Saturday, July 31, 2010

Catholic bishops say keep long census

Another group has weighed in on the long-form census debate.   This time, it's the Catholic Bishops.   Maybe not exactly the most popular group right now as some in the grouping are accused of continuing obstructing justice in the never-ending sex abuse cases.   But setting that aside, the bishops say the data is needed to help them plot out where new parishes need to be built and which ones ought to be closed or merged ... as well as helping faith-based social service agencies plan out strategies to deliver services.

One of the justifications used to not have a long form census is that it allows people to put in joke answers -- over 21,000 Canadians in 2001 said they were "Jedi".    Alternately, since there is a near complete separation of church and state it's not appropriate to ask about one's religion, and in many countries -- the US and some EU member states, for instance -- it's actually illegal to ask.

I disagree on the "inappropriateness" point.   Yes, there is room for mischief.   But having information about religion patterns across the regions is important.    In 2001, for instance, 42.6% of Canadians self-identified as Roman Catholic.  23.3% said they were Protestant, 4.4.% Eastern Orthodox and 1.9% Muslim.   "Others" made up 11.8% while 16% said they have no religion whatsoever.   (Source:   CIA).

How can this be applied practically?

The fact is, whether we like it or not, certain patterns of violence do tend to spike in certain ethnic or religious communities.    "Honour killings" -- if we can call them that, for there is no honour in murder -- do happen across all communities but they do concentrate in those from the Middle East or South Asia.   Sexual assaults also happen all over, but patterns emerge that they can be often more frequent in some minority communities as well as less affluent areas in "white majority" areas.   If we can identify problem areas then we can fight crime before it begins -- in a sense, prevent a broken window from even being broken.

Another example.

Not that long ago, the local daily newspaper here, the Hamilton Spectator, did an extensive series that tied health outcomes to incomes as well as ethnic and religious background  -- and that one neighbourhood could be wildly different from the next.    This was by no means racial profiling.   It was meant to demonstrate that there is a link and that equal rights can only be achieved by equal opportunities as well as truly equal access to health care.   The newspaper relied on census tract information and cross-referenced that to health information obtained through Freedom of Information (with personal information stripped, of course).    The paper has made it clear such a series could not be done without the mandatory long form information.

The government claimed they received "thousands" of e-mails objecting to the intrusiveness of the census, but this past week the Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart -- an agent of Parliament and therefore independent -- says she only received three formal objections related to the census in the last five years, and merely 50 in the last 20 years.   Who are these "thousands"?    People watching the religious channels who just click a form letter on a website and send a mass and duplicating e-mail (the same tactic the Parents Television Council uses in the States to bombard the FCC with "indecency" complaints)?

As for the claims made by the government new Canadians are fearful of being deported if they don't fill in the census, this is something that comes up every cycle.

And the solution remains the same -- go to the ethnic communities, the churches, the multilingual media and put in ads assuring people that their information remains private.   That this census is not an enumeration as in other countries (which here is updated by tax returns and "motor voter" laws).    That this does not relate to taxes, pensions, or any other entitlements.   That the information helps them in the long run, is a duty of citizenship and actually helps protect our freedoms.   That while, yes, it is mandatory, it's only a few minutes to a couple hours of time and that for the next five years they don't have to worry about it.

Social service agencies get it.   The police get it.   Members of the First Estate -- the clergy, from many denominations -- get it.    So why won't those at the top of the Second Estate -- the elected officials?

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

When all else fails, send in ... Mike Duffy

From respected journalist to on-air Con shill to Senator, the downfall of Mike Duffy has been slow and steady.    Now it's just about complete with Duffy being sent in as the point-man to represent the government on-air regarding the current turmoil in the Mounties' top management.

The Red Serge may have a lot of problems right now, but is The Duff the best Harper can send in?

