Monday, January 31, 2011

The never-ending stadium debate -- ends ...

As a snowstorm bears in for the part of the world from which I write this, I cannot help but shudder at two items from the Hammer.   First, the whole stadium debacle seems to have been resolved at the very last minute -- with the deadline of tomorrow, Dalton McGuinty coughed up just enough money to ensure renovations at Ivor Wynne can take place.

There's a debate at Hamilton's City Council this hour, and while the final result seems certain, I'm just angered that it took so long to sort this out.   Anywhere else, the stadiums would have sited, the leases signed and the financing sorted out -- well before the bid book had been presented to the organization that supervises the Pan-Am Games.   It took this long after Toronto won its bid -- on the first ballot no less -- for Hamilton to get its act together?

The other thing -- the Farmer's Market is reopening tomorrow back at its old home, the basement of the Central Library.   To celebrate, the adjacent shopping mall is now closing every night at six.   Meanwhile all the other malls stay open until 9 or later.   Is there something wrong with this?   Downtown's been dying for years, and the solution is to chase out people from downtown even on Thursday and Friday nights?

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Freedom, yes, but ...

Could 2011 be the winter of discontent in the Middle East that finally leads to the end of the slavement of nearly 280 million Arabs?   One certainly hopes so.   After the success of the revolt in Tunisia earlier this week Egypt has been rocked by several days of protests there in a bid to end the 30 year rule of Hosni Mubarak.  The principle is simple:   People should have the right to choose their leaders and govern their country the way they want.

When kleptocracy and authoritarianism is the rule, people eventually will snap under the strain.   We often say here in Canada that we were the product of an evolution, not a revolution -- but that's not really true; we never would have had responsible government, the first step to home rule in 1867 and then independence in 1931, unless we first had the failed but necessary revolutions of 1837.   The Family Compact and the Château Clique were, to use a now contemporary phrase, only in it for themselves -- not for the people and they had to be rid of.

A big concern for the West however is what it means for the resolution of the Middle East "problem".   Most Arab states do not as a principle recognize the state of Israel and I suspect many if not most of the participants in the rebellions hate Israel even more.  Part of our problem (and hypocrisy) is that in order to "contain" things we have made the conscious decision to prop up regimes that, corrupt as they may be, do not want matters with the Jewish state to get even worse.

So in the coming days, yes, we must support our Arab brothers and sisters in their struggle for freedom, and that it's freedom on their terms.   But let's also be prepared to deal with what is more than just a potential nuisance but indeed the whole linchpin of what defines the Middle East.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Out of context, yet again

Ads that quote one's enemies completely out of context like the present batch of Conservative ads which are clearly aimed at discrediting the Liberal leader?   (HT:   Kady O'Malley).   Par for the course -- the Karl Rove, "anyone who is against me is a traitor" course.   What I do find interesting is that once again there are those who are trying to make this an all or nothing debate -- between corporate or personal tax cuts.   The supply side versus the demand side.

I actually support a mix of both, provided the cuts are measured and primarily benefit small businesses as well as lower and middle income families -- the real drivers of the economy.   But we've seen what happens when you take out $14 billion each and every year from the most reliable source of revenue there has been for the last twenty years -- the GST.  You go from surplus to deficit in no time at all.

Surpluses may indeed be "excess revenues" as many claim, but they also allow for a gradual reduction in taxes as well as the ability to put away money for a rainy day.   When you're chronically in deficit you have to slash and burn something at some point.   Whatever happened to the Reformers that actually advocated fiscal prudence?   I don't see any right now.   And cutting taxes when you're in deficit can be self-defeating -- it makes the deficits worse.

And these be the Puritans that run Canada, too -- I thought they would have tried to avoid anything that was sexually suggestive -- you know, like, "YES, YES, YES!!!"

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Double dipping, British Isles Style; OR Gerry Adams: He's an MP. No he's not. Yes he is. No he's not ...

Boy are there a lot of red -- and green -- faces in the British Isles.   And it's all over the decision by Gerry Adams to quit one MP's seat in one country to run for an MP's seat in another.

Here in Canada if you want to resign as an MP, you just tender a resignation letter to the Speaker of the House, then the Prime Minister issues a warrant to hold a by-election in the vacant district -- anywhere from 3 weeks out if it's a government seat, up to six months out if it's an opposition one.   Simple enough.

