31 December 2008

Federal Intervention in Municipal Affairs

Wonder if this move by Rona Ambrose, courtesy of the federal government is even legal. How can the feds insert themselves into an essentially municipal matter? Or is it that the feds can act with impunity?

Consider what happened in British Columbia when we had the BC Ferries kerfuffle three or four years ago. After there seeming to be no end in sight to the strike, the BC government legislated the workers back to work. Regardless of whether that decision was a wise one, this was a province intervening concerning a service that was under provincial jurisdiction.

Such is not the case with the Ottawa transit situation. How are the feds justified, legally (or at minimum, ethically), in getting themselves involved?

The more I think about this, the more it feels dreadfully wrong. Imagine your municipality's affairs interfered with by the federal government, rather than managed by your elected municipal government!

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Delicious Horse Meat

Why are we upset by such a headline? Horse meat? Considered a delicacy in Japan and France, horses are not something Canadians will eat.

Seems like there is an over abundance of race horse owners who are frustrated by a pending court case that has closed harness-racing tracks in Quebec. Owners say they cannot afford to keep their horses at $2000 a year so are selling them to the slaughter houses.

"Yves Filion says he's had a lifelong passion for horse racing, but as Quebec's troubled industry plunges deeper into uncertainty, he wonders what the future holds for himself -- and his trotters.

A pending court case has led to the indefinite closure of Quebec's harness-racing tracks and, to brace for the financial fallout, the veteran horseman already has dispatched a pair of his prizewinner-producing mares.

"I sent them to the abattoir," he said in an interview at his stable, Bayama Farms Inc., in St-Andre-D'Argenteuil, northwest of Montreal.

The casualties included 11-year-old Pacific Terrific -- the mother of Bayama standard bred racehorses Cherry Grove and Charming Ideal.

"It's sad, but I didn't have a choice," he said. "If the industry looked good for the future I wouldn't have had to send them over there. I would have kept them."

...The horsemeat industry in Canada has grown since the United States banned horse slaughterhouses in 2007, when Canadian producers began importing more animals for slaughter.

From the start of 2008 until the end of November, Canadian abattoirs slaughtered more than 100,000 horses, says Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. "

Where is the compassion for the dear little lambs and sweet baby cows or for all the other non-plant food we ingest in massive amounts throughout our lives?

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Canada's Senate - Why divvied by party?

Where is it constitutionally set that members of Canada's Senate should identify with this political party or that? What have parties to do with it?

I don't understand why parties must be represented in the Senate. That they are points largely to the fact that the vast number of appointees have been party loyalists or people well connected to the backroom boys who run the parties - or the backroom boys themselves.

That Senators divide themselves into Camp Liberal, Camp Conservative and (lonely) Camp NDP offers one good reason for an elected Senate or outright abolishment of the Senate.

After all, why not have the Senate comprised of citizens who identify as nonpartisan?

And, a more radical - read "more democratic" - thought ... Rather than allow politicos to appoint people to the Senate or have Senators elected, why not randomly select Canadian citizens who are willing to serve in the Upper House and have a new selection take place every eight years?

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30 December 2008

Chrysler buys pricey full-page ads to say "Thank you"

Can these people get any more absurd? Where the hell are their brains?! Chrysler ran several full-page ads last week to say Thank You to USians

for "investing" in the company through the government's $17.4 billion auto industry bailout plan...

The ads ran last week in several major daily newspapers, including USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution... A full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal runs between $206,000 and $264,000, and a full-page ad in USA Today runs between $112,000 and $217,000...

"Years ago there was a robber who was really polite. He said please and thank you while he was robbing people. At the end of the day, people had their money stolen. Saying thank you doesn't make it OK. They should give the money back," said [Grover] Norquist, [president of Americans for Tax Reform]...

The ad buys have also triggered a wave of criticism on blogs and editorial pages.

One recent letter to the editor in the Chicago Tribune said the automaker "proved their incompetence" by taking out the ads.

The report is from a FAUX News site. Ergo, this post does not link to it. If you're curious, I recommend you work the google magic.

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Pondering Protein

Seems like Kathy Freston and other vegan eaters hear the same question from meat eating acquaintances as I do. "But, how do you get enough protein?"

I find her response helpful but it doesn't give examples of how much protein our food contains. So I have compiled a short list.

The Recommended Daily Amount for protein lists 46 grams for women and 56 for men.*

So what does that equate to in food intake?