Moreover, if a civilian was needed to clean up the mess in the first place, why didn't Harper appoint someone who actually had prior civilian police oversight?   Bill Elliott was at Indian Affairs, the Coast Guard, Transport and then National Security Advisor.    Not exactly my first choice for a job this massive.   And there probably wouldn't be this uproar in the ranks of the RCMP right now.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

RIP Maury Chaykin

A truly versatile actor, appearing in numerous TV and film roles, far too many to count.    While many will remember him in such films as Whale Music, Dances With Wolves, The Sweet Hereafter, and Where the Truth Lies -- my personal favourite was where he played the first witness that Joe Pesci demolishes in My Cousin Vinny.  The line "No self-respecting Southerner would ever use instant grits ..." had me cackling.

Maury Chaykin was only 61 -- actually he turned 61 today when he died. Gone way too soon.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Pakistan supports Taliban -- like we knew that

Whoever leaked the Afghanistan documents that proves that Pakistan has stabbed us in the back and supports the Taliban -- as most of us has suspected all along -- is as much a hero as Daniel Ellsberg who produced the Pentagon Papers nearly forty years ago.  The real danger is not to the troops, as Harper and Obama are claiming today, but to NATO's credibility in the allies we choose.

Bring the troops home, now.   With friends like these ...

It was never about the Taliban, folks.   It's about the disputed territory of Kashmir.   And the nuclear weapons that Pakistan and India both possess.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Iran: Was right war then but not now

I still think it's Iran, not Iraq, the West should have gone after first -- there would have been much wider support from Canada and the EU to join the US in such an effort.   But now such a campaign would be an even worse quagmire than Operation Baghdad Civil War, and rather then getting rid of Mad Mad would only consolidate his power.    I'll defer to Steve Clemons at TWN for his thoughts about Obama and Iraq.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Black out on bail

So it looks like His Lordship, Conrad Black, has gotten bail.   The federal judge at the original trial -- Amy St. Eve -- who had the case remanded back to her by the Supremes in Washington -- has released Black on $2 million bail but ordered that he stay within the US while she considers how he should be resentenced.

This may not be the end of his problems.   The IRS is claiming he owes $72 million income taxes although he says that doesn't have to pay as he was not a resident of the States at the time.    Interesting argument if he earned even one dollar of American income.    And of course, he renounced his Canadian citizenship and now wants back into Canada -- and  it was suggested last night on The National that there are some movers and shakers who want to expedite the process.

While thousands of others wait months, even years, to get into here?   No way.   Get to the back of the line, sir, just like my father did.

If Harper even thinks about giving Black a free pass, let alone giving him one, that could be the end of his career in any line of work, let along politics.

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Security breach at legal online casino

This really makes me feel safe about online gambling -- of the legal kind.    And what gave BC the idea that the anti-terrorism statutes regarding reporting large amount transactions (over $10k) didn't apply to them?

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Eco fees go bye-bye for now

It seemed like a good idea at the time ... Ontario imposing a mandatory levy on many of the items we use to help fund safe waste disposal.   Ranging from a few cents for a bottle of liquid dishwash soap to over $6.50 for a fire extinguisher.   While a number of retailers had been doing it voluntarily -- Walmart had been for over a year for hazardous products like motor oil and solvents -- the product range became much larger and the fees mandatory from July 1st.

But like the health tax, the Greenbelt and the HST, it's not the concept but how it was implemented by the Ontario Liberals.   Coming on the same day as the introduction of the combined tax, the eco fees were seen by many, rightly or wrongly, as a "tax grab" -- except that the money wasn't going to the government but a pro-business entity calling itself "Stewardship Ontario."   Outsourcing the collection of this money -- which was expected to raise over $200 million per year -- was just as boneheaded as when the BBC several years ago hired a private firm to do the dirty work of ensuring TV license compliance.   Worse even biodegradable and other "safe" products were being charged the fee, wrongly.  Othe retailers just were totally caught by surprise -- some drug store chains hadn't updated their cash registers for this contingency.

Yesterday, after Canadian Tire ™ said it was no longer going to charge the levy, Dalton McGuinty did a complete about face and said the eco fees are suspended, until they figure out better how to impose it -- or even if a third party outlet should even have the authority to be able to do this.  I don't recall this being voted on in the legislature -- I thought revenue raising of any kind is done by the government and that this can't or should not be outsourced

What would be a better way?