In the United Kingdom, it's not quite that simple.   Owing to a 1642 Parliamentary resolution there are only two ways you can vacate the seat for the district for which you were elected.   One, you die.  Two, you accept an office from the Crown -- whether it's a promotion to the House of Lords, an ambassadorship, head of a Quango (i.e. crown corporation), etc.

Simple enough, except Gerry Adams -- whatever else one may call him -- is also an "abstentionist" member of the British Parliament (that is, he was elected but refused to take an oath to the Queen and therefore could not take his seat, although he certainly could collect a salary and expense allowance), representing Belfast West, as well as being a member of the Northern Ireland regional assembly.   In a bid to go after his long sought dream, becoming the Taoiseach (Irish PM) he resigned from the MP's seat so he could officially file papers to run for election as a Teachta Dála (TD, or Irish MP) in a county right on the border between the North and South.  To get around the problem he couldn't "voluntarily" resign, it was announced he was named a peer -- yes, a British Lord -- with the awkward title of, get ready, Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead, one of two offices the British government long ago created specially to deal with situations like this.

The problem of course is that Adams never actually accepted the role even though it was announced that he did.   And the British PM was forced to apologize to Adams today.

And making things even more complicated are two things.   First is the Irish Constitution, which was revised in 1998 to renounce the South's claim to the North (redefining the Irish nation not as an island, but as a people; and that reunification could only happen democratically).   That Constitution, which has also since been amended to reflect the contentious Treaty of Lisbon, states among other things that while a TD cannot also serve as a member of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, it does not apparently prevent a TD from serving in the Northern Ireland Assembly or in the British Parliament.

And second?   It seems that under a 2000 British law, a sitting MP can also be a TD.

It's bad enough that one can be both an MP as well as a member of one of the national assemblies in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.   But to be an MP in both the UK and Ireland?

Imagine if one was elected as an MP in Canada as well as a Representative in the United States.   Here, we swear allegiance to the same Queen the UK has.  In the States, everyone from the Vice President on down takes a pledge (the President has his or her own oath) to defend the United States "against all enemies, foreign and domestic."   We already frown (although we also tend to look the other way) at people who resign one office, run for another at a higher level and collect both a salary and a pension -- double dipping, we call it.

Relations between our two countries, while testy at times, are still well above cordial -- as well as can be expected for sovereign states that are tied by history.

But not quite to the extent that the UK and Ireland are (not just because of their shared geography but also their membership in the European Union).   But we would never, ever tolerate a splitting of allegiances.   There have been Canadians who have held high office in the US -- Jennifer Granholm, for instance, recently ended a two-term stint as Governor of Michigan -- but they didn't hold any Canadian offices at the time, and we would be livid if an MP also moonlighted as an American legislator, even if it was elected dogcatcher.

For historical reasons (which are not entirely clear), however, the UK has always allowed not just its citizens but also citizens of Commonwealth countries resident in the UK to vote, a privilege also extended to Irish citizens who have free movement in the UK.   Because Ireland renounced its irrendentist claim to the North (as I noted above) the reason for banning Irishmen and Irishwomen from seeking public office in the UK as well, was also removed in 2000.

It's obvious the problem presented -- a terrible even if well intentioned conflict of interest.   One that could lead to Sinn Féin's goal of a united Ireland by stealth.   Technicalities aside, there should be no conflict of interest at all.    If Mr. Adams wants to quit his Belfast seat, a simple resignation  letter should suffice.  It's never been a secret what his aims are.   But he has to choose once and for all where he wants to fight -- in the halls of Westminster in London, or in the halls of the assembly of what he still calls "The Dublin Republic."

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pay for HOV lanes if you're riding alone?

Question:  It's been a couple of months since the new carpool lanes along the QEW in Burlington and Oakville opened  -- together with similar lanes on the 403 in Mississauga they sure makes my trips a lot faster and usually saves me from having to take the 407 toll road -- similar lanes operate on the 404 and there are plans to have HOV run on the Q all the way from Toronto to Saint Catherines.