  • Tofu (3.5 oz. bean curd), 7.8 g
  • A can of beans (without the pig meat), 15.8 g
  • One cup of cooked lentils, 15.6 g
  • One quarter cup raw almonds, 5.3 g
  • One quarter cup roasted peanuts, 9.4 g
  • One tablespoon of peanut butter, 3.9 g
  • One slice of toasted whole wheat bread, 2.4 g
  • 1/4 lb. lean ground cow muscle, 23.5 g
  • 1/4 lb. chicken's breast, 18.6 g
  • 1/4 lb. freshly murdered salmon, 25.5 g
  • One scrambled chicken egg, 7.2 g
  • One ounce 2% cottage cheese, 31 g

* Information taken from the Nutrition Almanac, compiled by John D Kirschmann, Director of Nutrition Search, Inc.

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28 December 2008

Strengthening Community by Riding the Bus

They call it a community on wheels but its reach travels further, to the community without wheels.

A group of Sooke bus riders has put a new twist on their hour-long work commute to and from Victoria every day on the No. 61.

Instead of spending the ride in solitary silence, nosing into a book or staring out the windows, the commuters race against each other to complete crossword puzzles, buy and sell wares, and plan social events with each other -- which they get to by bus, of course...

B.C. Transit spokeswoman Joanna Morton said this is the first time the company has heard of the community-on-wheels aspect of bus commuting.

"It's given us a nice warm fuzzy. The bus isn't just for getting you from point A to point B," Morton said. "It's giving you the opportunity to get to know people in your community."

The sociable aspect has turned the bus ride from a time to be endured into a vital part of the commuters' day.

"You wouldn't think a bus is more than a piece of equipment," Wright said.

"But you can't sit on the 61 and not somehow get involved."

Now if the public transportation up-Island could be improved, there's a large number of additional small to middling sized communities which would love to follow Sooke's most excellent example.

Look at all the smiles in this photo. Sure beats the glum expressions transit riders usually wear.

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27 December 2008

C-Day over, now come the New Year retrospectives ad nauseum

Gawd, I hate this time of year.

It's bad enough that everyone has a religious holiday imposed on them and are subjected ad nauseum to all the sights, sounds, and hype that go with it. It's bad enough the deadening which happens, especially in smaller communities, at this time of year because of said religious holiday.

But then C-Day no sooner passes and it's on to the nauseating, stupidly irrelevant New Year retrospectives.

And what's with the year ending on December 31st anyway? Wouldn't it make more sense for the year to turn over on one of the equinoxes?

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26 December 2008

To Catch a Thief

Confronted by store manager, thief escapes, still at large.
A thief remains at large after pulling off a daring heist - in the pet food aisle.

Surveillance video at a supermarket in this Salt Lake City suburb caught a dog shoplifting...

The video showed the dog walking in the front door of Smith's Food & Drug in Murray, and heading straight to Aisle 16, the pet food aisle, where it grabbed a bone worth $2.79.

The thief wasn't even perturbed by a face-to-face confrontation with store manager Roger Adamson.

"I looked at him. I said 'Drop it!' " Adamson said.

"He looked at me, and I looked at him, and he ran for the door and away he went, right out the front door."

Now that's chutzpah!

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25 December 2008

Daphne's Paid Work


List my paid-for work? Who started this?

Here goes:

- Blueberry picker and packer
- Bean picker, no packing
- Childminder
- Cranberry cleaner and packer (the women who worked there were jealous of my long painted finger nails and gave me a hard time...sheesh!)
- Gem cutter. (Yup, I cut and polished tiny ovals of jade, tiger eye and other semi-precious stones.)
- Retail Sales Clerk at a Duty Free Shop in a Canadian international airport
- Manager of the same Duty Free Shop supervising ten people; I was 18 years old
- Cheque writer for an insurance company in the claims department
- Short order cook for a small mining outfit
- Scrap truck driver/fork lift operator
- Classified Ads taker and Assistant to Display Ad Editor for a community newspaper
- Accounts payable/receivable Clerk in a company that manufactured steel suspension springs for large transport trucks.
- PayMaster at a trucking outfit
- Labourer for an auto seat cover manufacturer
- Night school secretary
- Pizza maker/store manager
- Manager/programmer for a Senior Citizens Center
- Director for summer programs catering to other-able-ed children and adults
- Counsellor and extra curricular activities Programmer for other-able-ed children
- Executive Director for an association for other able-ed children and adults which offered a pre-school, operated a garage station, a sheltered workshop, a retail outlet and a transportation system
- Grocery store cashier
- Residential counsellor: live-in "co-worker" at an experimental village...... long story.....
- Special education swim instructor and lifeguard
- Chief, Vocational, Continuing and ABE Instructor for a community college (no, not all at once.)
- Night school secretary for same
- Equipment organizer and operator for same
- Educational Planner for same
- Special Needs Co-ordinator/Counsellor for same
- Coffee shop co-ordinator for same
- Owner/operator of silk-screen printing business
- Sales associate for another screenprinter
- Labourer in a hot house that grew long English cucumbers
- Gardener's assistant
- In-house commercial Baker for convenience store
- Enumerator for the last door-to-door collection of information to register citizens for federal elections
- Child care worker for "hard to place" teenage girls
- Case worker/life skills trainer for a brain injured individual
- Basic construction carpenter
- Carpenter's assistant
- Bus depot clerk
- Self-employed Counsellor for other-able-ed children and adults
- Life skills worker in a home for semi-independent women
- Social activist
- Facilitator for a family caregivers support group
- Respite person for in-home caregivers