Oh let's see ... clear labelling on the price cards on shelves (either saying the amount that is included in the price, or what fee will be added at checkout)?   Giving people the option of either having the fee directed to industry or to local environment projects?   Actually having a public debate rather than burying it on page 300 of a little-read briefing book?

Can we use the word "Schmuck" here?   We should of course be making responsible choices at stores large and small.   But isn't it also the responsibility of business to give us more choices and to clean up their own messes rather than pass a steath tax onto us?

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Why the long form census is needed

I want to add my little bit's worth to the census debate.

While there's a one in five chance that one would get the long form census -- it's just dropped off at every fifth household -- it so happens that I or my parents got the long form nearly every time over the last thirty years.   This was the case with me in 2006.   Did I find it intrusive?   Actually, no more intrusive than filling out an income tax return, quite frankly.   We allow the government to invade our privacy briefly to get a tax refund or to determine what we owe at the end of the year.   It's one of the prices of citizenship.

So is the case with the census form.    And in a time of very short revenues, I find it unbelieveable that the feds would actually want to get rid of a lucrative source of money that doesn't rely on something that everyone pays out of pocket (taxes or user fees).   Countless businesses, social services organizations, the media, even churches, use the data mine to plot out all sorts of strategies.   The government doesn't hand this out for free, they put a pretty price on it.   You think that companies like fast food chains or home improvement big boxes pick their locations by chance?

Another big customer is the provinces.   For the big ticket items -- health, education and welfare -- they need reliable data.   Making some of the key information "voluntary" erodes the value of the data, and therefore renders it unreliable.    It's also one of the reasons why I brisk at the "census revolts" that some engage in where some refuse to fill in the forms out of principle.   Either they don't like government at all, or they believe that because they are "sovereign" (e.g. the approach taken by some native groups) they owe it no regard.

If one form is left unfilled, that could be the difference between another few thousand per student transfer to school boards.   Or what pushes a province over the threshold to get another Member of Parliament.

And as for the line "I don't want the state in my bedroom" or "how many bedrooms I have, no one needs to know" -- well, actually, no one is asking what one does in bed, just how many are in it.   Urban sprawl tends to be supported (I think, anyway) by those who think it's wrong to intrude on one's personal life yet see no contradiction in intruding on what's left of our rural areas which are going to be needed to feed a growing population.

If farmers have to fill in a version of the long form (and I believe they still do) then why not the rest of us?   It's about an hour of our time.   One hour that sets priorities for the public and private sectors for the next five years.   It's no problem with me.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Eliminating the penny? Two bits for some thoughts ...

It's been discussed, somewhat jokingly in private members bills, over the years.   But now it's none other than our own Canadian national mint that is saying it's time to do what Australia and New Zealand have done for their respective currencies, and what two Euro zone states -- Finland and Netherlands -- have done, eliminate the one cent coin and go to what's called "Swedish rounding" (round to the nearest five cents for prices ending in 3,4,6 and 7; and to the nearest zero for 1,2,8 and 9).

Why?   The coin long ago stopped being copper.   We tried zinc for a while like America does for their Lincolns, but even that got expensive.   And the steel blanks we use nowadays cost a cent and a half each, so the money's not even worth what it's made of anymore.

Hoarding pennies is a long standing tradition and many churches still have "penny sales" every now and then.   And there's a lot of sentiment attached to any denomination being removed.   It's not like the switchover from the one and two dollar bills to coins which were quite well received here -- unlike in the States, where the one dollar coin is still viewed very much with suspicion and many still believe the $2 bill is fake (it's not) or even "unlucky".

I would have thought this was bonkers at one time, but it might actually be a good idea if it was implemented properly.    This isn't a massive operation like "decimalization" in the UK and Ireland back in 1972 (remember pounds / shillings / pence with 20 shillings in the pound and 12 denari in the shilling -- no wonder why they went to decimals!) or the Euro "big bang" in 2002 when 12 currencies had to be triangulated.   I'd like to meet someone who still has a "half crown" (2s /6d which converted to 12½ p).   Or a half pence for that matter!

