June 17, 2004


We have all been reminded. It's official.

All Canadian Forces members in Ontario at least, have been formally reminded to obey both the spirit and the letter of Queen's Regulations and Orders section 19.44, and instructed to remain scrupulously neutral in the current federal election. And I quote:

"A commanding officer shall ensure that any activity that takes place on a defence establishment, including a base or unit, under his command does not affect the actual or perceived political neutrality of the Canadian Forces..."

Never mind those pedants who would suggest that the law technically only applies to Regular Force members, not reservists, and only to activity in Canadian Forces installations. Don't you buy that for a minute. For the last month, and for the next two weeks, I am to have no political opinions of any kind, and a good thing for me, too. I wouldn't want to get into trouble.

For, you see, if that QR&O did not exist, I might be tempted to say that, regardless of their performance pre-election, the shameful display of gutter-politics, fear-mongering, vote-buying and outright lying we have seen from one party in particular in this election would, in any just country, lead to them not only being denied Ottawa, but being denied service at donut shops for at least the next four years.

No, anyone who wanted to know how low this party I'm referring to has sunk, and continues to, would have to go to one of those other, better Canadian blogs, like that Andrew fellow's, or Paul whats-his-name, or C-squared, as we called him in his gangsta rap days. But you won't hear any of that non-neutral talk from me, no sir. Wouldn't be prudent.

Better if I just stick to the facts. Actually, it's better if we all did, as impossible as it may seem. For instance, the fact that the difference between the Liberal Party's proposed defence spending increase ($600 million more) and the Conservatives' ($1.7 billion, but only after five years) hardly seems to merit all the fuss it's received. As we've catalogued here in posts past, neither increase would do much to increase Canada's military deployability abroad, enhance domestic security, or stave off the suggested demise of one or more whole armed services in a decade or so. The idea that with such paltry sums at issue, that either of those parties could be stigmatized as the party that wants "tanks and aircraft carriers" is surely not possible in a rational nation. Which we all know this one is.

The gag on my opinions does prevent me, lamentably, from discussing the various party's energy policies, an area I actually know something about, for once. How I'd love to go on about how unfavourably one party's unique ideas on a national public windmill utility compare, on a total dollar basis, to the massive cost overruns at the Darlington nuclear power plant we once were all excised about, even if Darlington does generate more power for the price, or how they would vastly dwarf, both in total price and cost-per-kilowatt added capacity, the recent Pickering retubing cost-overruns that helped bring down the Ontario Conservatives. Oh, well.

I will say, though, that this election has crystallized one thing for me. It should be safe for me to say this, because all parties seem to believe it to varying degrees, but as nice as our Charter of Rights may be to read and hang on the wall, the idea that any expansive judicial opinion loosely based on it, by an distant and appointed jurist, must always and forever outweigh any decision made by the people and those they elect, simply because it's a "rights issue," and regardless of the merits of the case or its popular support or lack thereof, is not only perverse, it's profoundly un-Canadian.

At times it seems our country is gradually slipping into the status of a secular theocracy, where a few bewigged quasi-mullahs tell us what to think and what to believe. But is that really a country worth defending? My private hope that one, just one, of the leaders vying for our vote today might not subscribe to the new orthodoxy of autocratically-determined diktats-from-on-high, might want the people to someday have a voice again, but fears to say so more explicitly than he absolutely has to right now because of all the scaremongering going on, is probably too much to dream for. Isn't it?

ONE MORE THING: Non-Canadians watching only need to know one thing about the Canadian election. The only reason this election is close is because a vast plurality of Canadians still haven't decided which candidate will most screw over the future prospects of yon Mr. Bush the most. Bush-hatred is the elephant in the corner of this election, and is the reason Conservative support is far softer than the polls would indicate, and the reason the most likely outcome of this election is still an unworkable minority-position stalemate for one of the two leading parties, leading to a second election next year. Canada-U.S. relations has always been an election issue, as it should be. But it's never been THE ONLY election issue. Whoever wins, the "Screw Bush" vote will be in the majority June 28, as it is in nearly every other country in the world at present.

