Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mulroney got kickbacks, Schreiber sez

With absolutely nothing to lose, Karlheinz Schreiber facing extradition from Canada said tonight that Brian Mulroney did in fact receive kickbacks from a number of sources including the Airbus sale to Air Canada -- although Mulroney didn't know about where the money came from. $300,000 worth. And while Mulroney did eventually disclose the payments and paid back taxes he and Schreiber jumped hoops to say what the money was supposed to be for -- consulting, exploring peacekeeping opportunities, and so forth.

This calls for a judicial inquiry. And if there's any evidence -- any at all -- that Mulroney was less than truthful he should be compelled to pay back the $2.1 million in legal expenses we had to pay to him when the Chrétien government "apologized."

Oh -- interesting footnote. At the end of the 5th Estate report, Linden McIntyre noted the Swiss are upset the Germans have been using sub poenaed Swiss bank account information to pursue tax evasion charges and want them to stop. Only thing with that -- not mentioned by Linden -- is that Switzerland is scheduled to join the Schengen Area next year (the borderless part of Europe, that is) and with open borders will come compulsory information sharing on security and criminal issues. The idea of bank secrecy in Europe is pretty much over unless you want to go next door to Liechtenstein.

Mulroney, who was just starting to regain a bit of class, is starting to look like the creep most of us thought he always was. And that's a truly pathetic notion.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

In memoriam: Robert Goulet (1933-2007)

You either loved him or hated him. The Toronto Sun certainly fell in the latter category -- way back when the former SkyDome hosted Wrestlemania VI, Robert Goulet was chosen to sing the Canadian National Anthem -- and the paper wryly said it had an office pool about how far Goulet could get past the word "Oh" and what he'd sing after the first word.

But Goulet, a serious actor and singer, knew how to poke fun at himself -- even doing the "naughty" version of "Jingle Bells" on The Simpsons. And that's what a true showperson does ... is graceful even when the media isn't. Can you imagine Paris or Britney, Tom or Mel having that kind of class? Ever?

Another one bites the dust -- and with it, a link to a less complicated and more optimistic time when we believed we could do anything. Today, that's only if we've born into wine, beer or oil fortunes -- or Hollywood "royalty." What was Goulet's roots? The son of a security guard at a textile mill.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Minibudget: C-

So Slim Jim decided to go ahead with a 1% cut in the GST after all. He's also cutting income taxes -- increasing the exemption as well as rolling back the 0.5% income tax increase he stiffed us with 18 months ago. Corporate taxes are also being cut. Pretty good.

My feeling is that he's hoping the Alberta effect can be felt nationwide. Um ... sooner or later the good times are going to end. And we could end up where we started back in the 1980s -- when Trudeau and Mulroney nearly spent Canada into oblivion, if we're not careful. I'd rather have prudence than throwing caution to the wind.

This is a "fingers-cross" mini-budget; and because it's based on high hopes and blue skies rather than pragmatism -- I give it C-.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Monday, October 29, 2007

My suggestions for tax cuts

Looks like Jim Flaherty is going to try to shove another 1% cut in the GST whether Canadians want it or not. Well many do want it, but the reality is it simply is the wrong headed approach to putting money back into the pocketbooks of Canadians. Here's how I'd cut taxes instead:

1) What I've said before and will say again: Transfer the taxable Harper bucks into tax free money and add it to the base amount of the Canada Child Tax Credit. Instantly you'll take several hundred thousand families off the tax rolls on a net basis. Then increase the base amount to a maximum of $5000 per child under seven (and $3500 for seven to eighteen) over four years. Several hundred thousand more families off the rolls. Those who actually work for a living.
2) Give low income seniors an equal reward that wealthier seniors got. If those with pensions got an extra $1000 tax free, then it's only fair poorer seniors who live off the Guaranteed Income Supplement get an extra $1000 per year too.
3) Eliminate the marriage penalty, entirely. Equalizing the spousal amounts was a good thing, but it should go one step further to the true meaning of making single income and dual income families equal -- as well as single parents. This should be phased in over four or five years.
4) The Working Income Supplement should be ramped up to give lower income people a real tax break -- not a six pack per week.
5) Charitable contributions should get the same tax break as political contributions. Any excess should result in a direct refund.
6) The "fitness" tax credit should be extended to include kids training in the performing arts. We need people who can think, not just be thugs on the ice rink. (Like Todd Bertuzzi, for instance.) Québec has taken this approach for its provincial taxes; it should be a national policy too.
7) Finally, broad based tax cuts over and above this should be funded through interest savings. Such cuts should go to increasing the basic exemption over and above what indexing would call for. The debt to GDP ratio is down to 36% but it needs to get down to 25% before one can even think about percentage rate cuts -- let alone a cut in the GST.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Some common sense from the Captain on THC

It's hard to agree with Ed Morrissey on most things, but here's a conservative who's asking what most progressives and liberals have been asking for years -- is the so-called "War on Drugs" really worth it? To my surprise, he actually said that: "Any rational look at the costs and benefits demonstrate that it simply hasn't come close."

Of course it hasn't. The States punishes people (other than celebrities) with 93 year jail sentences for having a single joint; while executives who steal $93 million from their employees' pension plans get away with 93 days of probation -- and zero restitution. Meanwhile, the taxpayer has to pick up the burden both for overcrowded prisons and plundered retirement accounts.

Where are America's priorities? And here in Canada, it looks as though we're going in the same direction -- rewarding kingpins more while punishing casual users more.

Maybe it's just time we taxed the stuff and regulated its THC content. We have, after all, safety regulations for alcohol and tobacco while taxing them. And the government takes a huge commission off the top from lotteries and casinos and racetracks -- the other major vices in our society. For one thing, it'd put a huge hole in the black market if not eliminating it all together.

Maybe it's time we went one step further, and reformed our sex trade laws to protect the prostitutes and punish the pimps -- and also make street walking legal. The drug issue and the red light districts often get entangled in messy ways and we need to ensure safety and common sense there.

For the record, I'll say it again: I've never toked. Never even considered it. I've never gotten the appeal. But both my parents inhaled -- they admitted it to me. And that was in a then communist country. While I'm still not entirely certain about the medical efficacy of marijuana, I wonder where Canada's priorities are when simple possession of a joint in the privacy of one's home can net a harsher criminal sanction than driving under the influence of THC (the latter of which, of course, should remain illegal). Who's the greater threat?

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Chrysler workers approve new contract -- just

56% of production workers and 51% of skilled trades -- a bare majority -- signed on to a four year contract patterned after the one at GM a few weeks back. There too, it took likes the union's going to pick up a much greater share of health care costs.

