Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: Even when there's no evidence, it can still be a front-page story!
The title of this post is the headline from the front-page story in last Monday's Name of Paper Withheld. Mighty strong words there. "Secret slate"! Goodness, I already smell the conspiracy brewing. And "riles"! Not "irks" or "bothers", but "riles". Name of Paper Withheld is NOT taking this secret slate lightly. Let's read on, shall we?
As usual, my comments are in bold text.
Some [name of town withheld] MLA hopefuls are complaining that a "secret slate" of candidates are bringing de facto party politics to the North.
Stop right there. "Slate" is singular, so it "are" not bringing anything anywhere.
Yikes. Allegation? This really IS serious!
...centres on the attendance of several candidates at a series of election workshops held by the Canadian Labour Congress this summer. The Congress is closely associated with the NDP.
So you're telling us that some candidates went to a workshop. For my American readers, I'll note here that "NDP" stands for New Democratic Party. It is our national left-wing party.
"My concerns are built around the secret slate that's being presented," said [name of town withheld] Centre incumbent Robert Hawkins. "(These candidates are) bringing party politics through the back door."
"I've heard the rumours of a secret slate," said Frame Lake candidate Chris Johnston. "I would hope that these candidates running would have enough respect for the electorate to be honest about their intentions, and not be swayed by special interests."
"If they're going to work together and collaborate behind the scenes, they should let the public know that," said Kam Lake incumbent Dave Ramsay. "Whose agenda are they running under, their own or a party agenda?"
Wow. Name of Paper Withheld is clearly following the three-source rule: If you can get three people to confirm the information, it's probably true. This probably took a lot of investigative work. People who are running for election usually aren't willing to talk to the media, especially about their rivals.
Four candidates -- Bob Bromley, Ashley Geraghty, Ben McDonald and Doug Ritchie -- confirmed that they attended the workshops, although they all flatly deny claims that they are a "slate".
Denials in the face of evidence! Someone is definitely hiding something! Notice that Name of Paper Withheld got these candidates to "confirm" that they went to the workshops. Nobody ever "confirms" anything good. I'm suspicious, and you should be, too. These four are bad news.
"I think the people spreading these rumours are using tactics that I don't think I'd like to see in the legislature," said [name of town withheld] Centre candidate Ben McDonald. "I am not representing a party. I do not have any party support."
The long-time labour leader said the workshop was open to any candidate, and drew a wide range of people with multiple party allegiances.
A long-time labour leader? He's DEFINITELY hiding something! Everyone knows that labour leaders are in with the NDP! Wait a minute -- did he just say that anyone could go to the workshop? And that a wide range of people showed up? These individuals wouldn't have had "multiple party allegiances", of course, but I'm starting to wonder about the three-source rule.
Doug Ritchie, who is running in Great Slave, laughed audibly when asked by Name of Paper Withheld if he was part of a labour-influenced slate.
Hmmm. So you called the guy and he laughed in your face. This is definitely my favourite line from the story.
"I definitely attended the campaign workshop, and I thought it was very useful," he said. "It was open to all sorts of people. I don't think it was secret, and I don't think there's any collusion to bring party politics here."
"We've been accused of having an NDP slate," said Ritchie, who is a Green Party member. "I'm not a member of the NDP."
The quotation marks here are confusing, but what I think Mr. Ritchie is saying is that he's not part of the NDP and that anyone could go to the workshop. I'm pretty sure he said something about it not being secret, too, but I'd have to replay the tape on that one.
"I'm a card-carrying Conservative," said Ashley Geraghty, who is trying his luck in the Range Lake riding.
He attended a meeting for campaign managers just before the election began, he said. Geraghty is the chief shop steward at Stanton Territorial Hospital.
Wait, so this guy's not a member of the NDP, either? He's actually the complete ideological opposite of an NDP member? This is totally blowing my mind. What about the three-source rule? Does this mean we can't trust information that is backed up by three sources? I'm still suspicious, though: what's this NEW meeting he's talking about? Is that the same secret workshop or a different secret workshop?
Actually, the more I think about it, the more I wonder what the point of a secret slate would be. A slate is helpful in elections for city council, where people are asked to vote for a number of candidates who all have the same core beliefs. But in tomorrow's election, people will only be able to vote for one candidate. What would be the point of having a slate? And what benefit would there be in having a secret slate? Isn't the whole point of a slate to let everyone know which group of people they should vote for? Isn't that why slates are usually advertised heavily?
The story goes on, but I am going to stop here. I'm afraid of the implications. It looks like the reporter decided to do a whole front-page story about a silly rumour even though he didn't have any evidence except the say-so of a few political rivals. The only people who know whether the rumour is true all say it's not, and sometimes they laugh out loud at the suggestion.
If we can't trust the media, who CAN we trust? Excuse me, I'll be hiding under the bed.
THIS BLOG HAS MOVED
New posts on snowcoveredhills.com:
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: Even when there's no evidence, it can still be a front-page story!
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Friday, September 28, 2007
Everything is OK. I am fine. I am going to be fine. Everything is going to be OK, with the usual disclaimers about how it's still possible for things to go wrong and everyone needs to be vigilant for the rest of my life. I have some really great friends and I am very thankful for all of the help you guys have given me.
