Monday, May 31, 2010

No fraternizing? Yeah, like that's going to happen!

Help me out here folks, but since when is having an affair with a fellow officer on the battlefield a crime?   It's not like passions don't heat up in the flame of war, especially in a country where there are several factions who want to engage in femicide.

It's not clear whether Brig. Gen. Daniel Menard, scheduled to lead the NATO charge in and around Kandahar City this fall, was doing the nasty -- either with his wife (who is another officer under his command) or another female officer.    But coming just weeks after he was fined $4000 for unlawful discharge of a firearm -- it doesn't look good.

Certainly we expect a higher standard of ethics from those men and women brave enough to wear the uniform.   But isn't this just a bit unrealistic?    Like, when was the last time a general or admiral went to the brig for having sex?   Come on, there's more to this story than what we're being told.    Another billion dollar boondoggle (Read:  G-8 / G-20) the Harper Government doesn't want us to know about, perhaps?

Maybe someone who wears a uniform can explain why this would be detrimental to morale -- even if it was with wifey.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Be very, very careful about drilling in the Beaufort Sea

News that Plan Number 17 (or whatever we're up to) to stop the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may finally be starting to work is welcome but it's worth pointing out that this disaster, significant as it is and damaging to fisheries and tourism for quite some time to come, happened in a subtropical climate.   Remember Sarah Palin and her "Drill Baby Drill" chant during the 2008 election?   Looks pretty bad now, especially considering she was still in university (on a basketball varsity scholarship) when the 1989 Valdez disaster happened in her home state, when the Arctic winter was just ending.

This naturally brings up the issue of what to do with the vast reserves of oil and natural gas in the Beaufort Sea.    We know that approval of the Mackenzie Pipeline, considered at least since the 1970s, is almost a given now that most of the land claims in the NWT have been settled.   One potential hangup is the still undemaracted sea border between the Yukon and Alaska -- Canada claims it should continue due north from the land border along the West 141st Meridian while the States claims it should be up to the 200 mile limit of the western coast of the Arctic Islands.

But setting that aside the real problem is the fact the continental shelf in the Beaufort drops quite suddenly just a few knots off shore, and during the winter months it is pitch black.   We know how hard it was to find the leak off Lousiana -- but at least there was some light on the way down.   Imagine a blowout a mile down, in February, when it's 50 below.

Certainly we need to become less dependent on OPEC oil and gas -- we still import quite a bit from Venezuela.    And the less dependent the territories become from Ottawa the better.

But if we are going to permit drilling in the final frontier, we'd better know what we are doing and make sure that disasters like the one down South are prosecuted stiffly, including the cleanup costs.    Otherwise, the Great White North will become the Black and Blue North in no time flat.

I'm just worried about the rush to start drilling ... I realize it's been talked about for decades but would another year or two to make absolutely sure really hurt all that much?

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Harper and the "Mexico City Policy"

As much as abortion upsets me personally, as much as I think the issue should be debated (as Canada is one of the few countries with no law whatsoever), the approach being taken by Stephen Harper -- that he won't rock the boat here but none of our foreign aid money will be used for abortions in Third World countries, or even to promote the procedure -- is disingenuous at best and outright stupid at worst.   Can he really expect us to think we can have it both ways?    Are we going to have our own version of the "Mexico City Policy" after all?

In a idealistic world, no unmarried person would have sex voluntarily and no person would ever be subjected to sexual assault.    But this isn't an ideal world and abortion, while I think it is evil, has to remain a necessary and legal evil.   Consigning 70,000 women in other countries to death sentences while thousands, even tens of thousands, of women here can get therapeutic reproductive services without question is a double standard.

Whose advice Mr. Harper has been taking, and why is he so bound and determined to undermine Canada's reputation in the world -- first for the environment, and now on women's health?

For that matter, why have governments of all stripes have taken contradictory positions on all sorts of issues -- asbestos, seal pelts, overfishing?    Why the whole us versus them mentality?    Isn't this the same planet we all share?

I do think the Liberals really dropped the ball on this one weeks ago when it didn't know how to crack the whip and when.    Then again, if we're going to be discussing the issue, let's have a proper debate in Parliament and not a decision made by executive order without giving MPs a chance to even review the draft regulations.

We've already lost face with the Palestinians (the peaceful ones, that is), now with poor women.    What is Harper's next move?    Oh, let's see ... banning women from the workplace.   Then taking away their right to vote.  That'll really go over well.