Ford is next, and its problems are pretty bleak ... so much so that the company even pledged its famous Blue Oval as collateral some time ago, according to the NYT. Ford says it can afford to pay for the health care trust's upfront costs -- which the union would then take over and run as its own -- but it's already given up Land Rover and Jaguar, two of the industry's crown jewels, and I wouldn't be surprised if Volvo is next.

Job security, or health care. That's what's coming up in a lot of union negotiations the next two years for a lot of US industries and with an election season the issue's going to get red hot. Even well-established and respected non-union companies, like John Deere (so big that it has its own finance arm that deals with much more than agricultural implements and lawnmowers; and even its own HMO -- seriously) may have to make some tough choices to make its balance sheet work; and the health care crisis and the sub-prime mortgage crisis are becoming increasingly linked in ways one could not have imagined even six months ago.

If one sees blue chip companies like Merrill Lynch write off $8 billion in bad loans -- ML, for God's sake! -- then America really is in trouble. And as much as we gloat over the strong loonie, Euro and pound, we're going to get dragged down by the US' coattails and fast unless there's decisive leadership in the US for a change; both on the economy as well as foreign policy.

And health care, too. I doubt we'll see a single payer system any time soon in the States; but "pay or play" like they have in Hawaii and Massachusetts; and in Illinois for minors, seems a definite possibility now.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Colbert in 3rd place already

Is it possible we're living in a world where people are so desperate for a President who'll lead them that they'd actually vote ... for Stephen Colbert?

According to Rasmussen Reports, one of the most reliable polling firms in the States, Colbert would get 13% of the vote in a hypothetical three-way between himself, Sen. Hillary Clinton and former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani. That's just 6% points below where Ross Perot ended up finishing behind Slick Willy and the elder Bush in 1992. And Perot was a very serious candidate, whose main policy plank about reducing the deficit wound up being co-opted by Billy.

That a joke candidate could produce such strong numbers says a lot about both the quality of the candidate field (the leaders -- or rather who the Exempt Media want to be the leaders -- are crap; while the trailers with real ideas are being ignored) as well as just how important next year's results are going to be. America is facing a crisis of confidence the likes of which have only been seen three times before -- Shays' Rebellion, the Civil War and the Great Depression. Colbert of course is not a serious candidate; but the facts are simply that neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Giuliani have what it will take to guide America through the huge shakedown that's coming.

Perhaps that's the point of the exercise.

As Colbert says, "I am America, and so can you." Who will be the next guiding light; to lead Americans and the world? I'm not optimistic if the best hope right now is a guy who's running on both slates to lose on purpose.

UPDATE (Saturday 8:16 am EDT, 1216 GMT): Minor grammatical corrections. Also, thanks to all those who added me to their Facebook lists this week -- people from high school I thought I'd never hear from again.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

So what if Dumbledore was gay?

The religious right seems to have worked itself up into a lather over the bombshell last week from J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, where she stated matter of fact that one of the protagonists -- Albus Dumbledore -- was gay. On top of their already hating Potter for promoting Satanism (which Rowling clearly debunked in Deathly Hallows, where it became quite clear that the Three Musketeers were Christians all along), this must have been more ammunition in their cause to censor everything they don't like.

But what seems to have been lost is an important point: Yes, Dumbledore was gay; but he took his responsibilities seriously and his powers responsibly. And while he spent most of his career working with children and teenagers, he never abused them and did not tolerate professors under his command who even tried. So many on the right -- and even on the left -- want to make the connection between homosexuality and child abuse. And the link is not and has never been there. Most child abusers are heterosexual, not homosexual. And child abuse comes in many forms -- even the mental cruelty and manipulation that so many suffer, like Harry did at the hands of his aunt and uncle who were very straight.

So what if the headmaster was gay? Just because I'm personally opposed to gay marriage doesn't mean I try to avoid gay and lesbian couples or people who I know to be homosexual -- I work with them, go to dinner with them and get along with them just as with straight people. It's the proper thing to do. It's time we all got along because we've seen what happens when we try to divide people like the religious right wants. As Rowling wrote in Goblet of Fire, "We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided." [p. 627, UK edition]

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The haters among us

It was the 11th grade -- or it may have been the 12th. It's a long time ago now. But it's a memory from high school that is still seared like a branding iron. It's the time I got branded -- in a rather inappropriate way. Let me explain.

Maybe it's the sheltered life I had, but until I was in high school I actually had a hard time acknowledging that racism existed in Canada. I thought it was something that existed in other countries, not here. It took a while to get over that hump, so to speak -- it became obvious though when I started noticing the students of Italian origin hanging out only with each other, then the Polish students, etc. It certainly seemed to go against what I thought about what multiculturalism was supposed to be about.

But it was one day when I was walking in the hallways that one of my friends tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Hey Robert, you have something stuck on you."

I reached behind the sweater on my school uniform and after a couple of attempts managed to locate it and pull it off. I took a look at the sticker. Kind of like a Post-It. The caption on it said, "Isn't it time there was a pro-white newspaper for a change? Subscribe to the Granville Observer." And at the bottom, a number that was clearly from somewhere in British Columbia.

I had seen a sticker like it before -- someone plastered it on a window on one of the buses here in Hamilton. I just shook my head at the time and chuckled. But this time, it was personal.

Not knowing who'd pull a prank like that on me, I marched down to the vice-Principal's office -- well, there were two of them, I just picked the one that happened to be in his office at the time -- and I showed him the offending object. He said, "Thanks Robert, I'll look into it."

Like hell he did. I never saw or heard anything about it again. Which made me wonder -- was the evidence so flimsy that no one could ever be traced to it? Or was there something deeper going on? Perhaps the head honchos at the school, and the Catholic school board, supported the white identity movement?

The least they could have done is reported it as a hate crime. Bring in some of the usual suspects and ask the tough questions. I would have been happy to file a police report. But I was never asked even for something as simple as that. To this day, I still don't have an answer to why nothing was done.

Fast forward to 2007, and the present travelling royal commission in Québec on the issue of "reasonable accommodations," and the increasingly hostile atmosphere as one after another people in Québec are saying basically, "Why should we accommodate them? They moved here -- they should play by our rules." And ironically for a province that deliberately separated church and state in the 1960s, the debate is around Christianity being threatened by Orthodox Jews, Muslims and the Jehovah's Witnesses among others.

It's alarming ... but in reality it's not surprising at all. Because at the heart of the debate is what multiculturalism is supposed to be. As originally intended, it was meant to be a way to give all Canadians an equal voice regardless of race or religion; as well as to fight racism wherever and whenever it happened. In practice, it has only encouraged more segregation. And federal, provincial and local policies actually encourage the hate to continue.