Posted by Megan at 7:57 PM
Thursday, September 27, 2007
I've received so many calls tonight that my phone has gone dead twice. I appreciate it.
My doctor has "had a change of heart", as the nurse put it. The story is longer, but this will do for now.
I am going to Edmonton on the first plane in the morning and will be having the test on Friday. I should have the results before 3pm (with all of the usual disclaimers about the need to take a closer look at the pictures, etc., etc.). The capitalist is also going to be in Edmonton this weekend, so we'll be getting together.
On a related note, this blog is going Pink for October. This will not be a secret message about my health, it will be part of an Internet-based effort to encourage people to learn more about breast cancer. When you come here on October 1, the site will look a bit different.
Posted by Megan at 1:01 AM
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Today’s episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: It doesn’t benefit us, so we’re against it!
Thank heavens, the election season is almost over. We are harassed visually and aurally (and orally) everywhere we go. Everyone wants our votes. Signs are popping up all over Name of Town Withheld.
The local media, of course, are also concerned about the proliferation of signs. They have declared a War On Signs. Call me a cynic, but I cannot help but notice that they are extremely concerned about any form of communication that does not benefit them directly. Name of Paper Withheld has declared war on any advertising that does not line its publisher’s pockets, but I expect more from CBC.
Today’s morning show included a current-affairs item about the signs. A reporter did a “streeter”, which is an informal, unscientific man-on-the-street survey. It is the lowest form of journalism. Grab random people, ask them a question about something they know nothing about, and give them five seconds to answer. Record whatever tumbles out of their mouths. Great job, folks!
Today’s question: “Do you vote for candidates based on their signs?”
The Shocking! Result! was that people do NOT vote for candidates based on their signs. They vote for candidates based on what they say.
I’ll give you a moment to compose yourself after this earth-shattering news.
There’s no way to know with ironclad accuracy without doing a “streeter” inside the CBC newsroom, but I’d venture a guess that journalists believe that while signs do nothing to support a candidacy, appearing on CBC or in the newspaper does. And this, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that this type of appearance benefits the news media. Nothing at all.
The effect of advertising on voters is an interesting topic, but apparently it scares journalists so much that they don’t even want to ask questions about it. It’s not possible that anyone could purchase advertising that would be more believable and persuasive than the evening news! Let’s cover this story by asking a question designed to get the answers we want! Then we can make fun of candidates for spending money on signs!
Nobody votes for a candidate just because of his signs. (Duh.) Signs do one thing: promote “name recognition”. An individual voter cannot possibly remember the names of all of the candidates in the election; he usually has enough trouble remembering who is running in his own riding. Signs reinforce the message that Joe, Susie and Nick are the person’s candidates. Then, in the vast sea of discussions about what all of the candidates believe, the voter is able to pay more attention to Joe, Susie and Nick. He can tune the others out.
A candidate who does not put up signs is unlikely to be considered a real contender. This is not because people vote based on signs; it is because a person with no name recognition is virtually ignored. Signs alone will never get a person elected: they simply allow the candidate to stand out a bit more and help voters to remember what the person believes.
But, of course, this took more than five seconds to explain, and it includes some nuances, so I don’t expect to hear it on the news. Carry on.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
I thought for a long time before I posted this. I wasn't sure I was going to do it. Don't freak out.
WARNING: Gratuitous boob shot.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: It's not my fault! Quick, blame that guy over there!
Dan Rather is suing CBS. He believes that the network violated his contract and intended to damage him "in order to curry favour with the Bush Administration".
Now, this is quite a suggestion that should require a significant amount of evidence before anyone takes it seriously. Fortunately, Mr. Rather has Mary Mapes on his side.
If you've never heard of Ms. Mapes, it's because Mr. Rather took the brunt of the public anger after she produced a 60 Minutes story based on documents that she now says are maybe fake but accurate. She did all of the research, reporting, legwork and writing. Mr. Rather read the script she prepared and did the on-camera interviews. Then he took the fall when it turned out that Ms. Mapes had screwed up big time.
Ms. Mapes had been known as an excellent producer. She broke the story about the investigation into Abu Ghraib. I don't think there was any question that she was considered to be a really good journalist. In fact, that was part of the problem. She was desperate to do a story about the president's (lack of) National Guard service. I still don't understand why she thought this was such a great story that it had to be rushed to air. Didn't everyone already know this? (Late-breaking news: Barack Obama's a Democrat!)
Broadcast journalism relies on producers behind the scenes. They do almost all of the work. Then a famous person like Peter Gzowski or Mr. Rather pops in and takes all of the glory. If I sound a little bitter, it's because I did this job for several years. The goal is to make the show look like the host is doing all of the work. You should never see the men behind the curtain.
Journalists know this, which is why they tried to explain Ms. Mapes' role in the whole thing. However, this particular scandal played out on the Internet, where people called it "Rathergate". Nobody cared about Mary Mapes. This might have been the hardest thing for her to accept. She can't seem to go away quietly. She pops up about once a year to claim that:
- She was railroaded by CBS.
- The story is true, even if all of the evidence was faked.
- Right-wing bloggers are jerks.
