30 November 2008

Coalition Deal Reached? YES!

National Newswatch is reporting that a deal has been reached - duration: 2.5 years.

NDP to receive 25 per cent of cabinet seats, however, NDP will not receive Finance or Deputy PM positions. Bloc will prop up government.

More details to follow. And here they are, from the CBC.

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Backpedaling: No guarantee of later forward pedaling

... and over the very same ground.

The HarperCons have lied time and time and time again. So what if they're now backpedaling? First on the party funding cuts, then on federal public servants' right to strike, and now (rumour has it) on pay equity?

With these BushCons, there are NO guarantees that they won't bring these issues back - openly or otherwise - should the Opposition coalition back down.

They are masters of "truthiness"™. Their lying to the Canadian people and bully boy Harper's mercurial moods have finally done this government in.

These neocons are not credible. NOTHING they say can be taken as truth.

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NDP, Lib Websites Updated - Goodale Media Releases

Looks like the coalition is getting its act together quickly, both on the ground and electronically.

Both the NDP and Liberal websites have been updated - haven't checked the Bloc's. (Somebody?)

Also, the last two media releases from the Libs have Ralph Goodale as spokesperson. A sign of future new role for him? As in PM?

I'd prefer that, despite my having liked Dion. The optics of having him as PM just wouldn't play well since the electorate never did take to him.

This is an interesting comparison, courtesy of the Libs' November 28th release.

Amount of fiscal stimulus recently announced by:

United States : $1,859 billion

China : $726 billion

United Kingdom : $518 billion

Japan : $341 billion

Germany : $264 billion

France : $93 billion

Canada (2008 Fiscal Update): -4.3 billion

Wait to go Harper!

Gawd, it feels like an election all over again. I'm pumped!

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Budget Jan 27 - Proroque 'til then?

It's reported that Flaherty will table a budget on January 27th.

"We'll present a complete, comprehensive budget," [Flaherty] said. But his message was muddy when it came to what kind of approach the government will take to spending to stimulate the economy...

Michael Ignatieff said he heard nothing in Mr. Flaherty's announcement that would dispel coalition talks by the opposition.

"...I didn't hear anything in Mr. Flaherty's statement that backs us off this ledge," he told the CTV program.

My suspicion is that Harper will proroque Parliament until then.

The issue, to me, is not WHEN the HarperCons will table their budget, but WHAT it will contain. With so many lies coming out of these Bush-cons' mouths, nothing they say now has any credibility. Ergo, neither will any hints as to what will be contained in their budget.

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Conservative grassroots turning away in disgust

Wow. In response to a blog post over at Macleans this morning is this, from one Jerry Jackson, written at 4:36 am:

I donated 1000 dollars to the Conservative Party of Canada this year, and 400 to my local campaign.

What has transpired in the last 72 hours has absolutely disgusted and disillusioned me. At the first Conservative Party Convention (in what seems like a lifetime ago), we were told, and told eachother that we would do it better than the other guys. Accountable government, no tricks, no slimy games, just good governance and a United Right.

We, the grassroots of the CPoC have told ourselves that the compromises in policy were simply a temporary condition necessary to achieve power.

We the grassroots of the CPoC told ourselves that the misgivings of this government in its campaign spending, were simply trumped up allegations, created by vengeful officials at elections Canada and members of the left wing media.

We the grassroots of the CPoC turned a blind eye when government grew under Harper, not shrank as promised.

We of the grassroots watched with awe as the facade finally came crashing down this thursday, and the people we placed in power, were exposed as lying, conniving, inept opportunists, just as bad as the people we removed from power 3 years ago.

I will never donate or volunteer on a campaign so long as Stephen Harper is the leader of the Conservative Party. We have given him four elections, and he has been incapable of inspiring Canadians, passing any of the policies we developed within the party, or taken one step to dismantle the corrupt and bloated institutions of our socialist system.

I will be mailing my card back to Conservative Party headquarters tomorrow.

Dissension among the Conservative grassroots is NOT what Harper & Co. can afford. Those grassroots are the lifeblood of the party - and its key funding source.

Might the above comment be evidence of further rumblings in the rank and file? If so, it could well turn out that the CPC of the future, if Harper persists in hanging on, will be in as much need of that $1.75 per vote as the other parties.

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29 November 2008

Progressive Coalition Best Anti-Depressant

Truly, this coalition talk, if followed by the real deal, beats any anti-depressant pill, hands down. At least it does for me and likely for other previously disillusioned, disenfranchised, progressive political activists.

Have been in a blue funk ever since the October 14th election. After that fiasco of an election, I'd decided to join the ranks of the non-voting electorate, this after forty years of faithfully going to the polls and doing my darndest to help my party of choice.

Now, it looks as though things may be turning around, that my vote - and those of the other 62.4% of voters, the ones who DIDN'T form the 37.6% who voted for Canada's neocons - finally may count, that we might get a government which properly represents the choices of the electorate. That we may, in fact, get a Canada we can be proud of again.

US President-elect Barack Obama talked about hope. A Liberal-NDP progressive coalition government, supported by the Bloc, has the potential to engender hope, Canadian-style.

That alone could give a boost to the economy, as we, the voting majority, receive a sorely-needed dose of optimism.

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On Neocon Harper from US Perspective

Good article and synopsis of the situation from a USian POV (they've finally noticed there's an uproar up here):

Harper's problems do not appear to be trivial. Clearly, for obvious reasons he wants a robust, conservative majority. Although his problems stem from the current global economic crisis, he also carries the lingering, fetid stench of Bush neo-conservative attitudes. A chief source of that is the American Tom Flanagan, an Illinois born Goldwater conservative with Leo Strauss defined political reflexes and a Rovian persona. He is one of the key players and a core advisor in Harper's political life. Following the last election, Harper put him on the payroll. If nothing else, that alone is a signal to Canadians that their Prime Minister has every intention of turning up the heat on his neo-conservative agenda. Of all the irritants Harper represents in left-of-center Canadian politics, the sulfurous odor of American neo-conservatism just might be one of the most potent.

GREAT ending.

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On Coalition Govt: Letter to Jack Layton

[And cc'd to my MP, Jean Crowder]

When elected leader of the NDP, Mr. Layton, you pledged to make a national referendum on proportional representation a condition for supporting any minority government.

I call on you now to honour that commitment and to require that any coalition partners or new minority government institute a citizen-driven process allowing Canadians to pick the best fair voting system for future elections.

Chrystal Ocean

Send your own letter to Jack Layton. The more letters like this which political leaders receive, the greater chance PR will become an issue on their agenda too.

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On Coalition Govt: Letter to Stéphane Dion

Mr. Dion, I urge you, as Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, to take a stand for a fair and proportional voting system in Canada.

In 2004, the former Liberal government received a recommendation from the Law Commission of Canada to introduce a mixed-member proportional system for federal elections.

I am a political activist who has voted in every federal election but one over the past forty years. After the October 14th election and having heard you muse about favouring the Alternative Vote - another majoritarian system like FPTP - I joined the ranks of the non-voting electorate.

I plead with you to make a commitment to allow Canadians to study MMP and other proportional voting systems and to choose the best fair voting system for federal elections.

Chrystal Ocean,
Duncan BC.

Send your own letter to Stéphane Dion. The more letters like this which political leaders receive, the greater chance PR will become an issue on their agenda too.