One only has to take a look at the ongoing battle royale between Canadians of Croatian and Serbian origin as an example. Many Croats blame Serbs for all their problems. In turn, many Serbians claim all Croatians are neo-Nazis. One would hope people would leave their problems in the homeland, but there was at least a couple of instances in the past year where a riot broke out in the stands when the "Hamilton Croatia" and "Hamilton Serbia" soccer teams played in the regional league. And it goes on right into the shop floor and office pools. Us against them, not we're all in this together. It's like the war never ended. Because they don't want it to end.

If the Balkan War taught anything, it's that there was enough blame to go around. Atrocities were committed on all sides -- and no one can truly claim the moral high ground. It just makes me shudder that there was a protest outside the US Consulate not that long ago protesting the extradition of a suspected Croat General to the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague. As if all Croatians who fought were totally innocent. Yeah right.

Some of my fellow Croatians consider me a traitor for having friendships with Bosnians and Serbians. I won't name names but you know who you are. And what gives? Really. I'll be friends with whoever I want to be friends with.

Of course, there are some legitimate grievances. The YWCA in Montréal, for instance had no reason to frost their windows so as not to offend Hasidic Jews who might be put off by exercising women. And no one should be afraid to speak out whether in print, on the screen, or in cartoon form such as the exploding Mohammad.

Let's face it, the haters among us are all of us. Every one of us is a little bit racist, sexist, whatever. It's how we deal with that that shapes who we are. And the best place to start would be on multiculturalism. Of course there's strength in diversity -- but we can't emphasize the diversity to the point where we're no longer strong. We need to make our country and our people strong. If that means turning around what we understand the term to be, so be it.

And it goes back, in part, to that sticker. Appealing to the worst sentiments in all of us, rather than to the best. Sometimes I wonder why I bother. Because if I don't marry within my "breed," I'll always be a "traitor" and my kids "half-breeds." How about something different for a change: Just calling each others Canadians, period?

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

SPLC: Tony Alamo is a hatemonger

Last time we heard from Tony Alamo, he was doing time for tax evasion. Now the Catholic hater, brainwasher and FBI Top Ten Alumnus is back based out of Texarkana (home town of Ross Perot, entirely a coincidence) and still spreading his hate against everything he deems "Unamerican," according to a report from the Southern Poverty Law Centre, one of the leading anti-hate organizations in America. The SPLC, co-founded by Morris Dees (a real hero of the civil rights struggle) has now listed Alamo's ministry as a hate group.

Oh yeah -- Alamo loves Hitler and has three "wives."

And Lou Dobbs, like most of the prime-time talk show hosts (a notable exception being Keith Olbermann) HATES the SPLC.

Beginning to see a pattern here? Incidentally, the Arkansas Police refuse to say whether they're even investigating the guy at all. This guy needs to be stopped before he can give the wackos even more ammunition in their battle to make America "the way it used to be."

Um, like the Founding Fathers, most of whom didn't believe in the Resurrection? By the standards of the religious right who strive to uphold the so-called "original intent" of the Constitution, Washington, Madison and the rest should be considered anti-American too.

Sorry, but hate is hate. Period. And if you see a leaflet from this man in your windshield (Alamo's favourite way of proselytizing), I'd do the same thing I do to one from Chick Publications. I put it in my shredder.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I didn't know Mongolia had a merchant marine!

Yet, it does. Along with a group of other countries like Liberia and the Bahamas, Mongolia is a favoured nation for shipping companies looking for "flags of convenience." And today, the US signed a mutual assistance pact with Ulan Bator. But the issue is serious ... seems North Korea has been using Mongolian flagged ships to smuggle the parts it needs to add to the nuclear weapons it already has; so now the US has permission to board such ships without warning.

Maybe Dubya needs to do something about pirates -- real pirates who are disrupting legitimate trade and exacerbating the illegal immigration problem. Only wish he'd done this before 9/11. It is disturbing it came to this but the US already has such pacts with other convenience countries. Canada should consider it too -- the last thing we want to be is a conduit for WMD.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Monday, October 22, 2007

See you in court Monaghan, sez fired profs

I've been posting somewhat frequently about the troubles at the so-called "Catholic" Ave Maria University. Now, it looks like all hell has broken loose -- the law school there is being sued.

The heart of the suit, [Deborah] Gordon said, is [Tom] Monaghan’s involvement in multiple organizations including those in which he has a financial stake. That involvement violates the law school board’s independence from Monaghan’s "tentacles.” “We think we can prove the illegal acts by showing the connections between Monaghan, the board and his other organizations,” she said. Gordon said she planned to depose Monaghan, Dobranski and various past and present members of the school’s board, which currently includes high-ranking Catholic Church officials such as, Cardinal Edward Egan, the archbishop of New York and Cardinal Adam Maida, the archbishop of Detroit.

And if that ain't bad enough, the board of Deans reprimanded one of their students at the law school for doing nothing more than ask the simple question, what is happening to a project that started with such great promise but is turning into a disaster?

While I firmly reside in the moderate to liberal wing of the Catholic Church, and while stressing that these remain allegations yet to be proven in court, I too will continue to ask those same questions. This certainly doesn't sound like what a Catholic employer should do, or behave. And let's not forget, these are mostly conservative Catholics disputing each other ... makes you wonder if they're ever going to agree on anything, ever again.

Sidebar: There was a time in Canada when one couldn't be a Catholic and a member of the NDP -- in fact, membership in the party of Woodsworth and Douglas meant instant excommunication. Now, a former Catholic priest is leader of the New Brunswick wing of the socialist bloc. And the NDP is the most strongly pro-choice as well. Yeah, I know that was about a week or so ago, but it makes me wonder how times really have changed.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Kurdistan: The next Canadian War?

Just mere hours after the 9/11 outrage, NATO had no difficulty invoking Article V of the Atlantic Charter which states an attack on one member state is an attack on the entire Alliance. In so doing they recognized that it's not just states alone who can start a war, pretty much anyone can with a couple of airplanes or a truckload of fertilizer. That's why Canada is in Afghanistan. We didn't start the war, Al Qaeda did.

Yet one has to wonder if there's a double standard insofar as the Kurds are involved. Earlier this week the Turkish Parliament authorized the executive there to conduct raids into northern Iraq to fight against the military wing of the PKK, the Kurdish People's Party. Today, that came home to roost when in an ambush near the Iraq-Turkey border, a dozen Turkish soldiers were killed and some others taken hostage. 32 of the PKK were also killed.

If the PKK made an incursion into Turkey, then of course Turkey has the right to defend itself. And by implication, the PKK has too declared war on NATO. So why aren't we seeing an emergency session of the Atlantic Council? Simply because most NATO members oppose the war in Iraq as it's completely disconnected from the real war against terrorism. Forcing the issue would effectively drag the Alliance into the phony war -- now a civil war -- precisely what Dubya has wanted all along.