Ms. Mapes claims, once again, that conservatives wanted to destroy anyone who challenged their worldview. If this is true, it is nothing more than another reason to be extra careful to have really solid evidence. Journalists cannot be seen to be biased. Their reporting must hold together under scrutiny.
Ms. Mapes still does not understand that she made a mistake. A normal person would hang his head and go on to something else. She, on the other hand, is determined to keep dragging this out over and over again. Further investigation by a number of news organizations has found that:
- The information in the documents could be true. That is, some of them reflect the opinions that people had at the time. The documents themselves are most likely fakes.
- When viewers suggested that the documents might be forgeries, Ms. Mapes and her team tried to find experts who would support the original story. The proper response would have been to have a separate team re-research the story to determine if it was accurate.
- On air, CBS News staff, including Mr. Rather, defended the work. "We stand by our story" is standard in the news industry, but not when additional research has created nagging doubts within the organization.
The story itself probably was true, but that doesn't mean it's OK to use forged documents to prove it. No real reporter would ever say that. The fact that Ms. Mapes still doesn't understand this after all this time tells me that she's in serious denial. I hope she testifies for Mr. Rather. This is going to be fun to watch.
A friend of mine mentioned that she has been waiting for this video to appear on the site. That is just plain weird, because I happen to adore this song and have been thinking about posting it for months.
It has been covered a number of times, so I had great fun going through different versions that were recorded over the past 30 years. I changed my mind over and over, and finally decided to go with this one.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Reader-submitted question: I'm confused. Why would it be a moral issue if someone paid for medical care?
This is a very Canadian problem, I admit. Here in Canada, there is a real debate over whether it is right for people to get faster/better/etc medical care by paying for it. I seem to have at least one reader who thinks this is wrong, and he or she is definitely not alone.
Our health-care system is one of the only things left that ties us together as Canadians. We cherish it. We believe that everyone should have the same basic right to health care, no matter how much money they make. At its most fundamental level, I believe this. People with life-threatening illnesses should be able to get treatment. Hail, holy mandatory group-insurance plan!
Unfortunately, wait times are choking our system. When something's free, it has no value. Our clinics and ERs are clogged with people who don't really need to be there. They all get to see a doctor if they wait long enough.
Private clinics have started to spring up in western Canada. They provide all of the care your money can buy, and many people think it is morally wrong to use these clinics because rich people should not get different health care than poor people.
If you have enough money, you have the choice of waiting in line at the publicly-funded hospital or "jumping the line" by paying a doctor at a private clinic. You can also go to another country and be treated there. I personally don't think of this as jumping the line, but as moving to a different line. In fact, there are people in Canada who argue that anyone who can afford to pay for health care has a moral obligation to get out of the line at the public hospital altogether. I can't figure out if these are the left-wing freaks or the right-wing weirdos who are saying this.
It is very easy to tell other people they should wait in the line. It's harder to wait in line yourself.
Over the past year, I've figured out what I want to see in our new territorial legislature. I want politicians who stand for something. Anything.
We don't have political parties here, we have something called "consensus government". In theory, that means that all of the elected representatives sit down together and decide what's in the best interest of all the people. No single faction is able to dominate; in fact, there are no party politics and it's unusual for politicians to openly identify with any national parties. We have something similar to a permanent minority government. (Americans: That means that the people in power are outnumbered by the people who are not in power.)
Whenever I describe consensus government to people in the south, they immediately think it's the best political system they've ever heard of. I have to agree that there are some really good things about it. However, it poses its own unique challenges. The most frustrating of these is that our politicians are generally unwilling to take any stand that might annoy people.
I keep up with the national news, so I know that this is not normal. Our national parties release books that detail exactly what they plan to do. They post this information on their websites and talk about it during debates. People get all upset because one party or another has staked out a ridiculous position and is sticking to it.
You would never see that here. Our candidates do not want to discuss the issues. When they do want to discuss the issues, they don't want to set priorities or take any position that might annoy people.
It is getting ridiculous. One person told me that a candidate showed up at her door and hemmed and hawed over a question about whether our town should have only one school board. Seriously. Apparently the candidate knew that the questioner had the opposite opinion, so she didn't want to say anything that might suggest dissent. I'm not sure how the candidate thinks she will be able to decide if we need new infrastructure if she can't even admit that she wants to reduce administrative duplication in our public agencies.
The last year has made it very clear to me that I want our candidates to take a stand for something, anything. These wishy-washy guys who love children and apple pie just aren't doing it for me. I want to see some evidence that they've thought about the issues, and I want to hear how they came up with their ideas. For any issue there is a spectrum of reasonable opinions. Even if I'm on the opposite side, I can respect a person who has thought about the problem and is willing to stand up for what he believes. I have less respect for the wafflers and the knee-jerk weirdos.
Our leaders should be able to lead. They should have a vision and a plan to get us there. They need to be strong, and they need to make tough decisions, because the easy thing to do is not always the right thing to do. If a person is unable to admit that she thinks we should only have one school board, she is no leader. "I'll listen to you" is not a platform, and "I'm a hard worker" is not a platform.
Posted by Megan at 12:22 AM
Saturday, September 22, 2007
It's election season. We go to the polls in about two weeks to choose a new territorial legislature.
Our MLA is retiring, so we have to figure out who we want to represent us. And unfortunately, we can't vote for Amy, because she's running on the other side of town.