But as we see in the States, such lanes can be easily converted from HOV (high occupancy vehicles, i.e. 2 or more occupants, buses, taxis etc.) to HOT (high occupancy toll, meaning it's a free ride if you meet the carpool rules, but you can go in if you're alone and willing to pay a toll). These exist all over the States and it's just a matter of putting a selector switch on the transponder.  Hybrid systems also exist where there's one toll schedule for soloists and another for duos or bands.  Would you be willing to pay a toll, say 50 cents or a buck, to use the fast lane if it saved you 15 to 20 minutes on your drive?  Or should those who ride alone just suck it up and stay stuck in traffic in the slow lanes?

Your comments, please ...

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Stelmach quits

In a surprise, Ed Stelmach announced this afternoon he's resigning as the Premier of Alberta.   He said that after 25 years he's just tired of politics, but he also warned the next provincial election could be a personality driven one rather than based on policy -- as is so typical of US campaigns.

Besides facing a recession Stelmach really didn't have anything to do with, he actually had the guts to stand up to Big Oil and propose a more reasonable royalty rate off non-renewable resources -- and got pilloried for doing the right thing.   No surprise there.   But he was not charismatic in any way like Ralph Klein was.   And he certainly isn't a technocrat of the ilk of Don Getty or Peter Lougheed.   Seems like people there were voting for Stelmach because they didn't see the other parties as alternatives ... then again, when you gerrymander districts to favour rural interests even though most people in the province now live in the cities, it's no surprise either.

Not too surprisingly, Danielle Smith who leads the Wild Rose Party was anything but gracious in response to the resignation.   What to expect in "Jesusland" after all?

I can hardly wait to see how the Miracle Channel plays their cards on this one.   They got away with trying to influence the last leadership vote (unsuccessfully), and this was before Dick Dewert was forced to resign in disgrace over an adultery scandal ... they can't get away with it again with their present leadership now.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Is nothing sacred? (Wal-Mart and battlefields edition)

The company Wal-Mart's tactics against labour and communities -- and even the companies that supply the stores -- are well documented.   But locating near a Civil War battlefield?    This is a new low for the Waltons.
There have been many zoning battles across Canada and the United States fighting not so much the arrival of a Wal-Mart but rather where new stores ought to be sited.    Hamilton I think is saturated -- with three superstores and a traditional mall store, and another one across the bay in Burlington ... soon, there will be two more big boxes to replace the mall shop both within a ten minute or so drive of each other.  Stratford has been fighting a long battle to keep Wal-Mart from building a megashop smack in the tourist area where the theatres are -- and justly so.

Some areas just aren't meant for slave labour produced merchandise.   Certainly not a battlefield for heaven's sake, even if some of the soldiers did fight for slavery.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

F-35, boondoggle? Think "Sea King"

In the last couple of weeks, there's been growing discontent about the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II which is intended to be the workhorse of the air forces of Canada, the US and a number of our allies in the years to come.   At first it was just the RAND Corporation and a series of private military analysts who know the realities of the program better than governments.   Then the F-35 flunked a major war game off the coast of Australia.   And these in 2008, was two years before Canada formally opted into the program last year.

But now, and surprisingly, the malcontents are to be found within the Pentagon itself.   My fellow blogger Impolitical noted this back in November ... but it's now gotten even worse.   First, the estimated cost for the program for 2443 aircraft -- $382 billion and counting.    And second, it now appears the Defense Department and the Environment Protection Agency are at loggerheads over concerns the plane may not mean emissions and noise regulations -- since a report that was supposed to be released this past week detailing the environmental assessment on this, has been "delayed" three months.

There is potentially a third, and one that must be panicking the Pentagon.   Turns out one of the variants of the plane, the F-35 B, is a VTOL or vertical takeoff and landing -- in that it takes off and lands like a helicopter but then flies in the air like a standard supersonic jet.   Unfortunately, the present iterations of VTOL have been plagued with major safety issues.  Think of the Lockheed F-22 Raptor which was de-funded.   And the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey (no relation), a Marine turboprop / helicopter hybrid which after tens of billions spent may also be de-funded in favour of a more reliable craft, the Sikorsky UH-60 (a pretty reliable technology from, oh let's say, the 1970s!).

In the present environment in Washington there is huge pressure for spending cuts and there are no more sacred cows, not even the military -- a military which took great pride in spending more on its budget than the civilian government spent on health care, a complete reverse of all if its allies.

It's worth pointing out that due to cost concerns, the UK has switched its order from the F-35B to the F-35C the latter of which is the intended replacement for the F-18, the workhorse of the Canadian Air Force.  (The A series, incidentally, would replace the F-16).