Maybe it's a Muslim thing -- Turkey is the only Muslim state in the bloc and most of the other members, all majority Christian (with the exceptions of Estonia and the Czech Republic which have majority agnostic populations), don't want to get entangled in the mess; after all, Muslims in that part of the world still have very long memories dating back to the Crusades. But the other thing is this: Kurds -- at least the majority who want peace -- are entitled to a homeland with real autonomy if not outright independence; no less than say the Basques in Spain and France, or the Scottish and the Welsh in the UK, or for that matter the Palestinians. But the Kurds already had that level of autonomy after the first Gulf War thanks to a UN-enforced no fly zone; and it's now in limbo since the present conflict started four and a half years ago.

There has to be a way to protect NATO without making Iraq even worse than it is. I don't believe in cause and effect, but I get this weird feeling that the PKK could have been kept mostly in check if the status quo prior to March 2003 had been maintained. Now, with the precedent of 9/11, we face the prospect of Canada fighting a war in the Dardanelles and Gallipoli and the areas to the east and south; and if we thought the terrain in Kandahar was tough, it'll be nothing compared to the former stomping grounds of Saladin.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Crime bill: Back to Square One, needlessly

The whole point behind Parliamentary committees is to scrutinize legislation and see how to make it better. In some cases there are wholesale changes to the proposed bill -- changes which have to be approved by the whole House before the amended bill is voted upon at third reading -- but for the most part they are technical clarifications, and usually a government, especially one in a minority situation, won't be opposed to that.

So what is this compulsion that PMS has over the omnibus crime bill? Under normal procedures, after prorogation and a new session commencing, any unpassed bills are simply renumbered and reintroduced at the point they left off. And much of the legislation was already in the Senate, either having been reviewed by the Red Chamber's Justice Committee and awaiting final passage or in the last stages of being scrutinized.

As the Liberals have a solid majority in the Senate, it's one of the few places Harper can be held to account, as the private MSM media who are the official organs of the Con party refuse to do so; and the allegedly publicly owned CBC is wont to ask the tough questions for fear of losing its appropriation from Parliament.

Instead, Harper decided to start all over again and present it as an all or nothing deal; adding that any attempts to amend the legislation would be seen as a vote of non-confidence.

Exsqueeze me? Sphinctersezwhat?

I'm not opposed to raising the age of consent for statutory rape charges -- matter of fact, I think 16 is too low if the victim is non-consenting, it should be eighteen. (Consenting teenagers, heterosexual or homosexual, should of course not be prosecuted.) I support tougher sentences for gun crimes -- and the five year minimum is a good start, although it's actually a 25% increase from the current minimum of four passed during the Chrétien Administration. The drug strategy is troubling, but repeat offenders shouldn't keep using treatment as a fallback -- that's for the health care system anyway, not the criminal law systen. And yes, I support three strikes and you're out for those who commit violent felonies.

The sticking point is the reverse onus for dangerous offenders. If the Supreme Court of Canada ruled it unconstitutional for refusing to give a breath sample for the Breathalyzer test, certainly it would be for the worst of the worst. There are ways to make it pass constitutional muster -- after all, we don't ever want to see Paul Bernardo on the streets again. But in theory, the law as is could see that possibility; and since time in custody counts as double, the Sicko from Scarborough actually qualified for early parole this year, not 2010 as many people may believe. Does Harper really want to be known as the guy who created a revolving door rather than trying to remove it?

For Harper to attempt to corner the Liberals as weak on crime on these issues is not just disingenuous, it's deceitful. The bills would have passed anyway and could have been even proclaimed by Governor General Michaëlle Jean by now. Instead we're back to square one and to give it reasonable scrutiny at this point would take well into Spring Break. It's amazing that to stop the Clean Air Act as amended by the opposition from becoming law, he'd kill the Criminal Code amendments too.

Besides, what I'd like to see in addition to tougher sentences is a "broken windows" approach. Deal with minor crimes -- such as vandalism -- at the source, before the problem escalates and whole neighbourhoods and even cities become safe havens for the mafia, or drug lords, or Al Qaeda. Since these are usually the kinds of crimes that net sentences of up to two years less one day, they are punished by the provincial and territorial prisons; and there's no funding for that. You can't fight crime without giving the Premiers mo' money.

So, if the Liberals want to sit and wait on this, I say go for it. After all, that would be giving the Cons a taste of their own medicine.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Friday, October 19, 2007

No peep shows in our downtowns

An open letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Members of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

Dear Mr. Premier and Honourable Members:

Congratulations on your recent election to the provincial legislature. You have been given a major responsibility and like my fellow Ontarians I pray that Divine Providence will guide your deliberations.

I write this letter to all 107 of you to address an issue that is of concern to many people in this great province of ours. This issue is the presence of adult entertainment theatres in our downtowns. I do not support their elimination all together. That of course would violate freedom of speech; except of course those films which clearly are exploitative or depict criminal acts (as per the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Butler). However, the issue here is that many cities who are trying to clean up their downtowns would like to move such facilities to areas like industrial parks, so as to make our central business districts safe for families; but are unable to do so because the Ontario Film Classification Act overrides all municipal by-laws.

Municipalities should not have the power to say no, absolutely not, to so called "peep shows;" but they should be able to exercise discretion as to where they may be located. After all, they having zoning powers when it comes to the size of department stores or the types of industries they want to locate in town and where. That this is the one business where cities are completely powerless is outrageous.

Most, if not all of you, are family people. It's time to put families first. This is one way to do so. Give the power back to the cities where it belongs.

Yours Truly,

Robert Pavlacic
Hamilton, Ontario.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum ...

Stratfordis non habemus Walmart!

This is a day or two late, but huge kudos to the city council in Stratford, Ontario for deciding to say no to a rezoning that would have allowed Walmart to come to the tourist and auto parts manufacturing centre, in the east side of the city -- right smack dab in the Festival district. As one resident put it, first the downtown stores catering to the locals would have gone; then the shops catering to tourists -- and then the Stratford Festival itself.

This doesn't mean the end -- there's still a proposal to put the store in the west end, well away from where most of the tourist traffic comes from; but score one for common sense.

Yes, I do shop at Walmart. And I'm not against anyone doing business so long as it is legal. But like those shops that sell and show sexually explicit films there are places to put them and not to put them.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Nothing new pussycat

Another irresponsible GST cut, rather than real tax relief for real families. No sharing of revenues with cities. Nothing about ending systemic poverty in Canada. And as for all that hooplah about no new federal spending in shared cost programs -- well, that's just the status quo. And now, Harper wants to extend the Afghanistan mission -- to 2011.