We've been talking about the candidates and thinking about who would be best. This has been tough, because so far none of the candidates have shown any interest in actually talking to us. They seem to prefer shoving leaflets into the crack in our door. The other night Michael answered the door and came back with a handout: the gentleman had asked him to give us his propaganda but did not want to talk to us.
It's at least a little bit easier now, because Steve has talked to one of the candidates. Jeff Groenewegen is NOT getting any votes from this house.
As Steve was leaving for work this morning, he saw this:
That's our fence. And that's our lawn. And that's the neighbourhood mailbox. (This will be important later on.) Just past it, you can see our driveway. Oh, and that's a sign that someone put up on our property without asking us.
Steve called the number and got Mrs. Jeff on the phone.
STEVE: Hi. I was wondering if you could have someone come and take your propaganda off my lawn.
MRS. JEFF: What do you mean? A sign with his face on it?
STEVE: Just one of his signs.
MRS. JEFF: Okay. What's your address?
Steve provided our address, and they hung up on good terms. Then the phone rang.
MRS. JEFF: Hello, Steve?
MRS. JEFF: I was talking to Chris Johnston's people and they were having problems with people stealing signs. Someone will be by to pick up the sign.
They were still on good terms. However, the good will would not last long. The phone rang again.
JEFF: Yeah, I'm outside your house and there's no sign on your front lawn.
STEVE: No, not on my front lawn. It's on my side lawn.
JEFF: You don't own that.
STEVE: Oh, yes I do.
JEFF: You may take care of it, but you may not own it.
STEVE: Yes, I do.
JEFF: Do you have an easement with Canada Post?
STEVE: A what?
JEFF: An easement with Canada Post. I'm a realtor. I know these things.
STEVE: Oh yeah...so what you're telling me is I don't own that parcel of land?
JEFF: I don't know. I'm not saying anything about that. I'll move the sign.
We have checked the documents that were filed with the land titles office, and have removed the sign from our property. However, we would like to thank Jeff for pointing out that we probably should have an agreement with Canada Post for their use of our property.
We would also like to let any candidates in this election know that if they want to put their propaganda on our property, they should ask first. We would appreciate it if they did not cause damage to our lawn by hammering sticks into it.
Posted by Megan at 12:13 AM
Friday, September 21, 2007
I know that most of my readers don’t participate in my Reader Polls, but I’m hoping that will change today. Yes, most of my polls are silly, but this one’s serious.
I want you to imagine a guy named Joe. Joe lives in a country with socialized medicine. That means that most medical care is funded by tax dollars, then provided “free” to residents. There are long wait lines, but once a patient’s into the system, he generally gets excellent care. Joe lives within traveling distance of a country that provides medical care to people who can afford it. Wait times are minimal for people with money. Joe’s not rich, but he’s got some money.
Joe’s waiting for tests that will tell him whether he has a serious illness. He really has no idea how long it’s going to take. The illness is not only serious, but it gets worse with time. It is usually treatable if caught early enough.
Joe is thinking about traveling to the other country and paying for the tests himself.
Please answer only one poll.
People who live in countries with socialized health care (Canada, some parts of Europe):
People who live in countries with for-profit health care (U.S., mostly):
Posted by Megan at 6:15 PM
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Seriously, I cannot even imagine anyone raising this question in Canada.
Posted by Megan at 7:49 AM
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
As soon as I finished welcoming Karen, I realised I'd forgotten someone else. I am really quite bad at maintaining my links list: I never want to take anyone off, even when they run off to law school and abandon me -- I mean, their blogs.
Welcome, Alison. She's a friend of mine from university. We lived together, or almost together, for three years (two years down the hall from each other in Alex Hall, one year in the Preston Street Dive).
Alison's been living in Europe for the last couple of years. She's a professional photographer: you can see her gorgeous work at this link.
Posted by Megan at 5:46 PM
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Yes, here I am jumping up and down and clapping my hands with glee because a student has been tasered on camera. No, I am not a sicko.
This poor fellow asked Senator Kerry a question at a town-hall meeting. I don’t really know why the police felt it was necessary to remove him from the meeting, and I definitely can't speak to why they used the taser.
However, I can’t wait for Round Two: Reporters Report, Y’Know?
Whenever someone gets tasered on camera, reporters spring into action. The actual tasering only lasts a few seconds, but there is an urgent need to drag this story out for several days. This is called a “follow”.
Because reporters are super original, they always have the same idea: THEY should get tasered on camera, too!
This fabulous idea always plays out in the same way:
REPORTER: I want you to taser me.
OFFICER: I don’t think that’s a good idea.
REPORTER: No, I really want it.
OFFICER: I really don’t think that’s a good idea. It hurts a lot.
REPORTER: I’ll sign whatever legal papers you want me to sign. This will be great TV.
(Camera starts rolling. In the background, you can see several officers chuckling to themselves: they never thought anyone would be dumb enough to actually volunteer for the taser.)
STUDIO TALKING HEAD: Our field reporter John McLoopy is on the scene. John?
REPORTER: Sarah, I’m here with Officer Smith to talk about what a taser is. Officer, can you explain?
OFFICER: Basically, it delivers an electric shock to the body. It is used to subdue a suspect.