But we'd have to do it carefully.   Given we're moving to polymer bank notes beginning next year (in an attempt to stop counterfeiting, and we should) it might not be the right time.   However, since the Aussies and Kiwis figured it out and PMS is so determined to maintain our Commonwealth links at any price (even if many of the other member states are irredeemably corrupt) it's something we may want to ask their advice on.   And of course, we need a full debate in Parliament.   Maybe this is one thing in which a free vote would be warranted.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?" ... and, untendered plane contracts

Two thoughts today.

1) HT to Crystal Ocean:  I've heard of appealing to "The Base" (which, ironically, is also one of the rougher translations of Al Qaeda).   But if these numbers from Angus Reid about what people think about evolution in Canada, the US and the UK are correct then our education system -- or at least the one they have "out west" -- is going to hell in a hand basket as it has in the states, and it has major ramifications for the central government's research funding councils and what could happen if election trends continue the way they are; unless we insist that reason will guide our faith and not the other way around.   And more importantly, that reasonable people lead our country.

In other words, the "base" being appealed to is that which wants to so manipulate our education system that it leads long-term to desired voting results rather than the free reasoned choice it ought to be.

Last time I checked the Bible, it said "'Come now, and let us reason together' saith the LORD" (Isaiah 1:18).   It does not say "“Faith is not a product of reason … Believers are not to be led by logic. We are not to be led by logic. We are not even to be led by good sense.”  That, by the way, is Kenneth Copeland.

For the record, I think evolution is the most plausible explanation for God's creation.   Intelligent design, as it's whitewashed called nowadays, is anything but intelligent.

What is really surprising is that support for the theory of evolution is highest in those parts of Great Britain that are generally among also the most religious -- anything outside of London and in Scotland and Wales.   But even London (58%) rated higher than Alberta (51%) and Manitoba and Saskatchewan (50%).   Can't tell from the poll if Northern Ireland was surveyed but I would suspect that this is something that Catholics and Protestants would agree with also.   But that's also still better than the States, where just 47% nationwide think evolution is the correct explanation.

Great Britain ... they actually get it more than we or the Americans do.   Hmm.

2)  The Liberals are trying to get the Defence Committee reconvened to get the government to explain how the pending purchase of the next generation of fighter jets -- 65 Lockheed Martin F-35s -- got untendered.

Our fleet of F-5s (or as we classify them, CF-116s) and F-18s are in woeful need of replacement and we need to start the process ASAP.    But one of the principles of a huge purchase of this nature ($9 billion up front, plus another $7 billion for maintenance over the anticipated lifetime of the planes) is that there should a tendering process.   We just don't "design build" unless it's a toll road (which is a provincial jurisdiction in any case).

As now MP and former Capt. Marc Garneau (Canadian Navy -- Ret'd) has pointed out, we just spent $2.6 billion to refurbish the F-18s to keep them airworthy until 2017.    Was that just a make work project to get the Conservatives votes; or to "un tin hat" it, was it value for money?

Given the world we live in nowadays where terrorists can strike any time and anywhere, we just can't slap things together, building a deep sea port here and doing bit work contracts there.    If we have an integrated forces (with army, air force and navy under a unified command) we need all the pieces working together.   We also need to make sure that if we have to make foreign purchases that we don't get skunked over -- no matter who's in the corner office in the Centre Block.

For my part, I personally continue to support a concept proposed by Jean Charest way back in 1997 when he ran under the PC banner:   a "rapid reaction force" of 10-15,000 of our best men and women from all three branches, knowledgeable in each other's capabilities, with the best equipment and able to move out on 48 hours notice without any foul-ups.    And of course, backed up by the very best equipment -- following a proper sourcing process rather than feeding the friends that bite you (and that's not a misprint).

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Big Biz: Open season to plunder. Big. Effin. Surprise.

Oh neat ... besides drill baby drill,  Big Biz in America wants unlimited logging rights in that country's national forests.    Like there isn't already.   Because the same multi-park passes can be used for both parks and forests many may think that means both classes are run by the same people, and they're not.

Many people forget that while National Parks are under the jurisdiction of the Interior Department, federal treelands are under the purview of the Agriculture Department.   So it's really managed logging rather than the general free for all on most timberlands.

