Don't you just love it when our cultural 'superiors' from The Centre of the Universe go 'slumming'? Don't forget, it's many of these same people who've never opened a box of Kraft Dinner in their lives who proclaimed the triumph of unrelenting and unregulated capitalism in other sections of the Globe, like the op-ed page and Report on Business. They'll also be the first to abandon organic and Fare Trade products when the inevitable lifestyle lands on their doorstep advising them that social and environmental consciousness are no longer de riegeur.

It's something to think about over lunch today, which for this page is chicken salad on rye, made from no-name canned chicken purchased at Costco and Kraft Miracle Whip. I was eating it during the last recession, I was eating it at the height of the dot-com explosion, and I'm eating it now. To those of you who feel crushed by the current 'crisis' because you can no longer afford that third car or luxury condo, shut up and eat it, it's good for you.


Still at the Movies

The other film I saw during the break which will make a nice transition into discussing politics again: Milk. This page encourages readers to go see this film while you still can and talk about it with everybody you know, or if you like, total strangers. Obviously, parts of Milk's life and career have been glossed over as most biographies do, but there's too much to learn about and be inspired by to pass up.

A few weeks ago, The Tyee ran a piece entitled "Where's our Harvey Milk?", and if I had a nickel for every time I saw a discussion thread on message boards across the Great White Net asking why Canada hasn't produced a Barack Obama, I would be jingling in perpetuity. In case you haven't it figured out (and all the 'we didn't vote for a coalition' screamers, I'm looking it you), Canada is not a real democracy. In a real democracy, people know when the next election is, and they know the candidates they are voting for.

Revmod Don can tear as many strips off this page as he likes, but fixed election dates allow a stable time frame for community organizers and community leaders like Harvey Milk or Barack Obama to build a local profile, and then grow that profile into a regional and national reputation that transcends party boundaries. Also, Carole James could not have taken the BCNDP from 2 to 33 seats on May 17, 2005 unless she could leader her party to build for that moment. Nothing grows like that in Ottawa when the Prime Minister's office can tear up the electoral garden on a whim.

In addition, Milk and Obama served real communities (neighbourhoods, not special interest groups) at San Francisco City Hall and the Illinois State Legislature. It wasn't until San Francisco switched to a Ward System that Milk could sweep the Castro and become America's first openly gay elected official. Obama stood with Chicago's downtrodden South Side residents and was elected to stand for them in the 13th Electoral District of the Illinois State Senate. The rest is history, tragic and triumphant. If leaders can't point on a map and tell us where they're from, we end up going nowhere with these leaders.

This is why Vancouver's At-Large system for electing City Council must be blown up while Vision Vancouver and COPE councillors have control of it. It's also why the intellectual fraud of the Single Transferable Vote system (BC-STV) must be resoundingly defeated along with the economic, social, and environmental fraud of Gordon Campbell's B.C. Liberal government. Democracy should be about making honest and transparent connection with our elected officials, it should not be about serving the machinery of political parties through oversized electoral districts and 'droop quotas'. Does anyone seriously think we'll see meaningful campaign finance reform in B.C. in our lifetimes if candidates have to campaign in ridings 5 to 10 times the size of the ones we have now?

When Harvey Milk ran for the California State Assembly in 1976, the Democratic Party establishment in San Francisco (including several gay community leaders) turned their backs on him, so Milk ran with the slogan "Harvey Milk vs. The Machine". As 2008 began, Americans lived with the overwhelming assumption that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee for President, until Barack Obama and his chorus of supporters shot back "Yes We Can". If we continue to go down the path of At-Large municipal elections, STV provincial votes, and federal polls at the drop of a toupee, we will never get a Harvey Milk or Barack Obama, The Machine will just give us more of the same Campbell/Harper vanilla technocrats that rub a party establishment the right way, but rub out the aspirations of the rest of us.


At The Movies

This page spent much some of the holidays in the dark, surrounded by total strangers, revelling in moments of escapism and high drama. No, I was not stuck at the airport. Like many of you, there are two times during the year that I like to go to the movies: during the Holiday season and during the Summer. In the summer the cinema it's the one place that's open which has air conditioning, and in late December it's the one place that won't be packed with stressed-out bargain hunters (unless one believes a $12.50 ticket and $5.00 bag of popcorn is a bargain). Anyway, here are some capsule reviews of films I sat through over the past couple of weeks:

Quantum of Solace: I would have to go back and watch this movie again because everything in it happens really fast. Lots of car chases and explosions and Olga Kurylenko looking like she's going to beat the tar out of someone, but very little actual Bond. My take on 007 is he's supposed to be the coolest, smartest guy in the room, not a tortured soul perpetually out for revenge. If I wanted Batman, I'd pop in the DVD of The Dark Knight.

The Day the Earth Stood Still: One would be led to believe from the promotional material that this film is a re-make of the 1951 sci-fi classic of the same name, when actually it's a remake of Al Gore's 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. It has better special effects than Gore's PowerPoint presentation, but Gore still has more charisma than Keeanu Reeves. The super-sized Gort was cool, but I left very disappointed that no one found the occasion to utter the magic words 'Klaatu...berada....nicto....'

Australia: Baz Luhrman, who is better known for movies about drag queens and ballroom dancing, delivers a sweeping, Michener-esque epic about a Widow (Nicole Kidman) taking over her murdered husband's Outback cattle operation. Cattle drives, World War II, and Hugh Jackman taking his shirt off (much to the delight of the squealing Sheila's like Walnut Boat). I don't think I've ever laughed so hard at a kangaroo being shot from a truck.

Valkyrie: This film is the first of a wave of WWII films from the German perspective (coming soon to a theatre near you: The Reader and Defiance). Tom Cruise manages to channel the same relentlessness in jumping up and down on Oprah's couch into his portrayal as Colonel Von Stauffenberg, who spearheads a doomed coup against Adolf Hitler. It was also nice to see what looks like from the inside - it's more about working the phones than stockpiling the ammo. Sure, Cruise may be somewhat of a nutty shill for Scientology, but he's been making way better movies lately than that nutty shill for Opus Dei, Mel Gibson.