REPORTER: So, can you taser me?
OFFICER: I still don’t think this is a good idea.
REPORTER: What, are you afraid of the public finding out what the taser does?
OFFICER: I think the public already knows what the taser does, but I’m not sure you understand.
REPORTER: It’s in the name of journalism.
(Officer pushes button. Cut to reporter writhing on the ground.)
REPORTER: AAAAAHHHH!! IT HURTS! IT REALLY HURTS! OH MY %$@* IT HURTS A LOT!!! AAAAAHHHH!!!!
OFFICER: That was the lowest setting. I told you it was really going to hurt. Are you OK?
REPORTER: OH MY GOD AND I DON’T HAVE MEDICAL INSURANCE! AAAAAHHHH!!!!!
OFFICER: You’ll be fine. You should probably go change your pants, though.
Hmmm. The hair's not right. Karen has much shorter hair than this. In real life, she does not look like a reject from a 1993 sitcom.
Karen is a fellow escapee from the local news media. We have great fun together, because we both have higher hopes for journalists than they have for themselves. For example, we think headlines like "Rapist Acquitted" are bad.
As I continue my efforts to get everyone I know to start their own blogs, I am pleased to report yet another success. Welcome, Karen L. You see, people who don't have blogs tend to think that people who do have blogs are major losers. This is bad for my self-esteem, and things are bad enough around here without setting myself up to be mocked by people who don't like blogs. I much prefer the way things are now: getting mocked by people who do like blogs.
Karen pops into my office every few days to have a hearty laugh at my expense or to complain that something about my blog is not to her liking. Just in case her boss is reading, I will stress that none of this happens during work hours. In fact, we keep a close eye on the clock and spend only the amount of time that the collective agreement allots us. When that time expires, we immediately get back to work.
Karen makes fun of me for many things, but especially because I am generally clueless about the world (for example, men who have a lot of ABBA in their music collections). She, on the other hand, is incredibly perceptive. It is almost not worth putting secret messages in my post titles. I might as well say exactly what I'm thinking: I'M TRAPPED AND TOO SCARED TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. ALSO, I'M TIRED OF PRETENDING EVERYTHING IS OK. I'M PRETTY SURE THAT NOTHING IS EVER GOING TO CHANGE.
Whew! Better put the lid back on THAT!
Like I was saying, go check out Karen's blog. I should have linked to her weeks ago.
Posted by Megan at 12:35 AM
Monday, September 17, 2007
I am posting this picture to prove that I was indeed 18 once upon a time. I have strategically cropped this photo because it's best if my parents don't see what's in my other hand or who's on the other side of me or, heck, what's going on behind the camera. The point is that I was very young and impressionable and definitely not to blame for anything I might have done. I am pretty sure that this was the night I burned my lips rather painfully on some sort of flaming...um...communion wafer. Actually, LeeAnn and I were just on our way back from chapel when this photo was taken. Then we went straight to bed and read more Anselm, just for fun.
Okay, I can't sustain that for long.
I freaked myself out the other day when a completely foreign sentence tumbled out of my mouth. It may have marked my official entry to adulthood. I am still not sure how to react. Clearly, everything is going to be different now.
What I did when I was a kid is nothing compared to what's going on now.
I felt the snake of adulthood wrap itself around my leg, and now all I can do is struggle from inside the snake.
Now, the sentence is undoubtedly true. However, it is a pretty slippery slope from here to You don't need to know that about me, or We're not talking about me, we're talking about you, or, God forbid, I don't want you to make the same mistakes I did. I don't think I can handle being in my thirties. This is too much. Be careful -- you're going to put someone's eye out with that. Come over here so I can hit you with my cane!
(Parenthetically, I used to know an old lady who hit people with her cane. She went to our church, where my family single-handedly brought the average age down from about 80 to about 60. My brothers and I were always very good during the service, so she never hit us. But every once in a while, the other little old ladies would bring their grandchildren to church. This was sometimes a bit of a train wreck, and we would hear afterwards that there had been some cane action.)
Posted by Megan at 1:01 AM
Sunday, September 16, 2007
I've been watching the shenanigans over in Newfoundland for the last year or so. You see, apparently the purse strings at the House of Assembly were rather loose. Politicians were misusing their constituency allowances and getting more than they were supposed to get. Sometimes they were getting a LOT more than they were supposed to get. Millions of dollars were spent on trinkets like fridge magnets, with little or no documentation and sometimes no sign of the items that were supposedly purchased. Money was paid to a company owned by the director of financial operations.
The police have laid fraud charges against four politicians and the director of financial operations. Meanwhile, the chief justice of the Newfoundland Supreme Court's trial division did a review and submitted a 1300-page report with 80 recommendations. The auditor general released a series of damning reports naming politicians from all political parties.
The last report came out on Friday. The auditor general went through all constituency-allowance claims from 1989-2006. There were over 18,000 claims totalling $25 million. Of these, about 10% of the total cost were claims for what the AG called "inappropriate expenditures". Things like alcohol without meals, winter tires, hockey tickets and artwork. Oh yes, and double billing. Don't forget double billing!