Canada has been involved in the program since 1997, so it's no surprising that we're going in headlong on this.   So really both the Liberals and the Conservatives have a hand in this mess.   And it's true that out of the 2400+ planes being built, we're "only" buying 65.   But here's my question:   It is really so important to Western security that we have an identical plane to our allies, or would another similar plane with similar performance outputs do the job and for less money while employing Canadians for the medium and long terms?

Want proof?   The Sikorsky Sea King.   It proved to be disastrously expensive to operate as well as to maintain for us Canadians.  Not just because of its age, but because our weather challenges made it very prone to corrosion from the beginning.   On the other hand, Marine One, the US President's helicopter, is of the same vintage (the 1960s) and still in marvelous shape -- and keep in mind DC is in the same mid-Atlantic region which is continually pounded by the "Nor'easter" in winter and hurricanes in summer that plague most of the rest of the East Coast from Virginia to Newfoundland.   I don't think it's just a question of service levels quite frankly -- it's possible we just ended up with a bill of goods.

But we usually do -- look at the submarines we bought second hand from the UK when we probably could have built new at home for the same price.

It's amazing there's virtually no debate on this one ... and when questions are raised one is accused of being unpatriotic.

I support our troops wholeheartedly.   I also support our men and women in uniform have the best equipment; after all, with the end of the death penalty, they and cops are the only groups who can kill legally.   But it's Canadian tax money, and we have a right to demand value for money.   It's more important to determine we need the Cadillac than say we want it -- there's a big difference.  If the Pentagon is willing to have a second look at the F-35 then so should our DND -- and there should be no political interference if it's determined we made a mistake.

Better to pick the right plane before 65 of them are built and we end up with even more bills of goods.   We don't need a military industrial complex in Canada -- any more than the US does.

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

PTC pinheads and "Skins"

Since when did frank discussion amongst teenagers about teen issues, including sex, amount to child porn?

When the bunch of morons that calls itself the Parents Television Council does.   They asked the FCC to investigate the TV show Skins.

Which is fine, except MTV is a cable channel, and therefore the FCC has no jurisdiction.   So now the pinheads at the PTC have filed complaints with the Justice Department and Congress, demanding criminal action.

What's next?   The PTC will call for life imprisonment for all females when they get their first period saying that the menses and the women who have them are "indecent"?   And yet guys having wet dreams both aren't.   Big fucking surprise.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

If the death penalty ISN'T on Steve's agenda, what IS?

So at long last, Steve allowed one layer of skin on his onion to be peeled.   He told Peter Mansbridge that he does support the death penalty but he won't bring it up for debate in Parliament -- or at least, he doesn't plan to.   The unspoken addendum of course is, for now.
Those of us who oppose him have long accused him of a secret agenda.

And it's worth pointing out that once a country reinstates capital punishment it's open season for any of a number of other human rights abuses, as we see so often in the United States.   That doesn't mean our record is exactly, perfect -- witness our continued mistreatment of Aboriginals, for instance -- but we are generally seen as being better in the world view.   If Harper wants us to go back to the ante 1982 era sans Charter, or even before 1960 sans Bill of Rights, he should just come out and say it.   Wait, he actually did last night.

Maybe Harper doesn't realize it, but he may have very well thrown the entire process of negotiations with the EU on free trade and labour mobility, currently in round five, into jeopardy.  While agriculture doesn't seem to be as big an issue as thought (i.e. our system of collective supply management vs. their CAP) -- the process has bogged down over Canada's present visa restrictions on the Czech Republic, which runs counter to Europe's open border (literally) policy.   But one thing the 27 EU states are in unison on is capital punishment.   All 27 countries outlaw it for civilian crime, and 26 out of the 27 have abolished it all together even for war crimes (the exception is Latvia although it maintains a moratorium on the latter as well).   In fact, membership for new or potential members is contingent on adoption of Protocol 13 (total abolition) which is why Turkey, 95% Muslim, became the first Islamic state to get rid of the practice.

Does Harper seriously believe a free trade deal will be inked if he pushes it on this issue?   Does he realize this is one reason why the US and Europe, allies on most military and foreign policy issues, are so often at loggerheads when it comes to trade?