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On Coalition Govt: Letter to Elizabeth May

Elizabeth, I urge you, as leader of the Green Party of Canada, to press any emerging minority or coalition government to take action now on electoral reform and proportional representation. The turmoil and instability in Ottawa are a direct result of the distorted election results and unsettled political arena created by the dysfunctional first-past-post system.

The fate of Canadians, by virtue of the (mis)management of their government, should not be left to the whims and mercurial moods of the unrepresentative few.

Chrystal Ocean

Send your own letter to E May. The more letters like this which political leaders receive, the greater chance PR will become an issue on their agenda too.

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28 November 2008

Cuts Will Stay, Cuts Will Go ... As Bad as May on Strategic Voting

Yup. That's what it sounds like.

First, as we heard during Deficit Jim's fiscal update, the $1.75 per vote currently awarded to political parties would be out.

Then the Conservatives dropped those cuts.

Now they're in again.

Which is it?

Harper's Conservatives sound as confused and "nuanced" as Elizabeth May was on the issue of "strategic voting" during the election.

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CTV, Your Bias is Showing - Again

You're the Canadian affiliate of Fox "Fair and Balanced" News, right?

Must be, cuz otherwise you'd have searched further afield than the home of Harper's Conservatives, good 'ole Alberta, for this "top story":

Experts doubtful a Liberal-NDP coalition would work

As talk of a potential coalition government swirls through the halls of parliament, some experts in Canadian political history say the reality is it will likely never come to fruition.

There's "not a chance" that the Liberals and NDP will be able to convince Governor General Michaëlle Jean they'll be able to form a working coalition, says Barry Cooper, a political science professor at the University of Calgary...

"The Governor General has to be convinced that this coalition is real," he said, noting the party's MPs won't necessarily listen to Broadbent or Chretien.

"If she thinks it's doable she is in deep doo doo."

Cooper says that even if the governor general granted the opposition parties' request to form some type of coalition government, they just wouldn't be able to function effectively.

"The consequences would be catastrophic," he said. "They will be defeated right away," he said.

The governor general would likely shoot down the idea well before that point, says Steve Patten, a political science professor at the University of Alberta.

Two experts. Both from Alberta, which but for a single lonely spot of orange, is a sea of neocon blue.

CTV and Canwest, your bias is showing. Again. Must be desperate times, since you don't even try to hide it anymore.

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27 November 2008

Funding Cut to Parties Hurts Low-Income Voters

It's HarperCon classism disguised as a measure to eliminate a "free ride for political parties."

But it attacks the ability of low-income voters to contribute funding to their party of choice. Thus, it further disenfranchises this group.

Not everyone can afford to donate to a political party. Those of us who cannot have taken small comfort in knowing that each of our votes added $1.75 - adjusted annually for inflation - to the fortunes of the parties we voted for.

For some voters, low-income and not, that $1.75 was the ONLY reason we continued to vote, since the first-past-the-post system has things so rigged that only two parties have a hope in hell of getting elected to form the government.

Class act, Harper! In more ways than one.

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26 November 2008

Depressed, Really Depressed

Have been depressed, really depressed lately. Couldn't figure out why.

OK, a life of deprivation does that to you. But as I wrote elsewhere, you get used to it. Going without becomes just another part of everyday life, as natural as breathing.

So why the extra depression?

Seasonal affective disorder perhaps?

Nope. I go for a walk most days, even in rainy weather, and most of those days I enjoy the walk.

Well, I finally figured it out yesterday.

Deprivation means marginalization, marginalization means being excluded from activities which most other people are able to participate in. But being marginalized doesn't mean one is disenfranchised from all societal activities, including one of the most important ones: full participation in the political and electoral process.

Well, I got that wrong, didn't I? As I finally learned October 14, 2008.

Why it took me so long I don't know, but here it is: My vote doesn't count. I'm one of the voters which our hopelessly antiquated first-past-the-post voting system excludes.

People on the winning side respond: "Too bad! You chose the wrong candidate, is all!"

In other words, had I only chosen the candidate who would win, I'd be a winner too. Never mind whether the candidate represents a party whose values and policies I abhor. I'd still be a winner!

And that's why I've been so down lately.

Things started going downhill immediately after the election. I'm deeply angry and this anger has been building over the past several federal and provincial elections.

Forty years I've participated in the system and today I sit here looking at a future in which I no longer can support the sham which our purportedly democratic system has become.

Why THIS election to wake me up to the new reality? Why not the previous election or the one before that?

Don't know. But I am awake now.

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To BC Liberals: Free up rules on PR referendum

How convenient that current BC election legislation prohibits political parties from advertising or promoting their support for BC-STV in the May 12, 2009 referendum on electoral reform!

While candidates can voice support for a 'yes' vote, they may not advertise that position.

Penalties for breaking the regulation are a fine of up to $10,000 and up to a year in jail...

University of Victoria political science professor Dennis Pilon, who last year published a book on electoral reform, said the Liberals want to see electoral reform defeated in the May 12 referendum and have realized the Greens will likely campaign vigorously for a win.

“This is a typical kind of dirty pool,” said Pilon, adding that Ontario had a similar prohibition in place for its recent referendum on electoral reform. “It's a referendum on democracy and they want to limit people's democratic rights.”

A spokesperson for the ministry of the Attorney General, Shawn Robins, said the government is working with Neufeld and Elections B.C.. "The intent is not to silence political parties on their views on STV," he said. "At this point in time we're just getting to the finer details of what they might be allowed . . . It's a fine line we're trying to clarify with Elections B.C."

Stewart said Elections B.C. is getting an independent legal opinion on the issue before responding to the Attorney General. It will then be up to the government to decide what to do. "They have the authority to amend the regulation."

Ha ha ha! Yes, they do. In fact, they've the authority to implement BC-STV NOW, rather than making British Columbians vote all over again and adding a whopping bill for running an unnecessary referendum.

In 2005, we voted in favour of BC-STV by a majority of 58% and in 77 of the 79 BC ridings. The 60% threshold imposed by the BC Liberal government - and supported by that other party which regularly obtains false majorities on the basis of less than 40% of the popular vote, the NDP - is an insult to British Columbians.

Nothing prevents the BC government from directing Elections BC to bring in the new system now. Nothing, that is, except the Liberals' and NDP's own self-interested positioning against this reform.

NB: Wrote to the BC-NDP on November 19th, asking what their position is on BC-STV. No reply to date. Since not a single email I've sent to them has ever received a reply, the non-response isn't itself news. What would be news is if I not only got a response, but one before February 1st, 2009. Have just send the BC-NDP a reminder that I'm still waiting.

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25 November 2008

Auto Jobs Count More than Forestry Jobs

Why is that? Cuz vote-rich Ontario counts more than vote-poor British Columbia.

This report claims that 15,000 vehicle assembly jobs could be lost if a bailout doesn't happen. A comparable number of jobs have been lost in the forestry sector.

However, the largest bulk of auto jobs are in vote-rich Ontario. BC has by far the lion's share of forestry jobs.

See the pattern? Auto sector to get bailout - one way or the other, it will. Forestry sector hasn't; and won't.

As we learned in the last and previous elections, only some votes matter.

One more piece of evidence that proportional representation is essential to restoring Canada's democracy.

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More Credit to Fix the Credit Problem: How is this logical?

How does making more credit available to consumers for acquiring cars, new gadgets, and new housing fix the inherent problem in the USian economy? Wasn't it the over-availability of credit, without matching REAL dollars, the cause of the current economic breakdown?