I don't have an issue with managed logging, but the key word is management.    It may be time to pull another Clayoquot Sound and have some more civil disobedience to get the message out that public forests are for the people's benefit, with timber dues going to the people.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Do you want nuclear waste on the Great Lakes?

We might not have much choice, it could happen as early as this fall as the first of two shipments of decommissioned steam generators weighing 110 tonnes a piece, 16 each shipment for a total of 32, are due to go overland from Bruce Power in Kincardane to Owen Sound, then around and through Lakes Huron, Erie and Ontario, up the St. Lawrence and out to ocean to a facility in Sweden.

Okay, so it's going to a friendly country so maybe there's a bit of relief there.   But who knows how radioactive the metal is?   Has anyone done an assessment as to what could happen if there is a terrorist attack enroute?   Will there be no go zones for traffic while it goes through canals or will it be BAU (business as usual) with the obligatory figures crossed?

Another and possibly bigger concern is once reprocessed the materials cannot be traced on the after market.   There are huge worries about depleted uranium used as armour plating in battlefields particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan -- worries from active personnel and "embeds".   What if a paramilitary group gets its hands on the stuff?

I thought they were looking at abandoned mines in Nevada and Saskatchewan.   Whatever happened to that idea?   Oh, yeah, they have problems of their own ... Guess when we did the impossible by splitting the atom, we created new problems that can't be solved.

And now Ontario want to spend another $5 billion (read $20 billion) to build more reactors.   Yikes.   Who thinks these things through?   And the worst part is they get ex-politicians to run the generating stations rather than actual nuclear scientists.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's not a moral issue, it's an equality issue

A judge in the United States may have finally put that country on track to joining a number of nations that have recognized what is common sense -- that morals cannot dictate public policy regarding gay marriage.

Back in 1996, Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act which defines a marriage as one man and one woman to the exclusion of all other relationships.   A platitude may be fine to get votes especially from the most mobilized, but the effect of the federal law is that a gay partner cannot be buried next to his or her lover in a military cemetary, cannot get spousal federal social benefits, cannot apply for the spousal tax credit -- even in the five states and DC all of which do recognize same-sex marriages.   The judge rightly has said the law violates the equality provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment.

But the judge, in another case, also said that the federal law also impedes on a state's right to allow gay marriages.   This is the more complicated one as many states have passed sweeping bans not just on gay marriages but also the right of gay and lesbian couples to adopt, and refuses to recognize the legitimacy of marriages entered to in other states (which of course violates Article IV).

One has to wonder if this will have an effect on the federal court in San Francisco which any day will rule on the propriety of Proposition 8.    I don't think there's a choice here -- the court has to rule to strike it down even if a majority of voters in California approved it.   There is no other option just as there was no option but to end segregation fifty years ago even though most whites at the time supported it (and many, I suspect, would like it to come back).

Whatever I personally think about gay marriage, which I have discussed before here, I don't think it's a moral issue anymore.    It is one of equal rights, period.   And for what it's worth, if courts enforce same-sex custody orders even in states where they're not "supposed" to, there's no reason why they can't take the next logical step if legislatures refuse to do so.

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Red Hill Parkway floods out ... again

The news this week that a second site is now seriously being considered for the new Ti-Cats stadium, on a greenfield no less, is raising serious questions about how committed we are to public transit improvements.   The team's owner, Bob Young, seems not at all to care about this instead favouring a "driveway to driveway" experience -- meaning more traffic gridlock.   And this is also the stadium that will host track and field and a couple of soccer matches during the 2015 Toronto Pan-Am Games.

It's a serious issue now because today the Red Hill Valley Parkway (which runs to the top of the hill where the alternate site is) got flooded out today and had to close for the second time in a week.   Despite tens of millions spent on a storm overflow system to deal with such an event, it simply couldn't cope.

The city's top engineer is now blaming the two time closure on "global warming."   Two hundred year storms in a week?    No ... we're actually used to this kind of rain during the summer.   It's our sewage plant on Woodward that can't cope with it all and causes a two foot high "lake" to back up onto the highway.    And now Mr. Young wants to build a stadium on a far less than ideal site, which could basically destroy the Eramosa Karst across the street.    Has he even spent any time in Hamilton recently and taken a look at our city plan which makes protecting greenlands and sensitive sites a priority?