More importantly, does Harper remember the name Guy Paul Morin?  It's been 16 years since he's been exonerated in the sadistic sex slaying of his nine year old neighbour, Christine Jessop, and neither the Morins nor the Jessops are anywhere closer to knowing who killed Christine.   What if Morin had been executed and then the truth came out?   What would Harper have said?   Stuff happens?

If this is Harper's true view on one of the most fundamental issues there is, then what is his real view on health care, supplemented pensions for low income seniors, financial aid for students -- in fact, the entire social safety net?   Is it, as on the environment and military policy, whatever the US says it should be?

Apologies to Bill Engvall (who, if I recall correctly, supports the death penalty) but I have to say to Steve on this one, "Here's Your Sign."

UPDATE (9:46 EST, 1446 GMT):   Fellow blogger Scott Tribe has the same awful feeling I do, that Harper will try to push this one through on a private member's bill -- it's food for thought since at least one Reform et sequens MP has introduced a private member's bill on reinstatement in every session since 1994.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pay for rain?

Here's one way to combat urban sprawl, especially with stadiums and "power centers" and the huge asphalt footprint they create.   It's called a "rain tax" or a "runoff tax" and it put a surcharge on properties based on the impact that property has on storm sewer systems.   Currently, we pay a sewer charge based on the amount of water that is used regardless of footprint.

Obviously, since parking lots drain the most, they would pay more, say in the tens of thousands per year -- and take some of the burden off of lower income households who are getting hammered by the drastic increase in sewer charges; their sewer charge would drop to, say, $70 or so per year.   One reason this is being considered right now is the wild weather we've had in Southern Ontario, with several thousand homes in the lower east end of Hamilton having storm backwater valves installed (you can tell which by which properties have a green pipe with a white cap out front).

Much suggests that a lot of the storm water that clogs the sewers during major events comes from parking lots which do not pre-treat water on site before sending them down the ditches and rivers and / or sewers, unlike industrial companies which have to by law.

I'm not the first to suggest it but it is seriously being considered by the idiots at Hamilton City Hall (I call them idiots because that's all we ever do here, elect a pack of idiots).   I personally think it's a smart idea, but what do you think?

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Monday, January 17, 2011

What's up, Baby Doc?

After last year's horrific earthquake in Haiti, there was a bit of a surprise when the exiled dictator, Jean-Claude Duvalier, better known as "Baby Doc," announced he was donating his "fortune" of $6 billion (read, just a portion of the billions he plundered) to the relief effort.   At the time, I thought, what a nice guy -- but there's got to be a catch.   People just don't give away large chunks of their wealth without expecting something.   Even Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates, who have dared the rest of the 500 richest people in the world to give away 99% of their net worth, have ulterior motives.

Last night, Baby Doc made a surprise return to Haiti.   This is stunning given the numerous human rights abuses he and his father committed during their reign of terror, including systemic torture which has been well documented by many human rights organizations -- Amnesty International and Freedom House just to name two.   The total lack of progress in reconstruction is appalling enough, but to allow this maniac back with no questions asked, makes me ask if he bought immunity in exchange for his free return.

How is this possible?   How can this happen in this age, when human rights should be non-negotiable?

More thoughts after the jump.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Money for Nothing THIS!

The international one finger salute.   That's my reaction to private radio's decision to ban Money For Nothing from the airwaves in Canada -- unless it's censored.   Well, at least there's the CBC, to whom the ruling doesn't apply.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Really, Palin? "Blood libel"?

When I heard about it earlier today, that Sarah Palin used the term "blood libel" to savage her critics who have suggested her rhetoric may have been a contributing factor in last weekend's terrible events in Tucson, I thought, she can't possibly be that stupid.   Then I heard her actual comments, verbatim, from her own lips, from her vodcast, broadcast tonight on CBC Radio One's As It Happens.    And yes, she did use the words "blood libel" -- a reference to the completely false claim that Jews sacrificed children to obtain blood used in their religious rituals.  Something which led to centuries of persecution of God's Chosen People.

Reading it is one thing.   Actually hearing it for myself is quite another.   And sadly, by attempting to clearly disassociate herself from the massacre (which she did plausibly well, I have to admit) but then make matters even worse by using those two words ... she's proven if she didn't already that she is completely unacceptable as a serious candidate for any national office in the US, now or in the future.   Even Dubya wouldn't have been that stupid.   And that is saying something.