The U.S. Federal Reserve and Treasury Department pledged $800 billion US to help boost the flow of lending for mortgages, students, cars, credit cards and small businesses...

Key markets for consumer debt such as credit cards, auto loans and student loans essentially came to a halt in October, said Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson at a news conference announcing the new measures.

"This lack of affordable consumer credit undermines consumer spending [and] as a result weakens our economy," said Paulson.

But it was my understanding that people over-extending themselves was a huge part of the problem. How does MORE credit help?! It doesn't matter that the credit may come at lower rates. It still means acquiring more debt.

Tuesday's action is the latest effort by the government to dissolve a hardening credit clog that has badly hurt the economy... A survey released Nov. 3 by the Federal Reserve found that 60 per cent of banks that responded said they had tightened lending standards on credit card debt.

But isn't this a good thing? For those who favour free markets, isn't this simply a much-needed market correction?

I simply don't understand how making more credit available will fix the inherent problem in the system. To me, this will only make the situation worse, not necessarily in the short term but down the road.

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23 November 2008

Nominated: Stories of Poverty in the First Person - Best Podcaster/Vlogger

Policies of Exclusion, Poverty & Health, the podcast channel which has been broadcasting the stories from the book of the same name, has been nominated in the 2008 Canadian Blog Awards.

Category: Best Podcaster/Vlogger.

Please vote for this podcasting channel. If you do, then the stories of these 21 women are likely to get more exposure.

That's why the women, including Daphne and myself, participated in the project in the first place - to get people to listen, REALLY listen to, and hopefully learn something of what poverty is like in the first person.

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Of Vegetarians, Vegans and Other Food-Ivores

Jack Knox writes an amusing piece in today's Victoria Times Colonist.

Apparently, BC is the premier spot for vegetarians and vegans. So, he asks, what's an Alberta boy to do?

News item No. 1: UVic is the top comprehensive university in Canada, according to a Maclean's magazine survey.

News item No. 2: UVic is the second most vegetarian-friendly university in Canada, according to peta2, the world's largest youth animal rights organization.

Well, I darn near dropped my pork chop on the newspaper, right there at the breakfast table: "I'm sorry, but isn't this an oxymoron? How can a university be both top-rated and vegetarian-friendly?"

"Careful," she replied, nibbling on her radish, or whatever passes for a morning meal in her world. "You're getting grease on your defibrillator paddles."

Go read the whole thing. It will get you chuckling - always good for one's health! - and perhaps you'll learn something at the same time.

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22 November 2008

Want Travel Insurance to Cuba?

Then forget President's Choice Financial!

In the fine, grey print on PC Financial's website, you'll find the following:

Please note, Cuba is currently not a covered destination with all Single Trip or Annual Plans.

Now if you feel inclined to let them know how you feel about this, you may have some trouble. Several babblers, including moi, have attempted to convey our sentiments using their online form. We get an error message.

So... How 'bout bringing the issue to their attention another way? Like spreading it around the Canadian blogosphere?

Here was the message I'd composed:

On the PC Insurance website at the very bottom in grey print is the following: "Please note, Cuba is currently not a covered destination with all Single Trip or Annual Plans."

This is absurd! WHY is Cuba an exception?

This isn't the United States! Stop pandering to US imperialism and paranoia.

The Government of Canada has no issue with Cuba. There is no ban on Canadians travelling to that beautiful, friendly island

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21 November 2008

"We need something like a refugee camp"

No matter how much, if anything, is planned toward providing affordable housing, that housing will be built in the future.

What's to be done now, then, for the people currently homeless - and the ones soon likely to join their ranks?

Writes Jody Paterson, a BC activist working on poverty issues,

we need something like a refugee camp, where people can live indoors and be connected with support services until something better can be worked out.

Not more shelter beds, but a place where people can live indefinitely until something more permanent is available. A place where the police aren't always gunning for you and there's room to store your stuff. To get out of the weather. To stay out of harm's way.

Admittedly, any place where several hundred distinctly different people had to co-exist under one roof would almost certainly be chaotic and challenging. In any kind of sane world, no one would consider the temporary warehousing of masses of complex and impoverished people.

But this isn't a sane world. And a refugee camp for those on the street isn't nearly as crazy an idea as just leaving them out there.

If governments are able to emergency house people whose homes have been destroyed by fire, then why can they not provide temporary housing for the currently homeless - not shelters, which are open only certain hours?

There will always be some people who are "homeless" because not everyone wants to live surrounded by bricks and mortar. But for the many more who would choose permanent shelter, rather than the nomadic existence, Paterson's solution makes sense.

But when did sense have anything to do with government policy when it comes to homelessness? That governments DO temporarily house people during emergencies but DON'T act to deal with those now without homes suggests that ideology is the culprit, not lack of resources.

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Car Dealers Plead for Handout

Having worked on poverty issues for the past several years and living far, far below the poverty line myself, am increasingly incensed by the cries for "bailout!" from corporate CEOs and people who are so, so much better off.

Canada's 3,500 car dealers are at risk from the financial crisis and are asking Ottawa to help out despite a record year of sales.

The Canadian Automobile Dealers Association told a news conference Friday that Canada's auto sector needs aid to survive, and that the credit crunch is even starting to impact dealers across the country.

"The cold reality facing decision makers today is if Canadian-based manufacturers are not provided a bridge across the current economic crisis, then Canada's 3,500 small business dealers will bear the brunt of that downturn," said president Richard Gauthier.

The federal government is considering providing financial aid to the Canadian subsidiaries of the Detroit Three car makers, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, and possibly auto parts companies.

My response to these people?

NO. This is the business you chose. You get to reap the benefits in good times and suffer the consequences in bad.

Spent all those profits? Didn't invest wisely?


Governments, through their non-action, have been sending this same message to Canada's poor, time immemorial. So how about the auto industry facing the same reality?

Do NOT ask taxpayers to bail you out.

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20 November 2008

Forest CEOs Object to Auto Bailout

Somehow ironic, although I don't recall the forest industry ever asking for outright bailouts. However, it DOES do nicely with subsidies and industry-friendly legislation - which pretty much can amount to the same thing.

Chief executive officers from 15 of Canada's leading forest companies warned Ottawa yesterday against bailing out the auto and aerospace sectors.

The CEOs, who have been struggling to survive a severe downturn in their own industry for the last two years, said in Vancouver that they don't want to see public money going to any bailouts for any failing industries.

Instead, Ottawa needs to "fix the fundamentals of the economy" ..., said Avrim Lazaar, president of the Forest Products Association of Canada.

"Using mountains of money to bail out failing industries simply doesn't work," Lazaar said after emerging from a closed-door meeting with the 15 CEOs. "If the government enacts measures that focus only on one or two sectors and have more of the flavour of bailout than competitiveness, we are going to be deeply disappointed. We are expecting this government to worry about jobs across the country, not just in a couple of ridings..."

The 15 executives represent Canadian industrial production worth $50 billion a year. Their mills employ 300,000 people and have weathered a downturn that has cost 27,000 jobs so far....

"I am outraged that after all these years about talking about what is necessary to pull investment into Canadian mills -investment in research, retooling to the green economy and investment in market outreach - it hasn't happened."

In the [Throne] speech, the Conservative government pledged to provide new support to the automotive and aerospace sectors, its most explicit promise of emergency aid yet.

Should be fun watching the Harpercrits juggling to keep all those balls in the air. And all the while their idiotic policies have left them scant room to manoeuvre.