Fix whatever's causing the road to flood so often, by all means.   That will probably mean a couple more overflow tanks along route.  But for heaven's sake, let's not create an even bigger disaster when 30,000 fans at the stadium will want to flush the toilet all at the same time with the filthy runaway slime running downhill, swamping dozens of cars and trucks along the way.   That will really be good for our public image which is already best summed up with the old Wayne and Shuster joke, "On a clear day, you can see Hamilton."

Stick with the West Harbour which is much more amenable to public transit -- and can better cope with a flood out situation.   Don't eat up prime agricultural lands for the sake of a few greedy football players.   Most cities would have settled on a site and done the expropriations before the bid was submitted and the shovels in the ground the day after award.    We're more than eight months past when we won, and we still haven't figured out where it should be?

It's a no-brainer.    After today's weather, I have to ask where the brains are regarding our future infrastructure.

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Can't read the signs? Pay the ticket!

One of the major park festivals here in Hamilton -- "It's Your Festival" -- wrapped up during the weekend, but people are still complaining about the special parking regulations put in place on several streets adjacent to Gage Park and how some motorists were "shocked" to get tickets of $30 or more even though the area was clearly marked "by permit only."    This was done in response to residents in the area complaining for eons about how driveways were being blocked and how side streets were impassible -- in fact for years some in the area just stay out of town for the weekend.   Not to mention the problems emergency vehicles had navigating the obstacle course -- often on streets and through neighbourhoods conceived long before the era of the car.

Those from out of town that got ticketed say they're never coming back to do anything in Hamiton, ever again.

Oh boo hoo!

I agree that perhaps some of the city parking lots down the main drags -- Main and King -- could have been set aside to handle overflow parking with shuttle buses put in place.   This is what is done for special events on the harbour front when the neighbourhoods there go on lockdown.

But ignorance is not an excuse.   And it's not like there wasn't advance warning, there was plenty of it.   So if you got a ticket, suck it up.   At least you can read ... or we presume you can.

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

PMS appoints David L. Johnston next GG

An interesting but good choice.   Many may best remember Johnston as the host of The Editors, a long running chat show that ran for years on PBS and CBC News Network.   I wish him the best of luck.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

G-20 Police wanted health care workers to violate Hippocratic Oath, nurses claim

There was a story on the radio last night, not long after Pointy Head announced there would be an independent inquiry into the G-20 debacle.   The report (I think it was on Radio One) was that some health care workers were claiming they were tending to those injured during the altercation with the police and the cops were telling the nurses and doctors not to help the protestors, that it was "wrong" to do so.

This line of reasoning, if the nurses' claims are accurate, would be as silly as those neo-cons in the States who want people to stop donating money to the Red Cross because it is helping those in the fields in Afghanistan who may be on the side of the Taliban and other "irregular" forces.     Since when did the Hippocratic Oath apply only to the law abiding (presuming any laws were broken, and I don't think any were by at least the vast majority)?   Last time I checked, those in the health care business serve all regardless of political motivation.   Or they're supposed to.

If this claim is proven to be true, then it naturally raises the question whether the police planted agents provacateurs in the Black Bloc.   And if so, who in the Executive ordered such plants.   The scary thing is, at least there's a Charter of Rights to fall back on, which allows Canadians to sue the government if their rights have been violated.   Many of those who "support the police" also want to repeal the Charter and such redress guarantees on the grounds that the police are "pure" and therefore can do no wrong.

If the police want the neutrality on which health care workers operate to be repealed the police should damn well do so by petition to the legislature, not during the heat of a provacative situation like what happened in Toronto last week, so that their aims are fully transparent.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

No Hamilton Aerotropolis

You'd think with all the serviced industrial land in Hamilton, ready to go, not to mention all the brownfields, that this city would look to fill those in first for new businesses wanting to locate here.   But guess what?   After years of debate, the city fathers want to develop a "Hamilton Aerotropolis", 1173 hectares (2898 acres) of virgin farmland, around the airport and the Highway 6 bypass.   (Source:   Raise the Hammer) Land that, cleverly enough, is largely not in the "Greenbelt" protected area.