I'm not impressed by the Throne Speech at all.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Hareu, hareu, le feu, le feu!

Blogging will be light the next few days due to some fire damage at Casa Blast Furnace. Dad and I are OK. If it's a big enough story, you'll hear from me, though!

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Why aren't more black people speaking out ...

... like Bill Cosby?

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Seeding faith, reaping scandal

I have refrained from talking about the latest series of scandals at Oral Roberts University this past week -- since my colleague at Bene Diction has most of the bases covered -- but I do have some thoughts, though. It starts with Oral himself.

Mr. Roberts has based his entire ministry on a claim that he had a "healing" -- spontaneous remission might be a better description -- of the tuberculosis that had him bedridden, back in 1935. I don't doubt he was sick or that he suddenly got better. But it does raise a question. TB was a huge scourge back during the Great Depression, and when one went to a sanatorium, it was to die. If Roberts had been healed, why didn't he present himself to the medical authorities and offer to be a guinea pig to develop a vaccine? Or at least an antibiotic? It could have closed the sanatoriums decades before they finally were.

No ... that would have been too clever. He must have figured that the real money was in persuading people, wrongly, that God can be bought off. And in so doing, he became not only a wealthy preacher but a very lucrative real estate developer as well. Interesting, he's managed to stay in remission from TB for 72 years, although he has had other medical issues. And it's interesting to note the writings of E.W. Kenyon which are widely seen as the launch of the Word-Faith movement, were published just around that time.

That leads to the present allegations against Richard and Lindsay. Renovating the President's house 11 times in 14 years? Text message sex -- and with minors? Using the corporate jet for personal purposes (just like Ken Copeland who was once a pilot for Oral?) Firing professors for whistle blowing? Encouraging students to go campaigning for a local GOP candidate in clear violation of federal laws (as well as, presumably, accreditation rules for universities)? And let's not forget Lindsay's extensive selection of wardrobes which makes Imelda Marcos' 3000 pairs of shoes look pauperish by comparison?

Yes, they are only allegations. But one has to wonder about this whole thing about "seeding faith" -- meaning money to enrich others. Whatever happened to what Jesus said:

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21, NIV).

Give the university to the poor, Mr. and Mrs. Roberts, and expect your hundredfold blessing. You won't do it, 'cause it won't happen. Interesting too that 20 years ago you two were screaming to high heaven over the notion that the accreditation might be cancelled because Oral said gimme eight mil or I meet my Father. Maybe it's time they actually revisited that.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

One reason work's no fun anymore, anywhere

It used to be said that 50% of those who met their better half did so at school and work. I'm not so sure it's even half of that anymore, maybe even less. And perhaps the reason for that is that times and things are so different.

I'm not saying we go back to the way things used to be. For the most part, I think feminism is a good thing. But in the fight to stamp out sexual harassment in the workplace -- which we must of course do -- we've also put a crimp in the kinds of relationships we have at work. Many companies in the States forbid co-workers from dating each other. I have it on fairly good authority such a clause would be completely unenforceable in Canada both at common law as well as the civil law in Québec. But the line between fraternization and discrimination is getting all the more blurry.

In the process, there's a chill in the world of work. It's gotten to the point where asking for a date -- even among co-workers at the same level of authority -- could possibly lead to accusations one actually has an ulterior motive and a sinister one at that.

I don't think there's a lot of clarity on the issue ... and I wish someone would say in no uncertain terms what those rules are. I have no issue with reporting a conflict of interest to the HR department if, for example, an underling were to date someone in management whether or not one directly reports to the other. But there seem to be none in situations where it's colleagues at the same level do.

It's patently stupid to suggest one is not allowed to seek out Mr. or Ms Right among one's friends -- when one knows for sure he or she is there -- because someone else says the former can't.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Friday, October 12, 2007

2007 Nobel Peace Prize: Al Gore and the IPCC

The Norweigian Nobel Committee has awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to former US Vice-President Al Gore, Jr., and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This no doubt will make conservatives flip. I can't imagine how. Because conservative and conservation come from the same root. And it's the lack of the latter that, as the Committee points out, that's one of the biggest threats to global security that we face. The citation read in part this year's winners have been named so "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

The link between environment and peace has been true throughout history ... the winds of change in the air often precipitated political change whether in the short or long term. A slight change in air temperatures in one year, for instance, started the Irish Potato Famine -- which led to massive outmigration to Canada and the United States, and many of the political consequences can still be felt today here in North America as well as in the UK and the Irish Republic. More recently, the vast stripping of land resources in northeastern Africa has contributed in large measure to the drought there -- and is cited as one of the causes of the genocide in Darfur.

Here in Canada we've literally "paved paradise to put up a parking lot," as Joni Mitchell bluntly said. Only now the new parking lot is the land resources that feed us and give us energy. Forests are being stripped to access the tar sands -- and those trees which could have acted as sinks for carbon are now gone making the pollution from processing bitumen that much worse.
And certainly, the diamond industry is finally giving the Far North the shot in the arm it so desperately needs and will sustain growth in Northern Ontario in the next few years.

But what price progress? Is it worth stripping land like quarries just to get dust which in time will be -- well, even more dust?

Al Gore had it right all along. The key to stopping terrorism isn't to secure access to oil abroad, as Dubya was so keen to do. It's to stop buying that oil all together and state that America will harness what God has given us -- wind, air, earth and fire (the Sun); and manage the resources in a sustainable manner. All countries in fact, including Canada, have to do the same. This is a moral issue.

And while many conservatives also understand the link, those who are in power do not. So, a huge congrats, Al. But please don't quit your present day job -- you have more power outside the White House than you and Bill Clinton did in it.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Election 2007 post-mortem

[Some comments on Kathy Shaidle below.]

Dalton McGuinty has more than held his own, he practically glided to victory. A month ago, I had predicted McGuinty would win 55 seats, Tory 38, and Hampton 14. This morning, the unofficial totals show Liberals 71, Progressive Conservatives 26, NDP 10.

Decisive to be sure. But McGuinty lost six percent of the popular vote and the campaign was focused way too much on education and not on the other priorities that matter to Ontarians. As we almost certainly slip into a slowdown if not a recession, we're going to need a steady hand and while McGuinty has had a steady hand steering the ship he's going to need nerves of steel in the four years ahead.

Another thing: This is the first back to back Lib win since Mitchell Hepburn did it during the Great Depression. And oddly enough, he won his first election on a promise to extend funding to Catholic high schools -- which he was forced to withdraw when his mostly W.A.S.P. caucus threatened a vote of non-confidence.