We want and should have faith based politicians, but that doesn't mean that should lead to faith based politics.    Canada hasn't been a Dominion for decades and we don't need Dominionism (i.e. "Kingdom Now") for the present or the future.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Open the books, residents of the Château on the Rideau

Maybe I was joking back in October when I suggested Canada needed an expenses row of our own.   But the refusal of MPs from all parties to even consider the idea of an audit of personal and parliamentary expenses, rallying behind the supersecret committee called the Board of Internal Economy, is nuts.   In fact, it does suggest there may be in fact a degree of inpropriety even if there hasn't been.   So what's the big deal?

This is a simple one.   MPs and Senators should be required to declare all conflicts of interest and to place any companies they own into blind trusts.    They certainly have a zone of privacy regarding "the games people play" (ahem!) but they should have no right of privacy when it comes to their income taxes -- they and their spouses or partners should be required by law to disclose federal and provincial returns for all calendar years for which they served at public expense, even for just one day.   And the Auditor General should have the right to do a forensic audit of Parliamentary expenses -- in fact you'd think they (Senators and MPs) would welcome being scrutinized to know we're getting value for money.

Come on, it's a $500 million operation.   This is a drop in the bucket considering the executive branch spends $200 billion + every year.   A little openness wouldn't hurt, would it?

About five percent of Canadians get audited every year for income taxes -- that's 400,000 out of, say, 20 million returns filed.   Most are just requests for more receipts (in the age of e-filing, that's understandable) and maybe only a few thousand get the full "screwjob" audit the IRS is notorious for (where the personal audit rate can run to as high as 20% in some years).    We're talking about only 308 MPs and 105 Senators.   What's the freaking problem?    Who polices the police?

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Adultery can pay -- sometimes

When I read this story the other day, I thought at first the woman was nuts -- you heard about this, I'm sure:   A woman, who had a cell phone account under her maiden name, is now suing Rogers for contributing to the breakup of her marriage because when her husband bundled cable and Internet the company apparently also included the cell account and he discovered the affair by reviewing the combined bill and noticing three one hour calls -- which obviously weren't business related.    The woman claims after her husband left her, her job performance sank to the point she was fired -- from a job that paid over $100k a year.    The affair, it should be pointed out, was short-lived.

The damages she is seeking:   $600,000.

Obviously, I don't condone adultery, except under one condition -- that the one cheating is a victim of his or her partner's serial abuse or drug use.   Neither was the case here, far as I know.   However, there is the issue of consent -- no one asked her if she wanted the cell phone included in the account, apparently it seems either her husband or Rogers did this unilaterally.

So, I think she has a case.    Everyone has a right to privacy, and as far as I know adultery is not a criminal offence in Canada.   But $600,000?    A bit high under the common law.    I'd award maybe half that.   Too bad she's not in Québec -- she might have cleaned up under the Civil Code (though I could be wrong -- any civil litigators in La Belle who can clarify what damages she might be entitled to?).

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Double standard in cartoons? (And the Tea Partiers, too)

Over the last few years, some of the most familiar cartoon characters have had makeovers.   In particular, three female characters stand out.    No one seemed bothered when Strawberry Shortcake ™ and Holly Hobbie ™, created by Muriel Fahrion and the real Hobbie respectively, got worked up to look like sassy and sexy teenagers.    But a few months back, when Dora "The Explorer" Marquez ™ got a similar do-over, people flipped out.   In fact, some people I know are still calling New Dora a "slut".    Really.

Bit of racism, perhaps?   It's okay for a white teenager to look sexy but not a Hispanic?   What is wrong with parents these days?    Must be the same gang that started the whole Tea Party movement in the States.   Anti-immigrant, wants a Berlin Wall along the Mexican border, wants priests and ministers to check the ids of every congregant in the communion line.    Guess it's the new crime down there -- DWH.   Driving While Hispanic.

So ... how was your day.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Who cares about a new stadium anyway?

You know that when a city or region gets a major sporting event there will always be a way to screw things up.    So it is with Toronto and the Pan-Am Games coming in 2015.    Hamilton is supposed to host track and field, swimming and cycling.    The track field is also supposed to be converted into a football stadium which would be the new home of the Ti-Cats to replace the decrepit Ivor Wynne.    Hence the ongoing war of words between the team's current owner Bob Young and the city managers.    Young claims the west end site currently being proposed -- a former air conditioning factory, next to a rail marshaling yard and near a major city park -- doesn't have nearly enough parking and even if public transit could be figured into the mix he'd still lose about $9 million a year.