Thirty years ago I lived in a part of town that was quite literally at the edge of the urban boundary.   Matter of fact, you just had to jump a fence to cross into the property where the largest radio station in the city had its transmitter (that tells you how old I am!) -- an area long swallowed up by residential and commercial concerns.   But that was also prime farmland, and it's gone forever.

Do we really want to throw away all that farmland around the airport on the possibility that businesses will want to come here, when we already have shovel ready properties?   And that most points in Hamilton are within a 20 minute drive (and will be a twenty to twenty-five minute ride on light rail from downtown once the A-line is upgraded from the present express bus)?

Especially when just servicing the land won't even be covered by development charges even if they are hiked to more realistic levels?    And not to mention, the airline industry is shaky at the best of times, we just lost more Westjet ™ flights to Toronto, and the cargo business while quite lucrative only generates peanuts of royalties to the city coffers under the long-term lease agreement to an out-of-town developer?

And lest we forget, as we boil in another massive heatwave, greenfields act as a temperature moderator.    Pave that over, and the city core would be even hotter (even with Lake Ontario on the other side).

How moronic can we get when this city is a major regional processor of food and oilseeds, and will soon get the country's biggest bakery ... and at the same time we tell the few wheat and corn farmers we have left in Hamilton to go fuck themselves in the name of "light industry"?   What happens when there is no farmland left to create the food to service the food plants?    And the West really does become a desert?

We have lost too much farmland in Hamilton and too much forests.   Enough is enough.   No Aerotropolis!

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Monday, July 5, 2010

Canada's top spy: Nothing to apologize for

In testimony today before the House Public Safety Committee, CSIS chief Richard Fadden refused to back down from his surprising declaration a couple of weeks back that foreign governments have infiltrated local and provincial governments.

While I question why he went public while the base of his assertions were still being assessed, I don't think he should apologize or resign for doing his job.   Sure, there's a lot to be concerned about, especially if one doesn't want an entire ethnicity to be sullied.   Matter of fact, that's one of the reasons why espionage was stripped from the Mounties in the early 1980s when CSIS was created -- to provide an impartial analysis and operations unit that could perform counterintelligence competently and credibly.

But frankly, he was just stating the obvious ... that there are foreign governments who want to topple our own by any means necessary, starting with subterfuge.   And as to why one would start at the local and provincial levels, it's simply because that's where a lot of the meat and potatoes of government operates within Canada.

Discretion might have been better advised on Fadden's part.   But politicians from all parties need to wake up, and either fight the real enemies within or be prepared to spend billions more of our hard-earned money to fund retaliatory measures.   This includes but is not limited to fighting identity theft before it even happens, especially using the name of dead people.   But such counterintelligence can also be done without violating basic human rights which our enemies have never and will never respect.

The Cold War never really ended, it's just the combatants and the reasons for the hostility changed.

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bergez in contempt -- again

The long running saga regarding the "Great Glasses" chain may finally be coming to an end, with a judge finding Bruce Bergez and his wife in contempt of court, four years after a similar ruling and an injunction demanding the stores drop their "no prescription necessary" policy for dispensing eye wear and their claims a machine could generate a "prescription" without the hassle of going to an eye doctor.   Bergez now faces two years in prison, his wife one, based on what the judge rules next month -- oh, and there's the penalties that have accumulated since 2006, now totalling somewhere around $60 million.

In a last ditch effort to save his skin, Bergez told the court this week the law regarding the eye wear business was unclear, and therefore void for vagueness.   I'm familiar with this line being used to fight civil rights violations, but not to defend one's way of doing business.

Look, I'm all in favour of making a fair buck.   But the pertinent word is fair.   And the reason why we have the requirement that a patient see a physician, optometrist or ophthalmologist to get a prescription for glasses is not just to measure visual acuity but also to determine if there are early signs of disease, something machines can't always measure reliably if at all.   Maybe I'm a bit prejudicial here in the fact I am lucky enough to have a very good eye doctor, the same one for over twenty-five years, but I am quite sure that my father's eyesight was saved because of the careful "eye" (pardon the expression) of the same doctor who found my dad had cataracts.