Which leads to John Tory. This is the second election he's botched -- the first was Kim Campbell's. And as Campbell lost her own seat, he also managed to lose in the district he was running in against the Education Minister of all people -- rather than run for re-election in his very safe rural seat. And what did him in? Education. Back in the 30's, it was true that most Protestants genuinely hated Catholics. Today, we Catholics are full members of society and most of us get along just fine with our Protestant and Eastern Orthodox siblings -- as well as people of every other religion and no religion at all. The Constitution may be quirky but it is the Constitution and the only realistic way for Tory to have pulled off what he wanted to do was through a Constitutional amendment which no one wants.

There is a way to ensure equality for those who don't want to be in the public or Catholic school systems, but Tory sure chose the wrong way to do it. And overall, people want integration -- and my recollections from high school were that there were quite a few Protestants in my high school and they had no trouble blending in with the rest of us; and we were also a fully multi-ethnic school, including South Asians, Arabs and blacks. We clearly got it. I can't believe Tory didn't.

As for hapless Howard Hampton, his fate is destined to be the same as Edward Broadbent federally. Right leader, wrong party.

On the MMP vote -- it was defeated, and we of course have to respect that. But the education campaign run by Elections Ontario was very disappointing, and people latched on to the totally incorrect idea candidates would have been appointed. The fight may be over for now, but it's not totally done with. Democracy will win out eventually as it has in most of the EU (including the national assemblies of Scotland and Wales), New Zealand and Japan.

And finally ... one last word, or a few.

Some of my fellow ProgBlogs, who I will decline to name for now, have every right to criticize Kathy Shaidle. I know I have on this board a few times. But there's a difference between taking on the talking point, and taking on Kathy personally. I disagree with her on just about everything political. But I consider her a friend, and our exchanges have been nothing but civil. I don't have to defend her, she can take care of herself quite well. The true test of a democracy is the extent to which we allow free expression and thought. It's rather high strung of us to plead free speech when we challenge those in power; then turn around and claim we have higher moral ground just because "we know better."

When I dispute something Kathy says -- really dispute it -- I keep it civil, or at least try to. I hope my colleagues would do the same, as with any other blogger we may disagree with left or right.

Is it a Catholic thing, you may ask? You're damn right it is, but it's only partly that. And for what it's worth, if I could find a woman -- a progressive of course -- who's as feisty as Kathy is, I'd be a really lucky guy.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Comments disabled

Comments are being disabled until sometime after the polls close at 9 PM EDT tomorrow. This is a precautionary measure.

Vote! And Vote MMP!

Simple message for my fellow Ontarians: Tomorrow, vote for whomever you want on the candidate ballot; but on the referendum, vote Mixed Member Proportional. If you're not sure which one that is, it's the second of two choices on the wordy ballot. It's time to end tyranny once and for all.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Monday, October 8, 2007

"Screw you lady, that's what STAIRS are for!"

I usually don't get too personal in this column, but I have a few things I need to say out loud.

At 35, I am now three years older than my father was when he sired me. And it just blows that so many of my friends are married with children, while I ... I'm still single, and forced to put my life on hold yet again, to take care of not one but two family members.

It totally sucks that just when I'm about to get control of my life again, someone -- God or someone else -- throws yet another curve ball at me, putting me back in the place where society thinks I belong. This blog is a great stress reliever, but it's no replacement for a relationship.

And it's gotten to the point where I'm just pissed off. Pissed off, like this ...

By the way, dudes need not apply ... I'm straight.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

What about agriculture and immigration, dudes?

Agriculture and immigration, under Article 95 of the British North America Act, are two of the only three heads of constitutional powers that are specifically shared by the federal and provincial governments. (The other is old age pensions.) It's no surprise why they are; yet they are the two issues that consistently crop up in the election campaigns of other provinces -- except for Ontario.

Maybe it's just because we presume there is no provincial immigration department. Or because the vast majority of Ontarians live in cities we are insulated from the realities that farmers face.

So first, immigration. Recently, the federal-provincial immigration agreement was updated; the previous one was written way back in 1958, a time when most Ontarians thought the police were more infallible than the Pope and most of the migrants came from Europe. We're certainly much more diverse nowadays of course, and immigrants are what drive our economy.

But unlike more well-publicized agreements, such as the one that Ottawa has with Québec City, we just don't know what the terms of the Ontario agreement are. It's like a state secret. Can we go over our province's quota in a given year like Québec can if our business needs require? What is our share of settlement money? And are the three leaders willing to get a better deal; and if so will they put it to a vote of the legislature so it can be debated and discussed in hearings or will it remain a state secret under Crown Prerogative?

Of course, silence on this one. The Three Amigos would rather focus on the fight for the suburban, white bread vote -- those voters who have moved into the suburbs precisely because they don't want to interact with people who don't "Speak White." This is very disturbing, from my perspective.

And what about farmers? I live well inside a major city yet close enough that I can walk to farmland if I wanted to. And Ontario's farmers, like their counterparts in the rest of Canada, are struggling. The tender fruit industry is constantly at risk from urban encroachment even with the Greenbelts. Mainland China is deliberately undermining our ice wine industry with counterfeit products -- most of which, I believe, is fully backed by the Butchers of Tienanmen. And the food distribution system favours wealthy corporations, not the family farmer.

What will be done to help the real farmers -- not the Cargills and ADMs of the world?

Again, Pointy Head, Funny Face and Rainy River say nothing.

And, those who say nothing plan to do nothing. Enjoy the country drives while you can folks; soon, it will be all city and no country from Toronto up to Sudbury and North Bay and beyond. And we'll be getting our food -- yup -- from the Butchers of Tienanmen.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

What about health care, dudes?

My most recent experience with the public health system was the same one as my father's; his near brush with death. He got quite lucky; when he went into a coma there was a bed in the emergency ward; later that day he was moved into ICU. The care was top-rate, and after two months he was able to go home.

I can only imagine how much the bill would have been if there wasn't single payer. Probably $150,000 or more. For so many families, the system works. It works because we see good health care as a right and not a privilege.

But the system is in trouble. The introduction of the hated health care premium has helped only slightly; and it would have been totally irrelevant in my father's case because his condition required he go to the front of the line.

The fact remains, though, many families -- both in big cities as well as in the country -- don't have access to GPs at all. Waiting times in hospital ERs can be several hours or more. We all know the stories about ambulances who go all over town looking for an open bed -- and patients dying in transit.

What have the three parties said about health care, other than John Tory's completely unbelievable promise to phase out the health tax? Nothing.

What has been said about preventative health care? Nothing.

And pollsters want to know why we're so cynical?

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Thankful for what?