Oh to have so much money that one could complain about losing so little an amount.

But here's the hilarious part.   Of the alternate sites -- a few on the Escarpment, one near Confederation Park (where the campground is being decommissioned), these are also dissatisfactory to Young.    So what did he suggest?    The "Hamilton part" of Aldershot.

For those of you not familiar with Southern Ontario, Aldershot is the western part of Burlington, with the sole exception of a cemetery (Woodlawn) that is, since the closing of an arterial road last year that was turned into a pedestrian walkway, an exclave of Hamilton.    The rest is pretty much filled in with a lot of the brown fields being turned into residential space, along with clearly designated greenbelt space and other cemeteries (Jewish and Catholic, mostly).

True, many homes in Aldershot have Hamilton phone numbers (I know this from my time working at the pizza call centre) but this goes back to the days when Burlington was a bedroom community of Hamilton and not Toronto as it is nowadays.

Time is running out.   Already, the velodrome (cycling track) may be relocated to a sports park in Dundas and that raises its own problems as part of the park is on a closed landfill.   If we don't get our act together, the organizing committee in Toronto may just decide Hamilton isn't worth it -- in which case all we'd be left with is bocci (and yes, there are bocci courts ready to go).

I am all too familiar with the white elephant syndrome.

But if we're looking for legacy facilities, we need  to make a decision soon -- figure out what will become of the sports stadiums long after the games.    It's been years since we've had an outdoor stadium concert -- why aren't we taking that into consideration?    (Concerts have been banned at Ivor Wynne for more than three decades -- most of us remember the 1975 fiasco when Pink Floyd used up their remaining fireworks for the North American tour and wound up completely destroying the scoreboard and smashing the windows of houses blocks away, the 1979 Rush concert wasn't so much better.   There was a lot of hope when Faith Hill and Tim McGraw wanted to do a show there but they backed off once they heard about the Floyd incident.)

Or demanding the province fast-track the LRT lines which would resolve a lot of the issues Young has brought up?

Oh, there's one other thing to consider -- many of the major sports showcased at the Pan-Am Games also have their world championships in odd numbered years and also act as qualifiers for the Summer Olympics the following year -- in this case the 2016 extravaganza in Rio de Janiero.   Most of the A-list stars pass on the Pan-Ams to prepare for their worlds which means we'll be getting mostly the B-teams -- the university athletes not good enough to be world class.   That's also something to keep in mind.

And in the long run, will people remember there even were the Pan-Ams here?   Can you remember which city hosted in 1987?   Quickly -- it was Indianapolis.    What was the main event at the 1999 games in Winnipeg?   A reunion of The Guess Who.    Sure, it'd be nice to see Gordon Lightfoot perform "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" one last time -- when he's 77 (and hopefully still alive -- remember the death hoax back in February?).    But most of us will see it on TV anyway.

If Hamilton loses its chance, it will be because the people that matter were too stupid to work something out.    But let's not forget it wasn't until 2006 that taxpayers in Montréal finally paid off the Big Owe.   Sydney and Beijing have barely used facilities left over.    And the worst case -- Greece is paying a huge price right now for a whole bunch of fiascoes -- the 2004 Athens Olympics being just one of them.    In the end, because the Government of Ontario is contractually bound to cover any losses, we'll lose no matter what.

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Monday, May 3, 2010

What I am not

It's been a few weeks since my last post ... I almost made a comment last week about Gordon Brown's comment calling a constituent "bigoted" but there's no need:   Elections aren't won but lost and he lost it with that one, his apology notwithstanding.

But I do need to make a few things absolutely clear today because of some ugly things I learned offhand from a "source" the last few days about some things that have been said about me.

Let me be clear:  I am by no means perfect.   In fact, I have done some pretty lousy things which have gotten me into a heap of trouble and for which I am prepared to take full responsibility.

But amongst the most outrageous things, I categorically deny.   So let's set the record straight.   I am straight, not homosexual or bisexual (not that there's anything wrong with either).   I most certainly am not a pedophile.   I don't even know what it means to give off an "effeminate bearing" so I am not going to go there.   I can be mean and put people off the wrong way at times, but the suggestion that I am evil or the devil incarnate or the Antichrist -- well, if that was the case, all the televangelists would have targeted me for assassination by now!   (And it's not like there are already a whole bunch of candidates anyway already.)

I can't forgive myself for the wrongs I've done (although God can) but I won't apologize for the things I am not.   I don't expect an apology either -- I just want to clear the air.

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