I don't especially like it when politicians get special allowances, but for the most part I understand why they're necessary. For example, if your job requires you to have two houses, I agree that your employer should pay for the second house. I don't particularly like this, but I do understand it and think that it's generally fair. It looks like the Newfoundland House of Assembly had spending rules that were set up to be generally fair, but ended up being manipulated in a way that made them unfair.
My favourite revelation from the report falls into this category. There was a rule about constituency travel expenses: when claiming mileage for travel to the politician's district, he could claim the distance from St. John's to the midpoint of his district or to his home, whichever was farther. This sounds very fair and reasonable, doesn't it? Well, one canny fellow got out a map and discovered that the exact midpoint of his district was in the ocean. So he claimed an amount equivalent to the cost of a boat charter to that point in the ocean.
Posted by Megan at 7:55 AM
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Apparently there's a new study that shows that Facebook is costing British businesses over 130,000,000 pounds a day. Call me psychic, but I don't even need to look at the survey to know how they came up with this number. I don't even need to read past the first line in the story about this alarming study, but of course I did, because I'm all about wasting time.
I am not really that into Facebook, but I do log into my account almost every day. The Princess and I are trying to come up with a good name for a family group, but so far we've been unsuccessful. I suggested "Hols-pples Who Can Use Apostrophes" (although when I suggested this, I spelled my own last name correctly), but apparently this would limit membership to the two of us. There is another group for people who share our last name, but whoever set it up is completely unaware of grammar fundamentals, so I can't look directly at it. If you have a good name in mind, let me or the Princess know.
To get back on topic, Facebook is the latest in a long line of websites that Big Business wants to keep out of the workplace. Every few months, there will be a new study that shows that this website is directly responsible for the loss of millions of dollars (or pounds, or yen, or whatever). These studies are usually done this way:
1. Find a representative sample of workers.
2. Ask them how much time they spend on Facebook at work. This will usually be a reasonable amount of time like ten minutes.
3. Use grade-four math skills to figure out how much total time all workers in the country are spending on Facebook, then multiply this time by the average salary to come up with a dollar amount. This will usually be in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars.
4. Trumpet this figure as the amount of money businesses would be earning (or governments would be saving) if only they could ban this particular website from their offices.
5. Wait for the media to decide that this pathetic math exercise is newsworthy. They will always find a person to illustrate the story. This person will always admit to wasting hours of time at work or destroying his employer through the site.
6. Start all over with a different website that is contributing to the country's economic collapse.
The main point, of course, is that employees are to blame. If they weren't selfishly wasting all this time on Facebook, there would be rivers of chocolate! This is almost never framed as a management problem.
In general, I am opposed to blocking websites simply for the purpose of keeping employees from wasting time. Every once in a while I will hear that certain bosses want to keep staff from reading the newspaper online, so they block the site and smugly congratulate themselves on increasing productivity.
The problem is that staff who want to waste time will always come up with something new. They take extra-long coffee breaks or spend time in co-workers' offices looking at pictures of their kids. Or they linger over their projects. Or (the saints preserve us!) they simply bring the newspaper to their offices. Yes, this is ultimately the employee's fault, but it's really up to management to deal with staff who don't work. If the person was wasting time by taking long breaks, management wouldn't respond by banning breaks. It makes no more sense to ban all staff from accessing specific websites just because a few people are wasting time.
However, this will never happen. Managers don't want to hear that they should be dealing with their problem staff. It's much easier to clamp down on all employees than to take action against the few who don't work.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Reader-submitted complaint: Stop doing video blogs. There are too many videos on this site. I can't possibly waste time at work if your stuff is on YouTube, because the fascists in the IT department have blocked the site. So get it? Stop doing video blogs. How many times do I have to say it? PS: CREED RULES!
Okay, so I made that last part up.
You guys are an outspoken bunch. Fortunately, you never worry that I will take your candid assessments personally. This is good to know. When you're not damning me to hell (or even better, telling me that it's not your place to judge my wanton lifestyle), you're making lists of all the things you don't like about the blog. And some of you have really long lists.
I try to have a mix of things on here, but sometimes there's less variety than usual in a particular week. I agree that there were a lot of videos last week (four vlogs, one birthday greeting, one video that illustrated the post, and one live performance from the Hoff). This will be rectified right after I watch "Rhinestone Cowboy" again.
Me too. Fortunately, I have the Internet, so I always have someone who will listen to my problems and provide valuable advice.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
The Christian Domestic Discipline site has de-password-protected itself. Hurry up, would-be wife beaters!
Here's my favourite quote from the entire site, from a true gentleman who calls himself "Pastor Bob":
If I demand that my wife wear anything that makes her uncomfortable, causes her pain or puts her health at risk, embarrasses or humiliates her, then I am no longer acting in the Spirit of Christ as commanded in Ephesians 5.
The context is important. Pastor Bob wants everyone to know that women can wear pants if they want to. Got that, guys? Your wife doesn't have to wear dresses all the time, as long as she lets you beat her whenever you think she needs it. It's in the Bible.
If the site makes you vomit, I've summarized it here. The two bloggers haven't posted anything in a while. I don't know if they've been driven underground or if they've been beaten so badly they can't blog.
More about CDD
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
I'm really not sure what to say. I really, really wanted to come to Britney's defense after reading the Globe's harsh review. This is going to be difficult, but I'll try. I didn't watch the VMAs, but after reading this, I had to look up the clip when I got home from work.