The earliest proclamation of Thanksgiving in Canada was in 1799, when the Lower Canada legislature issued a resolution thanking God "In signal victory over our enemy and for the manifold andinestimable blessings which our Kingdoms and Provinces have received and daily continue to receive." From 1879 until 1957, Canada's Parliament issued an annual proclamation to thank God for a bountiful harvest and "the blessings with which the people of Canada have been favoured" -- and during the war years, gratitude also to the men and women in uniform who were putting themselves in harm's way. In 1957, however, Thanksgiving became a purely secular federal holiday. Notably, the date chosen was the second Monday in October; the same as the US Columbus Day.

Truly odd they'd pick the same day as the commeration of a guy without whom the process of the near genocide of Aboriginals in North America could not have begun -- to give thanks.

Of course, we have much to be thankful for; but on this the 50th anniversary of the secular holiday as we know it today we can't be thankful that natives are still wards of the state, that there are still food banks, that so many kids go to school hungry, that the state still forces mothers to choose between staying at home or working for a living. We can't be thankful grow houses operate in our neighbourhoods, Mounties get shot on a regular basis like a turkey shoot, and that corruption still pervades the corridors of Ottawa.

So today or tomorrow, as we cook that turkey or duck or whatever special food we have -- let us remember that the Canadian dream is not complete. Blessings should be for all -- not just the privileged.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

What about kids and seniors, dudes?

Two groups have gotten the shrift during the current Ontario campaign -- children and seniors.

While in the last few days we've finally seen some talk about tackling child poverty the fact it that it doesn't go nearly far enough. True, the new and tentative Ontario Child Benefit will help families with young kids a lot -- with up to $1100 per year per child under seven in what amounts to a negative income tax.

But it doesn't address the working poor without or with kids, many who live paycheque to paycheque just to make ends meet. They need a working income supplement -- none is being offered.

The minimum wage is too low. It's going up to $10.25 over three years. It should be that, now, and pegged to inflation thereafter.

And there's no child care strategy. None. Blame this party on PMS, but also blame it on three leaders who may have kids but live in a fantasy world when it comes to raising their kids -- going to private school or those publicly funded schools with the best test scores; plus their provincial tax exemption on virtually everything as government employees. When are working people going to get a break?

As for seniors -- Pointy Head had to be literally bullied by the home care industry to raise the food allowance from about $5.40 per diem to $7. Funny Face is promising dignity for seniors who are in home care right now but I haven't heard anything from his campaign about the waiting lists and easing the burden on those who, like me, have to take care of ill parents or grandparents. And as for Rainy River ... maybe the smog from the paper mills in Fort Frances have done something to him, because pollution up north is just as bad for seniors as it is for those in the south. Nothing from him, either.

Little wonder why some are expecting a low turnout. Which is what the opponents of MMP are hoping for.

We can't let that happen. If there were minority parties besides the Old Guard, kids and seniors would be a top priority, not the lowest. We need MMP.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Marion Jones admits truth -- 7 years too late

A few days ago -- before Marion Jones' bombshell guilty plea -- a certain athlete in a high profile sport made a rather interesting observation. Noting the suspension of one of his fellow teammates, he said that if that teammate had been tried in a court in the United States he would have been vindicated.

Found not guilty, perhaps -- not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But vindicated? That first athlete is living in a glass menagerie. But his view isn't that off-base. After all, Americans have long believed it's only the "foreigners" that cheat at the Olympics and World Championships -- Americans are too good for that.

Well of course, most Americans do play by the rules. But some do cheat -- and they cheat because they believe they won't get caught. They time their regimen of "treatments" and go to places like BALCO to take masking drugs to ensure they have the upper edge.

On the one hand, it's good to see Jones take responsibility for her actions. The other, though ... she lied, and that's the point. When her former boyfriend Tim Montgomery was caught cheating suspicion naturally also turned to her; and while I support the principle there should not be guilt by association without evidential proof, one naturally had to wonder. The Sydney Games' track and field events were supposed to be the stage for Cathy Freeman, the Australian Aboriginal who broke a lot of barriers for her people and other natives. But Jones stole the show with three golds and two bronze -- not entirely unexpected to be fair but people hope the best will act the best.

Sorry, but the "I thought it was linseed oil" defence just doesn't cut it. And the sad part is that with a mandatory two year ban (which could be made even longer if the circumstances warrant) Jones has also been banned from other sports; including her first love, basketball. That means she can't even work as a sportscaster; and who'd want to hire her anyway, after lying over and over again?

At least NASCAR at least takes it seriously, finally -- one driver, Aaron Fike in the truck contest as well as his teammate and fiancée Cassandra Davidson, both got an indefinite suspension back in July for using heroin (which can also be performance enhancing). But the governing body's drug policy is still ad hoc, and not compliant with the WADA code; which calls for a minimum two year suspension on a first offence. Until leadership comes at the top and NASCAR and the Big Four team sports adopts the world code, athletes of a lesser stature will continue to risk they won't be humiliated like Jones was.

And in the process, set a bad role model for kids; and endanger their own lives.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Friday, October 5, 2007

What about the roads and the power lines, dudes?

With a few days to go before the election, I've noticed the one issue that seemed to dominate the discussion was education. Of course that's important; but in the Canadian federation provinces are much more than the "glorified municipalities" that was once spoken of dismissively by John A. Macdonald. So tonight I wanted to talk about two issues that seem to have gotten little notice; and what I hope to see no matter who comes out on top this Wednesday: Transportation and power.

On roads, I think there has been way too little discussion, and that's a big problem. Our roads here in Southern Ontario are way too clogged with commutes taking longer and longer (no surprise there); while up North they are appalling substandards and with no easy backups. Just witness the collapse of the Langford Bridge on Highway 11 a few years back and the chaos that caused -- with no alternate route between Timmins and North Bay, people and in particular truckers had to take a huge detour via 69 or 17 and 144 via Sudbury. Sure, the population is sparse; but surely people up North have the right to at least four lane divided highways if not a fully access-controlled road. 69 is slowly being twinned and will eventually become the 400 all the way from Parry Sound to Sudbury; while the 11 is on track to being doubled as well. Both -- by 2017.

But that leaves the 17 and the rest of 11, which for most of their lengths are a very dangerous two lane roads -- and our portions of the Trans-Canada; which has been twinned pretty much across the Prairies and half of BC, as well through Québec and the Maritimes. Why should Ontario be any different? And why should the North be made to suffer at the expense of us Southerners? I'd like to see the projects fast-tracked; on a design-build basis rather than tendering bits and pieces at a time.

As for us in the South -- pretty simple: Fast track HOV lanes and public transit projects. And get it done fast. Commuting downtown is bad enough; imagine those who have to drive for a living.