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Ivor Wynne, but ...

So at long last, it's back to square one, literally, as the year long game of chicken seems to have come to an end and the Hamilton Tiger Cats will stay at a rebuilt Ivor Wynne which will also serve for soccer for the 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games.   My only concern:   The press box.   For God's sake, move it to the north stands so when there's a kickoff people across the land see our parks, not the wasteland that's left of what used to be our industry.

Sadly, this one has Dalton McGuinty's hand all over it.   It's not enough to change my vote against him this fall.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Refudiate, homophones!"

We must be living in a land of idiots when it is not just implied but ordered that straight Catholic teens cannot be or make friends with gay or lesbian Catholics on or off campus, such as in Halton Region.

What ... and you actually expect me to be friends with a "homophonic" -- no seriously, someone I overheard at a Timmies on the way to whatever I was doing today, came up with this reaction to the fact the Halton Catholic School Board is being forced to backtrack on a truly stupid decision.  She said she was a "homophonic," of course she meant to say homophobic but this shows you her kind of class.

Perhaps there is an argument to be made that we do what Newfoundland and Labrador did -- nationalize all the schools and get the religion out of there.   If parents want to install values of hatred, they can set up their own private schools without provincial accreditation.

Forget the Nazi analogy, too ... any legitimate argument ends when someone even attempts to invoke a sui generis of that type.

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pray for Gaby

Well, folks, treason season really has come early this year ... a federal judge and five others were murdered, and fourteen wounded including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a "Blue Dog" Democrat from Arizona.   And incredibly, on one side Ms Giffords, a former executive for Price Waterhouse and Goodyear tire, is expected to survive; while on the other side the alleged shooter even though he was getting "more erratic" as of late (and was suspended from community college) still bought his gun perfectly legally.

Heal the wounded, bury the dead, lock up the creep for the next eighty years ... but isn't it obvious we have to finally tone down the rhetoric?   One of my greatest fears is that someday soon we will have an assassination or an attempt thereof here in Canada.   Don't say it can't happen.   I pray it doesn't of course, but we've had a few close calls -- such as an attack against an NDP MP in 1997 (can't remember if it was a mugging or a carjack) that spooked Preston Manning so much he finally and reluctantly moved into 541 Acacia (aka Stornoway), after he initally refused the perk.

It would help so much, the political discourse that is, if we actually finally listened to each other for once.   Isn't that what dialectic is supposed to be about?  Speaking one's mind as well as listening to the other side?

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Canada blows it on the rink

Who can believe it?   Even about 24 hours after the finals, I still can't believe how Canada blew an easy 3-0 lead and gave up FIVE unanswered goals in the third to lose to Russia 5-3.

I checked the roster and I noted that only one player actually has a fall back -- i.e. he's on a university scholarship in the NCAA.   Every other one plays in the juniors.   Not to knock the system; but no university players from our system?   No NHL players who are still under 20 and eligible under international rules? It's worth pointing out that the American team which ended up winning bronze has 17 out of 22 in the collegiate system.

My open question to Hockey Canada is why there is such an aversion to collegiate players who might actually be better for the national team -- and be rounded out more balanced, both athletically and mentally?   (Remember, you actually have to keep up a fairly good GPA to keep your hockey scholarship -- how many players on Team Canada have dropped out of high school chasing the elusive NHL dream?)   True we would like to keep our players here, but we need to beef up our university games here too, including TV coverage which basically is non-existent.   If it means allowing athletic scholarships at Canadian universities so be it, and screw the CIS and whatever they think about that!

Yes, we beat the US in the semi-final this year, but they beat us in the final last year.

Unfortunately there are too many politicians in the system that would ever allow it -- but I think there should be a quota as to how many juniors are allowed to be selected; the rest should be university players, not just a token one.   Maybe they know something about beating the Europeans that Don Cherry doesn't want even Les Boys to know.   The fact is we still play hockey like it's hockey.   When was the last time you saw a Canadian player cross-train doing other sports -- baseball, basketball, hockey; and yes, even figure skating?!   No wonder the Europeans manage to run circles around us when it comes to the games that really matter.  Dang it.