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NDP to Hold Balance of Power on Committees

This should be interesting. For the first time, the NDP will hold the balance of power on all House of Commons committees.

NDP whip Yvon Godin said negotiations among the four parties have cost the Liberal party one seat on every committee, including three key panels they chair as the official Opposition...

The opposition parties agreed that the governing Conservatives would gain one more seat on the regular 12-member committees chaired by a government MP.

That gives the Tories five members other than the chair, with three Liberals, two Bloc and one NDP.

Godin says this means his party will be able to wrest concessions from any of the other parties in return for support because the chair votes only in case of a tie.

The panels chaired by Liberals - the ethics, government operations and public accounts committees - will be reduced to 11 members to prevent the Conservatives from indirectly obtaining a majority.

Will be interesting to observe where the NDP sides on what issues and for which concessions.

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19 November 2008

Tiny Monkey - Reminder of Flight of the Navigator

Remember the little creature in the Disney movie Flight of the Navigator? This tiny monkey, discovered still to exist in Indonesia, reminds me of that.

"The tiny Furby-like pygmy tarsier, presumed to be extinct, was found during a recent expedition to Indonesia. And the cuddly, huge-eyed nocturnal critter is the very definition of cute.

"'They always look like they have a perpetual smile on their face, which adds to the attraction', says physical anthropologist Sharon Gursky-Doyen, who found the presumed lost species."

Look at those eyes! Yes, cute indeed.

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An Ear for an Ear?

Actually, it would need to be two ears, for the two that were sliced off a little puppy.

Rony Salman, of Windsor, currently resides in prison, but not for having cut off the ears of a mixed-breed puppy. No, he's serving time for burglary. The article suggests that perhaps now Salman "knows what it feels like," given that "a piece of his own ear was bitten off in a fight at Windsor Jail" in November.

Methinks it likely that the piece bitten off was recovered and will be or has been sewn back on, unlike the case with the puppy. Even if this doesn't happen, that someone who could cut off the ears of a puppy would suddenly commiserate with the animal's pain is highly dubious. That would require empathy, which I doubt Salman has.

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Junk Food Stocks Up - and Health Costs, Drug Profits, Waistlines

The headline reads: Burger King up despite downturn

As if this event is at all surprising.

Burger King Holdings Inc. posted higher sales in North America and stood by its full-year profit forecast in the face of an economic downturn. The world's No. 2 hamburger chain said sales at global stores open at least one year rose 3.6 per cent. Same-store sales in North America were up three per cent, helped by menu items like Apple Fries and Kraft Mac & Cheese.

Why would anyone be surprised that individuals and families who likely frequented middle to up-scale restaurants in the past are now turning to Burger King? I've no doubt that the profits of MacDonald's and other fast-food chains are up too.

This is only further evidence of the widening gap between the rich and the poor, the result being a lopsided hourglass with bloated head (wealthy), skeletal torso (upper to lower middle class) and enormous hips (the huge numbers below the poverty line).

Now regarding those expanding hips, this report links the likely rise in obesity with the high corn content in junk food.

Locally grown, organic heirloom tomatoes: $8.59 a kilogram.

One box of organic, low-fat, seven-grain cereal: $5.45.

Double cheeseburger at your favourite fast-food joint: $1.59.

It's an equation that U.S. corn farmers couldn't be happier about.

Yes, you read that right – corn. "The first step in making fast food is to grow an ear of corn," says A. Hope Jahren, the researcher behind a study that found an undeniable link between the two.

Therefore, junk stocks up? Well so go the average Body Mass Index1, the cost to our acute care system, Big Pharma profits, ...

1 There are flaws to the BMI. Consider the premier athlete, someone with above average muscle development and low body fat. It's possible for highly active people to have a high BMI, yet be far from obese and in excellent health.

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Why do we ...

... place periods or dots after full words in the names of some provinces? - See this headline for instance, courtesy the CBC.

I awoke this morning with this question in mind. (Funny the things we think of when half awake!)

For example, for British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, you typically see their short forms indicated like so: B.C. and P.E.I.

I stopped using the dots ages ago, thus indicating the short forms as BC and PEI. However, all official material coming out of the BC government continues to use 'B.C.'

But why? The words in these provinces' names are not themselves short forms. They're full words: British, Columbia, Prince, Edward, Island.

Most organizations don't apply periods to their acronyms or short forms. Why do we still do it with provincial names?

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17 November 2008

Cool Green Gadgets

Including e-readers, which I sooooo want. The CyBook Gen3 has been on my wish list for ages.

Here's the slideshow of nifty things.

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Shock Coming for Those Who Bought into Consumerism

For those who bought into the consumerist ideology over the past decade, this writer suggests there's a nasty shock coming.

I've watched in amazement as young people bought houses twice the size of mine, went on fabulous vacations and purchased $65,000 vehicles. Their children wear designer clothes from birth and restaurant meals are weekly events.

Meanwhile, my husband and I have both worked full-time throughout our adult lives, drive older vehicles, live in the starter house we bought 21 years ago and mainly vacation at the family (read my father's) cabin on Shuswap Lake.

Despite this, we still have a small line of credit that we can't quite get rid of. I blame that entirely on the Children Who Won't Leave, as well as the fact that neither hubby nor I have any talents whatsoever in home repair.

I admit feeling a little envy at the free spending in other households. How are they managing their finances, I wondered aloud. She doesn't even work full-time.

Debt, said husband.

The dreaded debt word. It makes me anxious. I ruminate on the what-ifs.

Good, reflective article. I recommend reading the whole thing.

It's true that those of us already bad off aren't going to feel the hit as hard as those who've never experienced hard times. I say this as someone who once did, for a brief while, quite well, relatively speaking.

But believe me, a fall into the well of poverty can be extremely damaging to one's health and self-esteem, more so than if one had always lived on the edge. Because there's no time to adjust. And no matter what you do, nothing stops the slide.

Which is not to say that the cupboard getting even barer than before is all that great either. But you get used to deprivation - eventually. It becomes as much a part of your life as breathing. So what's one more thing you can't have? One less meal? It's all part of the same thing.

So I do feel sorry for those who bought into consumerism. They've tough times ahead.

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16 November 2008

Rebuilding New Orleans

This is cute.

For complete description of materials and how to build it, please refer to Genesis, chapter 5:14-16.

Finally..., the bible put to good use!

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CBC got another one wrong

Must have something to do with urban centrism.

The headline reads: "Fortin Victoria's new mayor; 3 Island mayors unseated."


At least four Island mayors were unseated.

The mayor of the District of North Cowichan, formerly Jon Lefebure, was defeated by Tom Walker. North Cowichan lies immediately north of the City of Duncan.

There were a total of 5,969 votes cast for mayor of North Cowichan. Walker unseated Lefebure by 155 or 2.6% of the total.

Check here for the results of all local BC elections.

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Podcast - Stories of Poverty in the First Person - E22, Waneta

Episode 22 of 24. A reading from the book Policies of Exclusion, Poverty & Health: Stories from the front.

This is the last of the 21 stories.

At the beginning of the project, each of the women chose a random number to represent them. This was both to protect their identities and to make the stories themselves the central focus.

When it came time to put the book together, I didn't want to refer to the women by their numbers. That would have been awkward and certainly impersonal and thus contrary to the entire point. So I ordered the stories by the women's numbers, from lowest to highest, and then assigned a pseudonym to each, from 'a' through 'w'.