Ms. Spears is not "out of shape". She's not as toned as she was five years ago, but she's had two kids since then. Most people would love to have her figure. This was a cheap shot and the reviewer would never have said it about a male performer.
But Britney...sweetie...where are your clothes? It's really good to see that you're wearing underwear again. This is an important step. But you're supposed to wear it under clothes. It looks like you wandered out of your dressing room and forgot to put your costume on. In fact, I think I own that bra. I usually wear it under a shirt, but that's just me.
Your backup dancers are looking great, and I'm sure that if you practise a bit, you'll be good too. It would probably be best if you practise in private before you do shows on live TV, though. Just a thought.
I think you need to put more work into lip-synching. For example, it should look like you're singing the same song that the sound engineer is playing on the speakers. Usually, people know the words to their own songs, but I understand that this one was unusually difficult. I had trouble with "gimme gimme gimme gimme gimme" myself, so it's not my place to judge.
Brit, my dear, I know you SAY you want a comeback, but you don't look very happy to be on stage. You look miserable. I used to think you were -- well, not good, but at least interesting to watch. This is just painful. I want to pat you on the head and send you to bed with a cup of hot chocolate. Seriously, the Hoffettes are better than this.
Posted by Megan at 7:22 PM
Sunday, September 09, 2007
A reader mentioned that she is developing affection for people she has never met in person, like Torq (AKA Philosopher King, AKA Matt).
I definitely agree. Although I've spent plenty of time with the Philosopher King, I would never have known some of you if I hadn't started this blog. I don't even know all of your names, but you always make me laugh.
Many of you have your own blogs. I read your stuff every time you post. You guys are not nearly as passive-aggressive as I am, and I really appreciate your writing.
The best thing about keeping this blog has been staying in touch with my family. That was the reason I started the blog in the first place, and it's been more successful than I could have hoped, even though Michael has quit doing videos. I copied the idea from my friend Amy, whose blog actually made the front page of Name of Paper Withheld after the Forces of Evil tried to take her down.
I love all of you, even the ones who seem more than a little odd. And the ones who are even weirder than that. (You know who you are.)
Posted by Megan at 10:17 PM
Saturday, September 08, 2007
If I'm not quite mistaken, today is my cousin's 30th birthday.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Reader-Submitted Complaint: AAAAAAHHHHH!!! Now I have to bleach my retinas! What were you thinking? How do you even know where to find a photo like that? Now I can't look at you without feeling all dirty inside. I'm calling my lawyer. Wait, I'm already a lawyer. You're in big trouble, missy.
Guys, guys! This is Web 2.0. Users dictate content. You ask for more sexy photos of David Hasselhoff, and I respond by providing them. That's how this works.
This is the greatest picture in the history of modern photography. I am trying to figure out how to set it up as my screensaver.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Early poll results show that you want less of me and more of this:
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Reader-Submitted Complaint: You post too often. How am I supposed to catch up? I go away for a few days and there are like ten posts. Your brothers post less often, so there's less work for me.
Geez, nothing makes you guys happy. You are a bunch of ingrates, seriously. Why don't you diss my taste in music while you're at it? What's next, are you going to call me Hippo Butt?
It's true that my brothers don't post as often as I do, but I can see why you'd like their blogs more than mine. Their blogs exist for different reasons than mine does. This is an exercise in narcissism. They have loftier goals.
Actually, I have a hard time believing that the philosopher king's blog is less work for the reader. He doesn't post often, so his comments box turns into a conversation. That's singular -- it's really the same conversation over and over. (My God's the real one! No, it's not!) To be part of it, you have to sit there refreshing the page. Otherwise, someone else's religion might seem more believable than yours, and you definitely can't have THAT.
I post every day, sometimes more often. I post more often when I see that a large proportion of my regular readers have been to the site -- this is my cue to put something fresh on the site. Admittedly, this is not a perfect system, because it completely misses the feed readers (I have about a dozen subscribers). Those guys could be refreshing madly, desperate for a new post, and I would never know.
I didn't get many responses to my last poll, probably because it was really just there to illustrate the silliness of the situation. However, this is your chance to make a difference to the blog.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Reader-Submitted Question: Are you thinner? You look thinner.
This is a new one that has only come up since I started doing video blogs. Thanks for keeping the attention on my personal appearance instead of on my ideas. There is no point in telling me I sound smarter when you could tell me that I look thinner. Thanks, guys.
Yes, I am thinner. I will probably never be "thin" -- I am much too curvy for that -- but I am thinner since agreeing to become the Princess's online workout buddy eleven weeks ago. We send each other inspirational messages through the SELF website. For example, I send her e-mails that say "350 calories for a chai??? WTF???" and she sends me cute cards about David Hasselhoff. Now that I think about it, she is a much better online workout buddy than I am. Sorry, Princess. I am not used to having a sister.
I claimed I wasn't on a diet for a while, until Glen told me flatly that if I was trying not to eat too many calories, I was definitely on a diet. I really don't feel like I am, though. My mom is always on some weird eating plan (cream cheese rolled in salami??? WTF???) and I suppose that's what I think of as a diet.