That being said, kudos to Buffalo for hosting a great and fun tournament.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Want to launder money? Go to a casino

Hearing this one on Radio One this morning, I really wasn't surprised that casino money laundering it's happening in British Columbia.  It's been a problem at Ontario's casinos ever since we opened the first one -- now known as Caesar's Palace ™ Windsor -- in 1994.   Organized crime elements -- whether it's terrorists, drug traffickers, the mafia or just people working the "underground economy" (READ:  Black Market) launder ill gotten gains at gaming facilities (casinos or "slots at race tracks," turning dirty money into "clean" cash and don't have to report the winnings even if they are buying chips, say a hundred thousand at a time then cash them in just a few minutes later.

In one example, a guy from New Westminster bought $1.2 million in chips, quickly turned that back to cash (not a certified cheque, mind you, but cash) and boarded a plane to get out as quickly as he could ... but not before he got a letter from the casino confirming it was a jackpot payout so as to evade airport security.

Suspicious?   I certainly would be.

Under the anti-terrorism laws, any transaction over $10,000 -- or a combination of them in a 24 hour period -- must be reported to the feds.

But this is the weird thing:   In general, such unusually large transactions (if that's what it is) has trended down in nine of the ten provinces that have casinos, as it has in the Yukon (no casinos that I'm aware of in Nunavut or the NWT).   But in BC, it's tripled in the last year.

I'm sure the vast majority of high rollers, and even of the average Joe or Jane Blows, play money earned fairly.   But it doesn't hurt to ask some probing questions.   Some in some communities -- Native Canadian, South Asian, Middle Eastern -- may scream racial profiling.   Wrong.  This isn't about racial profiling, it's ensuring that ill gotten gains are seized and not returned.   It also wouldn't hurt to keep an eye on structuring -- whether it's done by individuals or groups -- so the spirit of the laws we have aren't violated.

I happen to believe that if some drugs as well as the sex trade was semi-legalized and taxed, then it would be a huge revenue generator and a lot of the really weird transactions would drop overnight.  It would also allow authorities to focus on those who go after our good nature and attempt to destroy a public trust.

The idea behind legalizing casinos and having them publicly run or under strict public regulation was to ensure people don't get taken for a ride.   And amazingly, we still are.  Hard to believe that even with all the money gaming facilities and lotteries make, and with set asides by law to treat "problem gamblers," some of the revenues can't be also set aside to ensure that everyone plays by the rules -- unless the crooks also happen to be the party in power's major financial contributors.   It's something worth thinking about.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Wish list for Ottawa for 2011

So a Cabinet shuffle is happening in Ottawa as I write this.   Who really cares?   You can change the riders but you still aren't changing the horses.

 My wish list for this coming year -- no matter who winds up in power come year's end, and there's a better than even chance there will be an election:
  • A real policy to end child poverty -- abolish the so called "universal" child care credit, put it on top of the geared to income and tax free Child Tax Benefit, and set real targets to lift people out of destitution (with major salary penalties on Cabinet ministers if they don't meet the targets -- say in the order of 100%).   If Britain can do it, so can we.
  • A genuine day care policy.   If Québec can do it so can the rest of Canada -- it doesn't have to be exactly the same model, it can be geared to income for instance rather than universal.   But mothers and single fathers shouldn't have to make the choice between career and home.
  • A real nation-wide environment policy.   This would include mandatory emission testing for all vehicles in all provinces and territories, done by the provinces of course but recognizing smog doesn't stop at borders or specific natural geographic checkpoints.   Demand the tar sands and precious metals mining industries clean up their act and impose the strictest penalties for tailings discharges.   Shut down the asbestos mines in Québec, permanently.
  • Extend our 200 mile limit to 370 miles -- and demand those who treat our custodial management waters as a dumping ground be subject to the consequences.
  • A way to ensure indigent seniors get the same tax treatment as wealthy ones.   Every $100 increase in seniors' tax credits for those who pay taxes must be matched by an equivalent increase in the Guaranteed Income Supplement for those who don't pay taxes -- which at present tax rates would be $15.   This is real money, for many it would pay the monthly phone bill.
  • An expansion of the "child fitness credit" to include the performing arts.   PMS promised this one in the 2008 election and we're still waiting.   Meantime several provinces like Ontario have moved forward and Québec has had a refundable (not a non-refundable) credit long before anyone heard of PMS.
  • An insistence that if any province wants to withdraw from the CPP and create its own plan (as Québec did with the RRQ) there must be full reciprocity just as there is with the RRQ.   Same premiums, same basic retirement, disability and death benefits.   If a province can invest the money better than our pension board, let them.   But Canadians will not stand for a province (read:  Alberta) that decides they can just charge lower premiums willy-nilly.   If they do, then the other provinces should reduce the payments that come out of the "number two" end for the time spent working in a discount province.  Fair is fair.
  • Completion of a free trade agreement with the EU, one that reconciles our and their respective systems of agricultural subsidies -- and creates one class for immigration and visa controls rather than singling out certain countries in the bloc for allegedly bombarding us with bogus refugee claims.
  • A declaration there will be no further free trade agreements with Third World countries until they comply with specific and accepted standards of human rights -- this includes fighting trafficking of women and children.    I am shocked that more than eight years after we signed an accord with Costa Rica child prostitution there is at an all time high and we still treat "sex tourists" with a velvet glove rather than with an iron fist.
  • A return to a foreign policy that is based on pragmatism and honest brokerage rather than ideology dictated by Bay Street and the Christianities.   This also includes making it absolutely clear that while we oppose terrorism in all its forms, we also insist on a fair and equitable solution to the biggest issues facing the Middle East.   And that any state that still refuses to recognize the Israeli fact will see a progressive escalation in trade sanctions until such diplomatic ties are established.
  • Finally, Mainland China.   If they continue to ship lead paint, toys, poisoned dog food, melamine laced infant formula and chocolate bars marked "nut free" when they are in fact full of nuts -- then we should terminate their Most Favoured Nation status.   And we should demand other democracies do the same.  If it takes a trade war to liberate the 1.3 billion people who continue to be enslaved by a small pack of Politburo apparatchiks then so be it.