In other words, while the alphabetical arrangement would suggest otherwise, the stories in the book were randomly sorted.1 This was to ensure no bias crept in, in terms of story placement.

How fitting, then, that the random sortation would result in a native woman, Waneta, getting the last word.

When I was 5 years old, [my mother] committed suicide in a motel room. My younger brother and I were present and were the ones who actually found her. We remember that night like it was yesterday. We found her in the bathroom. There were no adults around. We remember playing with her rope....

I was about 13 when my biological sister reunited with me. She visited us off and on for about a year. She took her life when she was 18. She also hung herself in Victoria....

One of the uncles that lived in the home started sexually abusing me. I didn’t know that it was wrong. We would go fishing and then he would get on top of me and stuff. He’d make me lay there. I didn’t know. All of us slept in the same room as my grandfather and his partner. Seeing him on her, I thought it was something that you did. My uncle was doing that to me at the creek, when I was nine, and I thought it was what you had to do. I’ve never told any of the family members. He told me not to tell anybody, of course. I had all these secrets. All these adults in my life were telling me, ‘Don’t tell, Don’t tell’.

The remaining episodes, 23 and 24, will include excerpts from the two project reports.

1 The first story was the single exception. As explained in the book's Introduction, Chris' story began it all, including the founding of WISE and that first project, Policies of Exclusion, Poverty & Health. It made sense to place that story first to set the context for what followed.

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15 November 2008

Cannon: Renegotiating NAFTA would have Consequences

So warned Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon today.

My response: Well, duh! Isn't that the point? Otherwise it would be a useless exercise.

And reopening the thing can't happen soon enough for me!

As for Cannon threatening the US with Canada finding new markets for its oil, we should be doing that anyway.

Mr. Cannon said he agreed with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's assessment this week when he suggested to business leaders that he was not reassured on the future of NAFTA after a meeting with advisors to U. S. president-elect Barack Obama...

Mr. Cannon said he expected the Harper Conservatives and the Obama Democrats to find common ground on the issue, as Canada pursues its own environmental agenda with Washington in the coming months.

WHAT "environmental agenda"? The do-nothing one?

[Cannon] also said he does not expect "ideological" differences to complicate relations.

"This agreement has been a darn good agreement for Canada and the United States," he said.

Yea, it's been great - for the wealthy. Unfortunately, the über rich depend on the rest of us; and we're not doing so well.

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13 November 2008

Letter Published: No RRSP Savings without Income

Found in the Times Colonist today:

Re: "Study finds few eligible Canadians contribute to RRSPs," Nov. 6.

I had to laugh at the article. I've been deemed eligible to contribute to an RRSP every year since RRSPs came into being. But for the past eight years, my income has averaged $8,500 annually.

Where would anyone expect a person like me to find money to put aside into a RRSP, someone who, most years, doesn't make enough to pay income tax?

Perhaps what's needed is for the eligibility criteria for participation in the RRSP program to be examined, rather than making it appear that taxpayers, particularly low-income taxpayers, are clueless about the purported benefits of RRSPs.

Said benefits do not accrue to all RRSP participants.

In fact, there can be a cost for those whose total household income is in the lowest two quintiles of income.

Chrystal Ocean

'Tis good that at least some of my letters to the editor are getting through.

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12 November 2008

Lawsuit Claiming Mind Control by MSoft Allowed

OK, so this serious news item gave me a giggle. And it has local flavour too! - the complainant lives just up the highway from me.

A judge has refused to dismiss a civil lawsuit brought by a B. C. man who is seeking $2-billion in damages from Microsoft, Telus, Wal-Mart, the RCMP and other defendants over alleged brain-wave control, satanic rituals and witchcraft.

Justice Fraser Wilson heard from five lawyers on Monday, who argued that the case brought forward by Jerry Rose is so outrageous it should be dismissed.

Mr. Rose's claim says "he has been subject to invasive brain computer interface technology, research, experiments, field studies and surgery" and also names the University of B. C. and B. C. College of Physicians and Surgeons as defendants...

Judge Wilson, while admitting the case was "certainly an unusual one," said he had to be convinced there was nothing in Mr. Rose's claim that could be litigated... [He] raised the notorious case of a CIA-sponsored experiment at McGill University between 1957 and 1964 in which people without their consent were given LSD and other drugs...

Mr. Rose, reading from a three-page statement, said the mind-control harassment continues with "brain-drain technologies" under the RCMP and tactics to prevent his case from going forward.

Truth be told, Microsoft might well be guilty of "invasive brain computer interface technology." Witness all the viruses and dreaded blue windows 90% of PC owners have had to endure!

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Proof: HarperCons Knew Biofuel a Bad Idea

They knew it and yet they still endorsed - and funded - biofuel production.

The HarperCons went so far as to require that gas have 5% biofuel by 2010, that diesel contain 2% biofuel and provided $1.5 billion in subsidies to support the biofuel industry: farmers, and agricultural and energy companies that produce ethanol from corn or wheat.

The Harper government was warned by experts at Environment Canada two years ago that a multi-billion-dollar plan to boost production of green fuels could cause more problems than benefits...

"Feedstocks and biofuel production consume large amounts of water, natural gas, biomass, electricity and fertilizers," said one of the briefing notes, drafted on May 16, 2006, by a technology strategies and climate-change division at Environment Canada....

Environment Canada's research suggested that ethanol produced from waste products is much more sustainable, but the government created a smaller fund of $500-million, specifically to support this type of "next-generation" ethanol.

Subsequent material prepared for the minister said that consumption of gasoline with a 10% ethanol content could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and some air pollutants, but generate other problems, such as increased fuel consumption, higher prices at the pumps and a 100% increase in emissions of acetaldehyde, which has been listed as a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

While one document estimated the increased costs for producing ethanol could result in a one-or two-cent increase in the price of gasoline at the pumps, another estimated that the overall greenhouse gas emissions reductions would cost as much as $200 per tonne of CO2.

"If all Canadian gasoline were E-10 [containing 10% ethanol], GHG emissions would be reduced by about three megatonnes of carbon dioxide per year," said a briefing note prepared for Ms. Ambrose in May, 2006.

Nothing like getting one's facts straight, is there?

What the HarperCons saw was a way to boost industry, period.

Didn't matter the cost to the environment. Which is no surprise, given the HarperCons never have seen global warming as manmade.

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11 November 2008

Depression Screening for Heart Patients NOT such a Good Idea

Contrary to the recommendation by the American Heart Association to routinely screen heart patients for depression, a review of 17 studies indicates there to be no benefit.

In [patients] who showed signs of depression, symptoms improved only slightly — by 1 to 4 percent — with antidepressant drug treatment.

"We cannot in good conscience support screening all heart patients," study co-author Roy Ziegelstein, vice chairman of medicine at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, said in a statement. "This is a difficult call for us to make, but it is in the best interest of patients at this time" because of its cost, side effects of drug treatment and potentially negative effects of being misdiagnosed as depressed...

The AHA recommends that heart patients are screened for depressive symptoms with a two- or nine-question survey, then referred for a more detailed workup if they score high on those questions. Patients who are diagnosed with depression should be treated with medication, counseling, exercise, cardiac rehabilitation or a combination, according to the guidelines.

If I had heart disease and was subjected to depression screening, I'd be livid - once I stopped laughing.

Get a psychiatrist near me, spewing their pseudo-science, and there's no telling what I'd do. Of course, my normal reaction would likely get labelled as evidence of my suffering from one psychosis/neurosis or another.

