Friday, January 13, 2012

Not Quite a Liberal Obituary

Hey. How's it going?

Five months since I have written anything. Partly a conscious decision made since The Harper Government has gotten into the swing of things. Partly laziness since I started working again.

Biggest change in my life? I'm a public servant... for now anyways. Good money says I'm out of a job by the summer. I had applied for an indeterminate position that was made term by an anxious hiring authority just before I was given the contract. My position should be safe, but the budget is going to create a few thousand indeterminate public servants that have priority status over a lowly term employee. So when my time is up someone else will probably get my position. No sour grapes though... well aside from the whole priority list thing. There is waste in the government, and it should be cut away. Do I believe a few thousand Canadians should have their lives turned upside down due to one of the stupidest tax policy decisions in the history of the Western World? No. But here we are. Tax increases are now toxic and The Harper Government ruined the country's finances and that has to be fixed.

So that's the laziness part: employment in a pretty inconvenient location. A couple hours of OCTranspo a day drains you. Also, government frowns on non-business internet use, so I can't be quite the news addict that I used to be.

The other part is just the complete lock-down The Harper Government has on the Canadian news industry. I wake up each day with a pretty good idea of what the political stories will be in the increasingly horrible Globe and the almost giddy Post Media papers. Add in the tiresome sheep of the Canadian punditocracy on an increasingly influential Twitter and you get a severe case of the blahs.

Harper the mastermind will be in power for the next half-century. The NDP are doomed. The Liberals are doomed... sorry, the Liberals are DOOMED!!! Anyone who is still living in Ontario or Quebec should probably just kill themselves. Some variation of these will appear in the news every single day of the week.

The Liberals are the only interesting thing on the Canadian political scene. They've punched above their weight as the third party while the NDP gives new meaning to the term "shadow cabinet". Nonetheless, the media continues to shout out dead man walking every time the L word is mentioned and everyone is quite certain that if - er, when - this weekend's convention fails to produce the awesomest political party EVER, the Grits might as well throw in the towel. I don't think there's any reason the Liberals should be operating under this weird deadline, but the media creates the narrative here.

Anywho, I'm slightly more attentive than I have been now and hope to have something to say about the whole mess in the future.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

LCBO Fall Beer Release

Whew, I've been shirking my beer news duties since leaving for London a year ago. But I'm back now and think I've figured out what I have/haven't missed in the Ontario beer scene. Here's the LCBO's Fall beer release, hopefully coming to a store near you:

Item # / Product Name / Alc./ Vol. / Size (mL) / Retail
237693 / Cannery Maple Stout / 5.5 / 650 / $5.80
254656 / Ayinger Celebrator / 7.2 / 330 / $3.45
173658 / Garrison Imperial I.P.A. / 7 / 500 / $4.25
234047 / Bacchus Flemish Old Brown / 4.5 / 375 / $4.50
236091 / Celt Bronze Crafted Ale / 4.5 / 500 / $3.65
233486 / Marston's Pedgree V.S.O.P. / 6.7 / 500 / $3.50
233494 / Wychwood Goliath / 4.2 / 500 / $3.50
236992 / Renaissance Stonecutter Scotch Ale / 7 / 500 / $4.60
173534 / Southern Tier Choklat / 11 / 650 / $9.85
504670 / Fuller's 1845 Bottle Conditioned Ale / 6.3 / 500 / $3.50
125153 / Affligem Dubbel / 6.8 / 330 / $2.75
239475 / Charlevoix Dominus Vobiscum Triple / 9 / 500 / $5.95
244376 / Les Trois Mousquetaires Porter Baltique 2011 / 10 / 750 / $9.95
237875 / Box Steam Funnel Blower / 4.5 / 500 / $3.55

You're going to want the Ayinger Celebrator, a gold standard of the liquid bread German doppelbock. Bacchus Old Brown is worth a try for something different if you've got a taste for a bit of sourness and barny funk. Choklat is a nice chocolate stout for rainy November days. Fuller's 1845 is a favourite of mine, a really nice English strong ale. We're seeing some great Quebec brews start to filter over the border, and I've heard good things about both the Charlevoix and Trois Mousquetaires.

Finally, Garrison Imperial IPA is a welcome addition for hop heads in the province. We're starting to see some real bitter pale ales and IPAs now, catching up to the rest of the country (and world). If you like a good hoppy beer and haven't been buying Hoptical Illusion, Smashbomb, Mad Tom, Crazy Canuck, or Garrison Hopyard, start now. not exactly up to American standards yet, but the Canadian brewers are starting to show us what they've got. Keep an eye on dates though, you want hop forward beers to be as fresh as possible, the flavours fade quickly compared to maltier brews.

Oh, also I've added the Amazon thingamajig to share some of my favourite beer books with you in case you're interested. The Brewmasters Table was written by Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery fame. Beautiful book about how much better beer is with food than wine is. Great advice on pairings and descriptions of styles.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Royal We

I'm not entirely sure what to make of the re-renaming of the "Navy" and "Airforce". I feel like I should have a strong opinion about it. I'm admittedly a traditionalist, monarchist, nationalist, but I can't seem to work up the rage/sense of triumph that so many commentators seem to be expressing.

In a week when one of the government's major ministers was (again) exposed as a corrupt pork barreler my twitter feed is exploding with a fierce battle over the inclusion of the word "Royal" in the names of two organisations that, technically, ceased to exist 50 years ago. And it's gotten more than a little absurd. For instance, check out this bizarre tweet from Andre Coyne.