Would a machine find that?   Not likely.   Matter of fact, some searching I did suggests that as a class 2 medical device, the system in question requires the use of a properly licensed and trained person.   Or the fact that the blogosphere is replete with horror stories about people who didn't get the proper prescription and in rare cases even ended up in the ER.   Not to mention many insurance companies refuse to reimburse payment for services from Great Glasses, even those with a proper prescription.

What really ticked me off, though, was a report earlier this week that the judge who issued a 2006 contempt order got a flyer from the company in the mail with a hand-scrawled note mocking the judge and the fact his order did not deter the chain from doing business.

The College of Opticians called Bergez "ungovernable" and pulled his license earlier this year. (PDF)

Ungovernable?   I find this guy just plain weird.

The sad part is that there are two young children involved.   They might end up wards of the state after all this if their parents do go to prison.   And who pays for their care?   I say it should be their parents, the Bergezes, that is if they have any money left after the government seizes the assets of the company and possibly their personal assets too.

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Iggy meets Betty Windsor, and other sound-offs

So QEII has a sense of humour, says Michael Ignatieff.   Cool.

Now, isn't it about time he got back to the business of offering an effective opposition and an alternative to PMS?

Iggy still strongly supports corporate welfare for the tar sands; says he sticks by Ontario and BC introducing the HST which kicked in yesterday (along with a simultaneous 2 percent hike of the tax in Nova Scotia) although he also wants to "mitigate" the impact on lower income Canadians, and says that while he wants to engage Mainland China on human rights abuses also doesn't want to antagonize Beijing.

I'll go through the list with my responses:

  1. With the crap all four of Betty Windsor's kids have put her through, it's impressive she manages to have a sense of humour after all these years.   Then again, several of her Prime Ministers in the UK have managed to piss her off as well (a matter of discrete yet still public record) -- not to mention the opposition leaders there.   Forget the jokers we have in Ottawa, the GG is pissed off with them enough.
  2. If he wants the "Green Vote" he has to take a strong stance with Big Oil:    Either the sands have to be shut down and Big Oil forced to replant several trees for every one they cut down to mine a non-renewable natural resource ... or they lose corporate welfare and have to assume one hundred percent of clean-up costs.   He also has to impress on Alberta the need for a more realistic royalty rate for extraction and the need to save up the money for a rainy day and not to fund pork-barrel projects.
  3. The HST is a reality, and it can't be undone.   And it won't be, no matter what any politican says, or any petitions, or any "recall" campaigns.  Here in Ontario, we're having to grin and bear it ... at least there's a weak promise to further reduce provincial income taxes if business cost reductions aren't passed on to the consumer, but it's just hot air for now.   And frankly, the anti-HST war in BC has a very unwelcome ally in Bill "Fantastic" Vander Zalm -- whose social conservatism makes PMS look like a socialist.   Vander Zalm has no credibility after Fantasy Gardens, despite his being acquitted (even he admitted he could be accused of "stupidity" -- his word), or his doing PSAs for BC's auto insurance monopoly.   If Iggy wants to keep the combined tax he needs to offer realistic solutions on how to reduce the income tax burden on Canadians (particularly lower and middle income Canadians) while maintaining or increasing revenues.  And he needs to do so well before Harper calls an election so that the latter has no chance to get the upper hand.
  4. Beijing has antagonized the West enough.   It hacks into electric grids and shuts down entire cities in the democratic world.   It has an intelligence and corporate spy network that makes the FSB / KGB look like Keystone Kops.   And while Canada certainly does have a lot to answer for on the human rights file, it pales in comparison to Mainland China who are the masters of rights abuses.   If they don't want to comply with internationally accepted norms, then we need to start re-linking trade to progress in reforms.   Iggy needs to draw the line somewhere.   Why not on this?
If Harper had his way, it is possible the Queen would not have been able to meet with any of the opposition leaders here at all.   So it's good that Mr. Ignatieff got his chance to air where he would take this country.   Now it's time for him to tell the rest of us.    Time is running out, and we don't need a majority right-wing government.    Canadians don't want buttered scones, we need the meat and potatoes.

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