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Canada's Obama will be Native

Well, knock me down with a feather, but here I am agreeing with an opinion piece in the National Post.

If Canada is to experience its own extraordinary, galvanizing political progression, it will not be because it has elected a black to high office. That would be pleasing enough, not least because slavery was also practised here, though it would be misrepresenting history to pretend that the issue is as profoundly troubling here as in the United States. But no, our own Obama moment will occur when Canada upholds a candidate from the First Nations as prime minister. Then we shall have confronted our own national shame. Then we shall have surmounted our own historical disgrace.

What a wonderful event it would be, if Canada were to elect a Native elder to the highest position in the land! The thought gives me goose bumps.

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10 November 2008

Slum Landlords: Harper and Sahota

It would seem that the Sahota family in Vancouver have a reputation for collecting rents, harassing tenants and allowing rental buildings to fall into dangerous disrepair and getting away with little, if any, penalty.

When heavy rains caused ceilings to collapse at a rundown East Vancouver apartment last year, the building's 81 tenants had three hours to collect their belongings and move out. What they couldn't grab was stolen or lost to water damage and mould. Rodents, cockroaches and bed bugs infested the rooms that weren't flooded.

The calamity at 2131 Pandora St. on Oct. 18, 2007, shocked Vancouver and caused an untold amount of financial and emotional hardship on the low-income tenants that lived in the building. But it was just the latest incident involving one of Vancouver's most infamous landlords, the Sahota family.

This alone would be excellent reason to pressure the Federal government to fork over some of the money gleaned from taxpayers to provide social housing programs in our country. Since Harper and the neocons have been elected, they have consistently slashed social funding with as much disregard for people's welfare as the Sahota clan.

While the workers of Canada struggle to house and feed themselves, Harper and the Sahotas ignore repeated requests to use some of the money they collect - from taxpayers in the one case and from renters in the other - to upgrade their investments. For the Sahotas that would be rental units and for Harper, it would be housing for Canada's working poor.

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POLYGRAPH Tests used for Hiring?!

Couldn't believe my eyes when I read this story. It never occurred to me that such a practice could be happening in Canada.

The Halifax Regional Municipality is conducting a review of the way it uses lie detectors to screen applicants for certain jobs.

Mayor Peter Kelly said he called for the review after the Halifax Chronicle Herald quoted a job applicant saying she was humiliated by questions during a recent polygraph test, including one asking whether she had sex with animals.

The woman, who has asked not to be identified, was applying for a position with the municipality's information technology division.

That ANY Canadian employer, no matter who it is, should use polygraph testing as part of its hiring process absolute astounds me. Or that any union would permit it.

Surely this is an infringement on our basic individual rights and freedoms! I consider this kind of testing as bad as being required to provide one's DNA.

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09 November 2008

Redefining Cancer: A chronic condition similar to AIDS?

Interesting article today from Scientific American on the connection between the development of cancerous cells and inflammation.

The six-page article sites numerous studies including, importantly, two recent ones, which suggest that the prevailing view of cancer and thus how it should be treated - that a cancerous growth is like a diseased organ which needs excision - may be wrong.

Instead, it may be better to view and treat cancer more like a chronic condition.

I quickly read all six pages - well, more scanned the last one and a half - and extracted these bits as the most relevant for the non-health techs among us.

Inflammation, its hallmark characteristic, has gained recognition as an underlying contributor to virtually every chronic disease—a list that, besides obvious culprits such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, includes diabetes and depression, along with major killers such as heart disease and stroke. The possibility of a link with a third major killer—cancer—has received intensive scrutiny in this decade...

As some researchers have described the malignant state: genetic damage is the match that lights the fire, and inflammation is the fuel that feeds it....

Rooting out every last cancer cell in the body might not be necessary. Anti-inflammatory cancer therapy instead would prevent premalignant cells from turning fully cancerous or would impede an existing tumor from spreading to distant sites in the body. Cancer sufferers might then be able to survive, in the same way that new drugs have let HIV patients live longer. “I don’t think a cure is necessarily the goal. It doesn’t need to be,” comments Lisa M. Coussens, a cancer biologist at the University of California, San Francisco. “If you can manage the disease and live your natural life span, that’s a huge win.”

...In recent years a body of evidence has accumulated to show that chronic inflammation can play an important role in the progression of some types of tumors from a premalignant state to full-blown disease. A link between cancer and inflammation has long been suspected... Cancer biologist Harold F. Dvorak of Harvard Medical School remarked in 1986 that tumors are “wounds that do not heal.” The status quo, though, lay elsewhere. Even a decade ago many biologists still hewed to the idea that the immune system serves not only to eliminate pathogens but to ferret out cells that are the abnormal precursors of cancer....

Cutting into tumors, such as for a prostate biopsy, sometimes seems to encourage metastasis [suggesting that] the inflammation generated by the intervention could be at fault....

Instead of just killing cancer cells—the goal of current drug therapies and radiation—new approaches may supplement existing drugs by slowing inflammation. Without the involvement of macrophages and other innate cells, the premalignant tissue would remain in check.

Cancer could, in essence, become a chronic disease akin to rheumatoid arthritis, another inflammatory condition. “Keep in mind almost no one dies of primary cancer,” says Raymond DuBois, provost of the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and a researcher of anti-inflammatory agents for cancer. “A patient almost always dies from a metastasis.”

... it seems likely that a new generation of anti-inflammatory agents will join the chemotherapeutic arsenal. Chronic diseases—and their underlying inflammatory conditions—are hallmarks of an aging population. “We’re all a little bit overinflamed,” Pollard observes. Treating the smoldering embers that surround the tumor rather than just mutant cells could make cancer a disease we can live with.

Call me a cynic, but I do wonder how well the cancer industry has received this news.

I mean, oncologists and others related to the industry - including certain charitable foundations whose admin costs absorb the largest share of all donation dollars - have made whole careers on the existence of cancer as a condition which needs a huge investment in research, and whose treatment is surgery and/or drug and radiation therapy.

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07 November 2008

What's Missing in Health Care

The following article, originally written for the Campbell River Courier-Islander, was reprinted yesterday in the Victoria Times-Colonist. While it targets the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the message is applicable to communities across Canada.

It has been a long time since I've read something by a newspaper writer which so eloquently and truthfully makes this vital point: communities MUST be empowered, and with the necessary resources, to set their own destinies, determine their own needs and provide their own solutions.

One really has to question the usefulness and economic sense behind the Vancouver Island Health Authority. At a local level we know how to run our hospital. We know what it needs. We know its intricacies, we know its strengths and we know its weaknesses. And we know how to fix it.

VIHA apparently does not.

To try to manage such a vital community commodity from long distance is a recipe for disaster.

Too often this management becomes a numbers game. Too often decisions are made to align certain equations, equations handed down by the powers that be -- equations that have no practical purpose and no relation to reality.

But on a local level, if we were to manage, we would be looking at the spreadsheet of humanity.

Yes, we would see the numbers, we would work the equations.

But we would also see the faces. We would see the smiles and we would see the tears. We would join in the celebrations and would comfort each other in the sorrow.

We would listen to the doctors and nurses and the staff and we would find in them the truth and the vigour with which to remedy problems. We would listen to the patients and we would ensure that their health care is more than just numbers.

We would care and we would tell the truth. We would not, could not, do anything less because we would be accountable. We would live here and carry that accountability to the grocery store, to the church, to the pub, to the arena. We could not get on our high horse and ride it back to Victoria, there to delay and waylay vital health services that are desperately needed.

