Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Sopranos and Bruce Springsteen

I confirmed this the other day, after telling it to someone then second-guessing myself:

Here he is as Silvio, my favourite character on The Sopranos:

And here he is onstage with Bruce Springsteen:

Possibly the two coolest jobs ever. All due respect.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Language and resistance in the Basque region of Spain

San Sebastian in all its glory.

Last year N. and I spent three weeks in Spain and France, circling the border on trains and sampling food, wine, architecture and sun everywhere we went. It was a gorgeous three weeks, with far too many highlights to mention. It was one gigantic highlight.

After some time in Barcelona, we took the train to San Sebastian, on the Atlantic coast. It's a tourist destination, and the only place we found was a dump of a hostel, but the beach, food and architecture was enough to keep us there for a while.

In the bathroom stall at the public library, I saw this graffiti:

espaƱolitos, go home!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Prime Minister's office response to G20 email

I recently sent an email to Prime Minister Stephen Harper regarding the police action at the G20 summit in Toronto. Below is the email and the response from his office. Thanks to Jared Ferrie for drafting the email.

Dear Mr. Walters:

On behalf of the Prime Minister, thank you for your recent correspondence regarding the conduct of the police forces providing security for the G8 and G20 Summits. Our office has noted your concerns. Our Government takes the allegations which have been raised seriously, and believes that they should be given all due consideration under existing mechanisms for handling complaints regarding police conduct.

Thank you for taking the time to write.


Susan I. Ross
Assistant to the Prime Minister

>>> From : Brenton Walters Received : 30 Jun 2010 02:26:17 PM >>>

>>> Subject : G20 debacle >>>>

Dear Sirs:

At this point I imagine that I am only one of perhaps millions of Canadians who are shocked and deeply disturbed by reports of possible abuses by police at the G20 summit in Toronto. I would like to add my voice to the growing number of people calling for a public inquiry into police actions during the summit. In particular I am disturbed by:

- The fact that Black Bloc members were allowed to run rampant through the streets of Toronto, smashing windows and even setting fire to police cruisers, despite the presence of police close by.

- The fact that police then apparently allowed Black Bloc members to enter crowds of peaceful protestors, remove their black clothing and blend into the crowds.

- The response by police after the Black Bloc violence to corral peaceful protesters into confined areas where there was no escape.

- The arrests of approximately 900 protestors under the supposed justification of seeking out Black Bloc members (whom police had previously allowed to rampage unhindered and subsequently escape).

- The many testimonies of peaceful protestors who accuse police of abuses, including: unwarranted use of force causing bodily harm; threats of sexual violence; denying medical care to detainees; holding detainees for as many as 13 hours in overcrowded paddy wagons and holding cells; refusing to give detainees access to toilet facilities resulting in some having to urinate where they were being held; turning air conditioning units on high in paddy wagons filled with rain-soaked detainees leading some to experience possible hypothermia; verbal abuse and threats.

- The fact that high ranking police officials and politicians created the impression that there was a law against protestors coming within five metres of the security fence when in fact no such law existed.

In particular, I would like a public inquiry to answer these questions:

- Why did police not prevent members of the Black Bloc from causing property damage? How is it possible that these people were able to cause such damage in downtown Toronto despite a massive police presence?

- Were there undercover police officers involved in Black Bloc activities and if so, how many, and what were they tasked with?

- Were peaceful protestors illigally detained?

- Are police officers guilty of abuse? If so, what penalties will they face?

- Most importantly I would like to know how the money for policing was spent, especially considering the $1 billion set aside for providing security is by far the largest budget of any G20 summit. I am sure I am not alone among Canadians in demanding to know exactly how that extremely high security budget was allocated. And I am sure that most Canadians would like to see their government act responsibly and account for every single dollar of public money that was put towards security at the G20 summit.


Brenton Walters
Vancouver, Canada

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Stockwell Day, crime rates and the census

Stockwell Day and John Baird: two of the sharpest tools in the shed, I'm sure...
Okay, everyone and their dog is writing about the census kerfuffle. Fair enough. What can I add? Not much, probably, but I'd like to focus on our man in Ottawa, Stockwell Day.

Here's a bit from a CBC story today (try to follow the logic):
Day said the government has received indications that more and more people are not reporting crimes committed against them.
But then his colleague cited census data from 2004 to back up his ridiculous claim:
In a statement to CBC News on Tuesday afternoon, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson's office cited Statistics Canada's report of its last general social survey conducted in 2004, which found an estimated 34 per cent of Canadians who are victims of crime still aren't reporting the crime to police.

The statement said Day was "correct in his assertion that many crimes go unreported in Canada" and "[t]he amount of unreported victimization can be substantial."
What? So our buddy Stock says they have new information, but it's actually from 2004? Seems odd. Wait there's more:
He also questioned the value of information gathered by the census, suggesting data older than a year is "untenable in today's information age."
and then he says that information isn't reliable anyway? So was he basing anything on anything? Or was he just trying to scare us and move the Harper tough-on-crime agenda along...


StatsCan is having none of it (from a Vancouver Sun story):
But Statistics Canada quickly shot down Day's assumption, saying that this data [survey data on unreported crime] cannot be compared to police-reported crime statistics, since it only surveyed eight types of crimes as opposed to the hundreds of crimes investigated by police.
And here is some video from the press conference. He really looks like he struggles with "facts" and "ideas" and "numbers":