While putting the Royal back seemed like a decent enough gesture to me, I certainly wouldn't accuse those against it of "adolescent insecurity". Monarchists should always be careful about calling others insecure. I don't think there's anything insecure about believing that Canada is greater than its connection to the Crown, believing that our institutions can stand on their own without connections to what really is a long-dead past.

I'm proud of our history, but I also have respect for Trudeau's "nation-building" project. I grew up being exposed to both, and I like to think I'm a better Canadian for it.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Coren pulls a Starkey

Apparently Michael Coren and SunTV are jealous of all the attention David Starkey has been getting.

Via Dr. Dawg.

Dawg suggests the Broadcast Standards Council and CRTC should be sent a couple notes. Frankly I'm not so sure that isn't exactly what SunTV and Coren want, nothing better for their ratings and tabloid sales. Should be spread around though.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Remember London

Just a thought about London prompted by Doug Saunders and this blog post (which appeared in a Naomi Klein tweet that was, I think ironically, RTd by Andrew Potter).

We would do well to remember what's happening in London the next time someone tries to suggest that unemployment payments, child daycare, free healthcare, public education, or any other publicly funded social welfare program is some sort of "charity". The social safety net was developed for a much bigger reason than to simply help the poor. When wealth is systematically removed from the areas in London we're seeing on the news and transferred to The City, and then The City (or Bay Street, of Wall Street) succeeds in slashing their taxes and shredding these social programs, I think it becomes pretty clear that everyone benefits when the highest provide some level of security for the lowest.

This isn't an excuse for the rioters. As Saunders points out there's no political cause being fought for, these kids don't care about public policy or social justice, they're out for a good time and a Blu-Ray player. It's senseless, but it's not random or without cause. They're kids with little education, poor families, no work, no prospect of work, and no hope that anything is going to get better. I'm a functionalist when it comes to the welfare state, and if we can't remember why the structures we created decades ago exist, then we should make an effort to remember what happens when they're taken away.

UPDATE: Another good article.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Put CBC News Network out of its misery

I am under self-imposed house arrest. I got back to Ottawa from London about three weeks ago. Technically I should be working on my dissertation, with its rapidly approaching September due date, but I've always been a procrastinator and the graduate Shiner is no different than the undergraduate Shiner.

While I was in London there was never a dull moment, nowhere better to put off school work. Not so much in Ottawa. After getting reacquainted with poutine and Hintonburger, and after taking a couple quick walks downtown, I've pretty much exhausted the activities on offer in Bytown.

So television it is. Unfortunately daytime tv blows. So I'm stuck flipping back and forth between CBC News Network, CTV News Channel, and the odd assortment of shows they have of BBC Canada. The only benefit of this horrible lineup is that I stay about as up-to-date as is possible. Or you would have thought so. Yet there I was on Friday morning, tuning into CBC News Network after reading on twitter that there had been a serious explosion in Oslo, and I was watching a segment on sweat. Don't get too excited, nothing interesting or even new has been discovered about sweat. The gist of the story was that sweat keeps you cool when you're hot. This was explained over beach shots and plenty of close-up video footage of moisture on skin.

I'd become resigned to the fact that CBCNN was dull on weekday afternoons but assumed that if something important happened they would snap out of it and, y'know, report stuff. But nope, CBC doesn't do that anymore. I spotted a vague headline about an explosion roll across the bottom of the screen, but it would be about half an hour before any sort of actual story showed up on channel 26. This is the state of our public broadcaster.

As a supporter of public broadcasting, and more specifically the CBC, a pretty professional news organisation was always a big plus (even if it didn't convince the more dedicated in the anti-public broadcasting crowd). It's sad to watch the News Network now. The still fairly new "conversation" style of it all is just plain horrible. The forced interest that the generally untalented anchors have to show in every subject (while maintaining a fake smile) is pathetic. The unwatchable banter that goes on comes across like small chat between particularly dim people at a particularly boring cocktail party. You feel like everyone on screen should be wearing a name tag. Maybe you could look past this silliness if you could still count on actual news and above average analysis, but it's just not there. Most reports involve reading news releases or asking the new intern what yokels on twitter are saying about Amy Winehouse, Norway, or debt default. At this very moment News Network is showing a youtube clip of a raccoon in a swimming pool. The anchor, whose name I don't know and will almost certainly never learn, has just failed, with a bad stutter, to deliver a lame scripted joke about a "raccoon stroke".

This isn't an attack on public broadcasting though, because the CBC simply can't be considered a public broadcaster anymore. The reason for the poor quality is the screwed up incentive the Corp has. Tasked with providing a pan-national service that gives Canadians something they don't receive from commercial broadcasters, the CBC is still required to attract advertisers to make up the funding shortfall from the government. The CBC is screwed up because it awkwardly operates in the market. Again, it is required to provide a service that the market can't provide by attracting money from the market.

Anyways, rant over. Nothing new above, and plenty of other folks said the same things when the changes to the CBC news format was made awhile ago. I just have a bad case of cabin fever and daytime television overload.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In Defence of the Senate

Seems everyone is fed up with the Senate.

With Harper having a steel grip on power in Ottawa and doing all he can to circumvent scrutiny over the purse strings, it seems like a heck of a time to get rid of the only actual House on the Hill that does anything. Don't tell me that this committee work is unimportant. Don't claim that the Senate no longer functions as a place for sober second thought.

We have one of the saddest excuses for a Parliament in the western world and now we want to make sure they're the be all and end all for governance in Canada? There's no way this improves politics in this country, we're entering dangerous waters here.