We would be born here and die here.

We would be the hospital and the hospital would be us. We would understand that our community's well being is bound tightly to a health-care system that combines passion, intelligence and understanding.

The same message is applicable most issues which affect people in communities: health, poverty, infrastructure, employment, housing .... We who live, work, and play in our communities know best what our collective aspirations, strengths and needs are and how best to achieve them.

We need, desperately, a fundamental change in how Canada's people are governed.

Presently, virtually all money collected from citizens in their communities flows to the topmost levels of government, while all power flows down from the federal government, through the provinces, on to regional governments and last to communities.

The whole system is ass backwards. It works well to preserve the old boys club, certainly here on Vancouver Island.

We need to invert the pyramid.

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Holy is the Lowly Cow

One COW, bred, born, fed, slaughtered and brought to your table will feed eight of us.

The CORN to feed one COW will feed eight times the number of people. Eight times! You do the math.

Experts say that "although grain prices have declined since summer, this year's corn, wheat and soybean crops are forecast to fetch prices at the farm gate that are double their 2005 levels. CORN and soybeans are the major ingredients in feed rations."

This expert says we humans don't need to eat the COW, chicken, pig or lamb to stay healthy.

This expert says homo sapiens would be wise to divert the massive amounts of money spent on raising livestock for food to grow vegetation for our OWN consumption.

This expert, along with many others, says we can be Vegan eaters of organically grown greens, thereby reducing our carbon footprint while reviving the earth.

Not ready to embrace a vegan lifestyle? The least you can do is to stop ingesting the COW and its milky extrusions. Stop thinking that you'll die if you don't eat animal flesh, cause you won't!

Start thinking that the life of the lowly COW is holy.

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06 November 2008

Old Boys Club Rules at Health Authority

No woman who lives on Vancouver Island would be surprised by the report that transgressions done by male employees of the Vancouver Island Health Authority receive less stern, if any, disciplinary action than do transgressions done by female employees.

A hospital security guard who had sex with a psychiatric patient still works for the Vancouver Island Health Authority. So does an officer who was caught on video tape viewing pornography on a hospital computer while on the job.

But Suzana Kalyn, accused of gossiping about officers looking at pornography on work time and of breaching confidentiality, was fired.

“I find that male Officers who engaged in serious inappropriate workplace conduct were treated with fairness and in some instances leniency,” wrote B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Marlene Tyshynski in a 118-page ruling. “Ms. Kalyn, who was alleged to have gossiped and breached a questionably interpreted internal 'confidentiality clause', was not.”

When I first moved to the Island from southern Ontario, I was shocked by how dominated by males virtually all management positions were. Only businesses or services such as credit unions reflected any attempt at balance.

VIHA is no exception in terms of the striking imbalance in the male to female representation in management.

So it's no surprise to me that in such an environment, the old "boys will be boys" tacit support continues as does the harsher treatment of women who fail to measure up to a much higher standard - also enforced by men.

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Few "Eligible" Taxpayers Contribute to RRSPs

The headline cracked me up: Study finds few eligible Canadians contribute to RRSPs.

Barely a third of Canadians who were entitled to make an RRSP contribution last year did, and the total amount contributed was only six per cent of what it could have been, Statistics Canada reported yesterday.

I've been deemed eligible to contribute to an RRSP every year since RRSPs came into being. But for the past eight years, my income has averaged $8,500 annually - that's right, $8,500 annually.

Where would anyone expect a person like me to find money to put into a RRSP; someone who, most years, doesn't even make enough to pay federal or provincial income tax?

Perhaps what's needed is for the eligibility criteria for participation in the RRSP program to be examined, rather than making it appear that taxpayers, particularly low income taxpayers, are clueless about the purported benefits of RRSPs.

Said benefits do not accrue to all RRSP participants. In fact, there can be a cost for those whose total household income is in the lowest two quintiles of income.

Rather than not contributing to a RRSP because they don't know any better, most low income earners are either too strapped to participate or know better than to give their hard-earned dollars to a program which benefits the more affluent at the expense of themselves.

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PBS Documentary on Afghanistan a Must-See

Just finished watching the Frontline documentary, The War Briefing, originally aired October 28th on PBS. I can't state strongly enough that EVERYONE, politicians and members of the general public alike, should view it.

The situation in the region, including in Pakistan, is far, far worse than news reports have been able to portray.

The documentary and website should make us all deeply reflect about Canada's involvement in Afghanistan - or any International involvement, for that matter - particularly in light of Pakistan's fragile position and possession of 50 nuclear weapons.

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05 November 2008

Spaceship Planet Earth

Ho hum, just another tax break for those who need it least.

Journalist Tom Barrett writes that BC's new tax rebate that "whacks the poor, later" is being touted as a cure all for climate control.

It would seem that low income earners will get a break for the first year or two but by year three will pay $47 more per year while their wealthy neighbours will GAIN a whopping $311 per year!

What gives with that?

When you consider that people with less to spend have a far smaller carbon footprint than those who have a swimming pool, sauna, three gas guzzling vehicles, dishwashers and all the "upwardly mobile" conveniences, it's obvious this equation is seriously off kilter.

It is time for all of us to come together to devise an equitable way to sustain the rapidly dwindling natural resources of our world. To admit that "having it all" is not working. To learn another way to be alive and healthy on Spaceship Planet Earth.

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UK: ALL Email, Phone Calls, Web Visits to be Collected by Govt

This is so damn scary.

Internet "black boxes" will be used to collect every email and web visit in the UK under the Government's plans for a giant "big brother" database, The Independent has learnt.

Home Office officials have told senior figures from the internet and telecommunications industries that the "black box" technology could automatically retain and store raw data from the web before transferring it to a giant central database controlled by the Government.

Plans to create a database holding information about every phone call, email and internet visit made in the UK have provoked a huge public outcry. Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, described it as "step too far" and the Government's own terrorism watchdog said that as a "raw idea" it was "awful".

Why stop with Internet-based activity or the phone system? Why not open all mail delivered by the postal service too? Hey, if you've a home or business in the UK which uses a security monitoring service, that's unlikely to be off limits either! You'll have Big Brother in your bedroom, bathroom, just checkin' to make sure you're being a good little citizen.

Because that's what this kind of watchdog mentality is all about; it's reducing the notion of privacy and individual freedom to nothing at all.

H/t to Toedancer over at BnR.

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War against War on Drugs wins a Round

Voters in Michigan said Yes to physician supervised possession and use of cannabis.

In Massachusetts, they took it a step further, saying Yes to marijuana-possession becoming a fine-only offence.

More than 60 percent of Michigan voters decided in favor of Proposal 1, which establishes a state-regulated system regarding the use and cultivation of medical marijuana by qualified patients.

Voters endorsed the measure despite a high profile, deceptive, and despicable ad campaign by Prop. 1 opponents -- who falsely claimed that the initiative would allow for the open sale of marijuana "in every neighborhood, just blocks from schools."

...Michigan's new law goes into effect on December 4th, at which time nearly one-quarter of the US population will live in a state that authorizes the legal use of medical cannabis.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, some 65 percent of voters (and virtually every town) decided "yes" on Question 2, which reduces minor marijuana possession to a fine-only offense. Like in Michigan, voters rejected a high-profile, deceptive ad campaign by the measure's opponents, who argued that it would increase adolescent drug abuse, permit large-scale marijuana trafficking, endanger workplace safety, and sharply increase traffic fatalities.