On power ... the old Ontario Hydro model seems so much better in hindsight. Publicly owned, from production through tranmission and delivery. The problem started in the 1990s when power rates were frozen. They really shouldn't have been. Someone was subsizing the system and we all know what happened. Deregulation hasn't been the disaster as it was in California; but it wasn't pleasant either. And we're still paying rates well below market.

Certainly, lower income people need help but I'm going to say two very unpopular things here: We need the monopoly back and we need to start paying the true cost of electricity. Not one basis point more or less.

We also need to be a net exporter of power again. That's exporter, not importer. We shouldn't have to beg Manitoba, Québec or the neighbouring US states for their electricity unless it's absolutely necessary; and even then only to cover gaps of a couple of hours at most. Too, we need to take a look at the full basket of options available; and while I reckon clean coal and nuclear will be part of the final package they should be what comes at the end, not at the front.

I haven't heard too much from the main parties on this. Why?

More in the coming days and what I wished had been the issues but weren't.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Saved, but ...

Some great news, as all 3200 miners in the South Africa mining accident were rescued -- alive.

Of course, we should give thanks to God for that. But there's something about the business of mining that bothers me. We need the resources ... but it says a lot when 12 miners in West Virginia get killed in one explosion yet 60 or so are rescued when there's another explosion in Saskatchewan; 1000 miners die in Mainland China (where reporting on such accidents without government permission is punishable by death), yet thousands more are saved in a country with an even worse safety record?

Am I missing something here?

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Kenneth Copeland: The Cartoon

Here's a not-so humourous look at Kenneth Copeland's ministry -- in cartoon form, courtesy of the gang at Christian satire magazine Wittenburg Door. This you have to read. (HTML, PDF).

Remember who Copeland votes for. Not that a lot of mainstream churches are any better -- heck, I switched congregations (though not religions) after my parish priest drove around town in a Jaguar. I don't begrudge one car -- Copeland has 21, plus seven motorcycles; and he could just walk less than a mile to his studio but he doesn't. But does a preacher need a megachurch in the middle of nowhere, let alone a corporate jet we know for a fact has been used for more than just ministry business?

And even if his television ministry went bankrupt, he won't -- he's sitting on one of the richest oilfields in Texas.

Here's a challenge, the same one I and many other have issued to the prosperity gospel movement: If you truly believe in the hundred fold blessing, give all your possession -- minus the shirt on your back -- to the poor. Then see what happens.

Of course, it won't happen. And remember how nearly all of them vote. For a guy who decided yesterday to pick on someone smaller than him and take away their health insurance -- little children -- by vetoing an increase in the tobacco tax. Yes, suffer little children indeed.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Mine accident in South Africa

3000 employees of a gold mine in South Africa have been trapped -- this happened when a pipe burst and cut power to an elevator cable. The mine operators insist everyone's okay and that they're going to lift their people out though an adjacent elevator -- just as soon as they get around to it -- and there's plenty of ventilation. The union says otherwise, that air is sparse and that this is going to be a colossal disaster.

One can only cross their fingers that it won't be. South Africa has an appalling safety record when it comes to mines, with the United States and Mainland China faring not that much better.

My father tells me that he was once offered a job in a mine but he refused saying he didn't want to "work under two skies" -- whatever that means. Although I'm beginning to get it.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Montréal says "non" to ultra skinny

The catwalks in Montréal have announced they're joining a growing group of cities that are saying that they will ban models who don't fall within an acceptable Body Mass Index range; an attempt to discourage female teens and youths from becoming anorexic on purpose just so they "look good."

Of course this move must be applauded. What I'd rather see, however, are two things:

1) Celebrities tell the tabloids to go screw themselves, and start adopting healthier lifestyles for themselves. For better or worse, they are role models. It just sickens me that there's a race to see which current A-lister can be the next to join the Size Zero club; and there's even talk about negative sizes. Negative? I thought those sizes were reserved for people emaciated at death camps; a part of history that should have been declared "never again." Guess not.

2) The fashion industry as a whole attempt to cater to women -- and men -- of all shapes and sizes and promote clothes that make someone look good regardless of body mass. There will always be people who want to dress like it's a funeral every day, of course, but most want to look like they're "with it." But I guess overall, if people just felt like themselves rather than having to pretend they have to be someone else, we could start setting things the way they should be again.

Just my piece of mind this morning. I shall attempt to return to matters of greater importance tonight.

To paraphrase Edward Murrow: Good day, and good luck.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Stupid commerical of the week (Oct 1-7)

Have you seen the latest advertisement for a certain mutual fund company who will not be named? In this one, we are actually expected to believe they invested in a mattress company because one of the investment board members remembered that the company had gotten patents worldwide for their latest invention -- unlike the others who thought the firm's market was just one country, Denmark.

How stupid do they think we are? For one thing, any idiot knows that a patent issued by one EU state is normally valid in the whole bloc -- and a market of 27 countries with about 450 million people is not something that's going to be easily missed. For another, the accent of the guy playing the guy running the company wasn't entirely convincing either -- it's hard to fake a Danish accent, or Finnish (remember the tire commercial from earlier this year, same investment firm).

Folks, read the prospectus, even if its reads like the manual for the space shuttle (sorry, it's a great rim shot line from Dave Chilton, the "Wealthy Barber".) Look into the companies they invest in even if you have to do some online research. Find out if they are the kinds of companies you like -- or even understand. Personally, I'd rather park my money in an index fund -- at least it's common knowledge what types of businesses are in the S&P 500, for instance; and the fees are way less which means more money in investor's pockets.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Tory flip flops

Realizing just how radioactive the education funding issue has become for the people on his own ticket, John Tory is now saying if he's elected Premier of Ontario next year he'll allow a free vote on the question of if non-Catholic "faith-based" schools should get funds on an equal level to the public and Catholic systems. He'll also have a commission to look into the issue, hosted by none other than former Premier Bill Davis (oddly enough, the guy who refused to have equal funding for Catholic schools during the 1960s, yet as Premier went ahead with it in his final year).

He may think he's taken the issue off the table -- after all, if enough Conservatives express their opposition to the measure, he may just take the bill off the table and never have a vote at all.

But this flip-flop (just last Wednesday, he said there would be no free vote) is going to anger the social conservative base; who may decide to either stay at home or throw their vote to even more right-wing fringe parties.

Almost makes me wish we had the system they have in the NWT. Their election is today, and there are no parties and a consensus style of government.

It also raises more questions about his ability to govern. If he goes against his own platform in the final ten days of the hustings, what does that say about what he'll do if he comes from behind and wins? I'm still unhappy with McGuinty breaking some promises after he was elected, but this may be the first time I remember in Ontario that someone broke his or her word during the campaign. Running the CFL and running Ontario are two completely different things.

Vote for this post at Progressive Bloggers.