I will probably live to regret saying this, but it hasn't been hard. I eat just about anything I want. The hardest part has been realising that I need new clothes. There are not a lot of places to buy clothes around here, and I bought a ton of new stuff when I was in the States last spring. I can't just throw those things away. Twelve weeks ago I was in Victoria for a dear friend's wedding, and I bought a pair of jeans that fit quite well. Today I took them off without unbuttoning them. Steve says I am not allowed to wear them anymore because they fit like oversized sweat pants. This is a big problem, because they cost $80. It was tough for me to buy them in the first place, and even tougher to imagine throwing them away after only three months of use.
I don't own a scale, because I used to have a friend who had a serious body-image problem that opened my eyes to the fact that the scale can contribute to real sickness. I sort of wish I had one now, because it would be fun to know if I'm any lighter than I was when I started. I have lost five inches from my waist, three from my hips and two and a half from each leg. It is pretty freaky. I don't know what I expected when I started, and I don't know how long I'm going to keep going.
And no, I am not going to turn into a person who always talks about diets.
Monday, September 03, 2007
He showed up smelling like smoke, but pleased as punch because he caught a big fish. He has a ton of Rory & Hughie footage, too. I'll probably edit it and post it in the next few days.
The other good news: Steve says he can get the old iMovie back.
Posted by Megan at 3:43 PM
I can't figure out how to use the video-upload feature, even though it looks like it should be simple. Yet another thing I hate.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
You Americans blow my mind. Well, Canadians do the same thing every once in a while, too -- I am trapped between countries.
This Larry Craig thing is just plain weird. Please take this completely unscientific poll:
You have been a senator for 30 years when you are busted for trolling for sex in a public bathroom. You plead guilty to a misdemeanor.
I admit that I thought this was shaky when I first heard about it. Foot tapping? OMG teh gays are gonna turn ME gay wiht thier FEET!!! He reached down? Run! RUN!!!
This seemed inappropriate and possibly disgusting, but not exactly something that would get a person arrested. That was before I learned that apparently these are well-known signals that people want to have sex in a public bathroom. I have never seen this sort of thing in a women's bathroom, but perhaps I haven't been looking carefully enough. In any case, it has got me wondering what kind of signals I might be accidentally sending to other people. Perhaps I button my jacket in the way preferred by cow molesters.
I wasn't aware that trolling was a crime, and I can't say I like the idea of morals police. As my American readers will likely agree, this is because I am a liberal atheist who hates all religions except Islam. However, I am not in favour of sex in public bathrooms. As my Canadian readers will likely agree, this is because I am a victim of the Christian patriarchy, and I need healing to open my eyes and make me more accepting of others' personal choices.
Posted by Megan at 11:46 AM
Saturday, September 01, 2007
Reader-Submitted Complaint: I don't like it when you post video blogs. Well, actually, I'm not sure if I like it or not. You see, I like to read your blog while I'm at work, but my boss has set up software so I can't see anything on YouTube from my desk. How can I pass judgment on your video blogs if I can't even see them?
UPDATED: It's not better. If you can't see the video above this text, try this one:
A reader reminded me of city council's proposed ban on grocery bags. You see, there is no point in dealing with the crackheads when there are trees to hug! I had completely forgotten about this, but it is all too true. Unfortunately, in a democracy, we get the government we elect.
We can also thank city council for a variety of other recent silliness:
Fieldhouse: Many people wanted a fieldhouse, although I personally didn't care. City staff came up with a design that would have cost about $10 million. This was good, because they had $13 million for it. Unfortunately, council decided to let the public have a say into what should be part of the project. That was how we found out that people wanted another gym, a day care and a whole whack of other things to be part of the facility. The project cost doubled. Now that we know that people really want a day care, there's no point in building a fieldhouse without one! There will be no fieldhouse.
Tree-protection bylaw: Seriously. It's still in development, but I have no doubt that it will be passed with a minimum of fuss. People who cut down trees will be subject to swift retribution. If only they'd set up meth labs instead, so they could just get healing!
Small, expensive homes without driveways on tiny scraps of land far from downtown and bus routes: Because that's the best way to increase the prestige of a new subdivision. I'm sure that people will be falling all over themselves to pay $400,000 for trailers without driveways on unpaved roads.
Super-energy-efficient homes, to be implemented immediately: Naturally. No point in waiting when greenhouse gases are involved, right?
Drug-free zone: Yes, we now have a drug-free zone in Name of Town Withheld. This is doing a really bang-up job at keeping drugs out, much, much better than the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act could ever do. It's so successful that I am going to name my block a "public-urination-free zone". That will have the side benefit of saving Councilor Kennedy the hassle of installing one of his public toilets near my house.
No free parking for veterans during November: You see, this isn't fair. Maybe there are some veterans who don't have cars. Also, what about those sneaky veterans who lend out their cars so that other people could selfishly take advantage of the city's generosity? (These are the actual reasons councilors decided not to give veterans free parking in November.)
Garbage: City council cut the number of garbage bags we could put out in a week. This could have been a good thing. However, they did this without making it easier to compost or recycle. And when they said "bags", they really meant "bags". Two half-filled bags count as two bags. Waste reduction is very important!
Posted by Megan at 7:21 AM