Question 2 is expected to become law in 30 days - making Massachusetts the thirteenth state to decriminalize the personal possession and use of cannabis.

As USians move closer to decriminalizing marijuana, Canada's Conservative government moves us backwards. Well done Harper!

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04 November 2008

Mr. Worf, Shields up!

It's straight out of Star Trek.

A powerful magnetic shield may be able to deflect dangerous solar radiation from spacecraft traveling to the moon and other planets, a new study says.

Magnets tested in a recent laboratory experiment could divert radiation safely, a discovery that's "like Star Trek coming to life," said lead author Ruth Bamford, a plasma physicist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the U.K....

Until recently, however, scientists thought shielding spacecraft would require an impractically large magnet — one capable of generating a field 60 miles (100 kilometers) or more across.

"We said, Hang on," Bamford explained. "People are small. We only need to make a little hole in the solar wind."

To test the idea, her team borrowed laboratory equipment used for work in fusion power, a process that also involves magnets. The scientists placed a small magnetized object — a simulated "spaceship" — into a flow of supersonic plasma, which consists of charged particles.

"You don't expect experiments to work first time," she said of the research, which is published today in the journal Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion. "But this did. It was very clear that it was doing its job."

In other news, there's the Harry Potter invisibility cloak.

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Dziekanski Taser Inquiry: No more delays

So says the inquiry's commissioner, Thomas Braidwood. The inquiry will FINALLY resume on January 19th.

One may suspect Braidwood came to take this position in light of the far-too-many people who responded to the latest delay with "Again?!?!"

The inquiry has already been postponed twice because the B.C. Crown hasn't decided if charges will be laid against the four Mounties involved in the incident.

On Tuesday, commissioner Thomas Braidwood said he now plans to subpoena the RCMP officers involved in the incident even if a decision on charges has not been made by Jan. 19.

Commission counsel Art Vertlieb told CBC News the commission just can't wait any longer.

"People are pretty concerned about this, and we have just decided, and rightly so from the commissioner's perspective, well, let's use subpoenas, and we'll start putting this in motion to start January 19," said Vertlieb.

Uh huh.

Well, a look at this CBC interactive tool sheds light on why people are not simply "pretty concerned" but a whole lot concerned.

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A Good News Day with Manley Out

Am relieved at John Manley's decision NOT to run for the Liberal leadership.

Now if only rightist Ignatieff wouldn't run. Had Iggy been leader of the Liberal Party in 2003, Canada would have participated in Dubya's attack on Iraq.

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03 November 2008

Must-Read on Religious Intolerance

Fantastic post over at DTK is a must-read if you care about the intolerance of religionists. According to one writer, her freedom to tout her religiosity takes precedence over another's right to be free of said touting while participating in a PUBLIC ceremony.

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02 November 2008

Podcast - Stories of Poverty in the 1st Person - E21, Vanessa

Episode 21 of 24. A reading from the book Policies of Exclusion, Poverty & Health: Stories from the front.

Vanessa's background is one of wealth, with an emphasis on conservatism, religion and traditional "family values" and roles.1

Likely not surprising, Vanessa's independent spirit and suspected genius almost immediately placed her at loggerheads with her family's expectations and the norms of much of society still.

When I thought about my future, one thing was clear: I didn't want to grow up and serve some man. I didn't want to get married... There was no freakin' way in hell I was staying home 'til 5 o'clock and making sure someone's dinner was warm. I didn't want to be a servant. I worried and fretted about this. I did not want to be a wife; that's what it boiled down to. I could accept the notion of fatherhood, but not husband...

Then, when I did grow up, that's what I became. For years. That's the biggest thing that bothers me about society: It beats your spirit out of you.

1 Which prompts me to wonder whether the pressures to maintain traditional gender roles might not be even greater among the very wealthy. That is, wives of the very wealthy need not work to maintain their or their family's lifestyle or put food on the table.

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Aaawwww... Tycoons hit by market dive

Where's a box of tissue when you need one?

Here's something that might provide a bit of solace amid the plunging values in your retirement accounts: Warren Buffett is losing lots of money, too. So are Kirk Kerkorian, Carl Icahn and Sumner Redstone.

They are still plenty rich, but their losses ... illustrate how today's punishing market has spared few victims when even big-name investors, corporate executives and hedge-fund titans are all watching their wealth evaporate.

The portfolio damage for some of these high-flyers has soared to billions of dollars in recent months. And they can't just blame the market's downdraft - some did themselves in...

As stocks have plunged, so have the value of chief executives' equity stakes in their own companies. The average year-to-date decline is 49 percent for the corporate stock holdings of CEOs at 175 large U.S. companies...

"Everyone wants to see executives have skin in the game...," said Steven Hall, a founder and managing director of [a] compensation consulting firm. "But in the end, we have to remember they still have billions to fall back on."

But there have been recent instances where executives' large equity positions have blown up - not only damaging a particular CEO's portfolio but the company's shareholders, too...

Not mentioned in the article is that certain CEO's and their boards must also take responsibility for having poorly managed their corporations.

Three examples of such corporations immediately come to mind: General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

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01 November 2008

Burger King Stock Up - Why the surprise?

The headline reads: Burger King up despite downturn

As if this event is at all surprising.

Burger King Holdings Inc. posted higher sales in North America and stood by its full-year profit forecast in the face of an economic downturn. The world's No. 2 hamburger chain said sales at global stores open at least one year rose 3.6 per cent. Same-store sales in North America were up three per cent, helped by menu items like Apple Fries and Kraft Mac & Cheese.

Why would anyone be surprised that individuals and families who likely frequented middle to up-scale restaurants in the past are now turning to Burger King? I've no doubt that the profits of MacDonald's and other fast-food chains are up too.

This is only further evidence of the widening gap between the rich and the poor, the result being a lopsided hourglass with bloated head (wealthy), skeletal torso (upper to lower middle class) and enormous hips (the huge numbers below the poverty line).

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Halloween Treats withheld from Kids of Obama Supporters

You read that headline right. A woman in Detroit gave out Halloween treats only to children whose parents supported John McCain. Children of Obama supporters were turned away.

Shirley Nagel of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, handed out candy Friday only to those who shared her support for the Republican presidential candidate and his running mate, Sarah Palin...

TV station WJBK says a sign outside Nagel's house warned: No handouts for Obama supporters, liars, tricksters or kids of supporters.

Nagel calls Democrat Barack Obama scary. When asked about children who were turned away empty-handed and crying, she said simply: Everybody has a choice.

How sick can you get?

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A "How To" on Civil Disobedience

Here's a lesson on how to use civil disobedience effectively.

Otto the octopus of the Sea Star aquarium in Coburg disapproved of his surroundings.

We knew that he was bored as the aquarium is closed for winter, and at two feet, seven inches Otto had discovered he was big enough to swing onto the edge of his tank and shoot out the 2,000 Watt spotlight above him with a carefully directed jet of water...

Once we saw him juggling the hermit crabs in his tank, another time he threw stones against the glass damaging it. And from time to time he completely re-arranges his tank to make it suit his own taste better - much to the distress of his fellow tank inhabitants.

Clearly, Otto was expressing his displeasure with the choices his controllers had made for him and had his own, independent views of what they should be.

Might we learn something from Otto about asserting our autonomy? Or the wrenching back of same from the powers-that-be?


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