Too much to ask for?   Well, it's time someone stood up for Canada.   These are actually small steps that can bring some hope instead of fear to Canadians; and make Canada a beacon of respect and not a laughing stock amongst the community of nations.

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Sarah Palin gets the meat and gets away -- you betcha!

How is it that when a GOP member shoots someone, or something, he or she can get away with it?   Remember when Dick Cheney had a gun?   They couldn't even nail him for hunting quail without a license.   Now Sarah Palin has managed to escape prosecution for hunting caribou without disemboweling it as Alaska law provides for -- on penalty of a $10,000 fine.

And to think that she could actually be elected President next year?   She doesn't even make the grade for Housing and Urban Development -- the least desired of the Cabinet posts.  And she doesn't even have a sense of humour either.

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Idiot Camping making fool of himself -- and victims of his followers

It never ceases to amaze me the number of preachers out there in television boobdom, who keep saying we must "trust our Bible" when it says the world's coming to an end any time now -- when those readers really mean we should only trust their interpretation of the Bible.

Case in point:  Harold Camping.   I don't know what to say about this guy.   Last we heard from him, he set a date for the end of the world as September 6, 1994.   Remember all of his "followers" who were weeping when it was business as usual, wailing "God lied to us"?   Actually of course, it was Camping who was the liar, not God.

Now Camping has set a new date -- October 21, 2011, to be preceded by the so-called "Rapture" five months earlier in May.

Riiiiiight.  And "Preparation H ™ does feel good, on the (w)hole."

Simple rule folks:   If someone says they know when the end will come, they are lying.   How do we know?  Because Jesus said so.   Someone like Hal Lindsey, Harold Camping, any of a number of Word of Faith preachers -- just fill in the blank.

And don't get me started on the self-proclaimed successors to Herbert W. Armstrong and their continued promotion of British Israelism (READ:  White Identity).   I'm not talking about their love for apartheid and other forms of racial segregation.   I'm talking about how much they hate their fellow whites.  How anyone can seriously believe that Germans are genetically disposed to evil because they are descendants of the Assyrians (Mesopotamians or what we now call Iraqis) is really beyond me.  Especially when genetic science has proven this wrong as much as the alleged "link" between Caucasians and Semites.   Key of David, my ass.

About Camping's only redeeming quality appears to be -- far as I have been able to find out -- he eschews such blatant racism.  For now anyway.   Mark my words, folks:   Come Hallow-e'en and Camping will deny he ever made a prediction about the End of Days.   Or he'll blame it on God.   Trying blaming it on Satan, pal -- because that's who you're really talking to.

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