Posted by BruceR at 11:41 PM


Apologies to all (or at least, any left) for my recent hiatus. Thanks to those who wrote, concerned, as well. And while this isn't meant to remark a complete return of any kind, you all deserve a little more explanation as to the transition than I've given.

As some of you no doubt have figured out, I'm at IT resource for the University of Toronto, among some other things. And it was part of my job, this spring, to look at the way the public affairs office was doing web communications on the university news site, www.news.utoronto.ca. Some things the site did quite well, others it could do better.

I realized that if I was ever going to elevate that site to a higher level in a reasonable amount of time, I had to commit completely to the site, almost treat it as my own for a while. Knowing the workflow of this kind of office pretty well, it was obvious to me that using a weblog (a massive, controlled weblog, but still a weblog at its core) was the obvious solution. Plus the idea of using a weblog backbone to shape internal news content, while tempting to many, had also never really been fully implemented, at least not in this sector. So that was the challenge.

I'm reasonably happy with News@UofT 2.0, which started rolling out two weeks ago. In addition to being the first ever Canadian university public affairs weblog, it actually has some fairly cool features:

**full Netscape 4.7 compatibility (U of T is still remarkably NS4.7-dependent, even though most sites (and most blogs) break in it. This one does not. The biggest problem is any kind of three-column liquid layout is almost impossible in NS4. I think our solution, of a fixed-800 layout in NS4, with an overlapping stylesheet making it liquid in all other browsers, is actually rather ingenious;

**full integration with the U of T search engine, allowing rather precise searches by byline, among other things, and the U of T central events listings;

**compliance with the Ontarians With Disabilities Act, W3C level 2, and the university's own web best-practice standards (which I helped write, so I was kind of stuck with);

**extensive use of XML, with category-specific news feeds, which we hope to export to any and all sites that want to add them (they are refreshing the column to the left on Flit, to start with).

While it may use Movable Type, and work internally like a blog, obviously it's not going to read much like a blog. So On the seventh day, we created a little blog-within-a-blog for ourselves: we call it Pause/Break, and it's going to be part guilty-pleasure, part discussion space for people with an interest in universities, IT, or university IT, and partly (we hope) a source of intelligence, to help us all see the latest thing coming down the pipe a little farther off.

I've never asked for money for this site, nor would I, it being a test-bed and all, but if anyone who reads this thinks they'd like to grant a favour, a drop into Pause/Break and the posting of a blog-comment to get the audience over the shyness hump would certainly be appreciated.

So what does this mean for Flit? Well, I'm going to be over at the News site, and Pause/Break a lot now. There's lots of stuff about the nexus between higher education and computers that I've been looking forward to discussing, and the rest of the staff have promised to chip in as well, so I think it will be buzzing there fairly shortly. I hope it will be stimulating and fresh enough that at least some of the readership here will want to add it to their blog reading lists, eventually. I'll still post the personal stuff here, but the rate is likely to decline, I suspect. I'm also going to be closing off Flitters, the discussion board... I simply don't have the moderating time anymore. I'll come up with another method for reader feedback shortly, but in the meantime, I'll more than happy to discuss your thoughts with you one-on-one via email. I'll keep the old Flitters posts up as long as the Quicktopic people let me, but I won't be linking to that thread anymore, and I've asked TM to do the same on his end.

Anyway, that's where we are. Thanks again to everyone for their patience. Coming up shortly: why I can have no public thoughts on the federal election, and my long-promised list of the 15 greatest Canadian military figures.

NOTE: I should also offer a profound apology to my real-world loved ones and friends, who I fear I have also been ignoring in like style recently (they know who they are, I hope). Seriously, apologies. It wasn't you, it was me.

Posted by BruceR at 09:11 PM