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Cuban shopping website helps circumvent US embargo

Gotta love this.

Spanish-based Grupo Excelencias teamed with Cuba's Communist government to create mallhabana.com, which offers prices in U.S. dollars. It says it can deliver products within 24 hours to homes in Havana and get purchases to even the country's most-remote addresses within three weeks.

"It's a good business but it's also a way for Cubans [overseas] to help their family members here," Sergio Perez, the Havana director of the Spanish-language site, said Tuesday.

It also appears to directly challenge U.S. legal limits on shipping funds to Cuba or spending money on the island.

Dozens of the products listed are made in Cuba - like Havana Club rum or iconic guayabera shirts. Others are imports already stocked by upscale government-run stores, such as 29-inch Panasonic TVs or crunchy peanut butter from Canada.

Go have a look-see.

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Religulous, the Documentary, a must-see

Just finished watching Bill Mahar's Religulous and highly recommend it to everyone. Fantastic ending, makes you want to get up immediately and go agitate for rationalism.

Am unable to go to movie theatres or purchase DVDs so I confess to 'borrowing' a copy. One might also try here to view the movie online.

I so needed an antidote for all the C-Day stuff going on today. How appropriate that a copy of Religulous finally, after two months, found its way to the masses.

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Cure for News Industry: Fire 70% of your editors

Such is the recommendation of Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer prize-winning reporter with the New Yorker.

Asked in an interview by Faisal Abbas of the Arab press about the state of investigative journalism in the U.S., Hersh responded:

In America, it is collapsing. Economically it's a disaster. I have an easy fix for the problems regarding reporting in America; I would get rid of 70 per cent of the editors. You see it is always the more cautious people that get promoted and the more aggressive people who do not because they are harder to control.

Gawd, how I'd love to see the mavericks in charge!

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24 December 2008

ICBMs, Peace on Earth, ...

In response to this post from a fellow Progressive Blogger, I submit the following, the YouTube version of Hugh Harman's 1939 cartoon classic Peace on Earth.

A link in the original post was not provided, but here's one report I was able to find regarding Russia's plans for ICBM deployment.

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Dammit Janet! - Ocean tagged

Apologies to anyone who might have tagged me previously. Hadn't been paying attention to this work meme, frankly. But dammit, Janet caught me.

So here's the list (what I can remember of it). Am NOT gonna check it twice.

  • babysitter
  • waitress - For two whole days (was gawdawful at it)
  • magazine subscription seller
  • stenographer
  • receptionist
  • go-go dancer - Remember the Mynah Bird, in Toronto's Old Yorkville, circa the summer of 1966? 'Twas me up in the window.
  • ballroom dance teacher
  • bits 'n pieces of office jobs at numerous employers
  • office manager
  • letter carrier (three separate blocks of time)
  • pizza delivery driver (three separate blocks of time)
  • dance teacher (several different blocks of time, in various locations) - There was one entire year that I delivered pizza Friday and Saturday evenings and all day Sundays, was a letter carrier during the week and taught dancing the other evenings and Saturdays. The overwork and excessive physical demands caused major stress and health problems.
  • owner/operator of three dance studios
  • recreation program director (four different periods of time and locations)
  • choreographer
  • grad student activist against abuse by profs
  • founder/coordinator of now-defunct Canada Connection, Indiana U, Bloomington
  • university teaching assistant
  • university instructor/course designer
  • web developer
  • creator of online site/courses, online instructor for HTML, CSS
  • founder/coordinator of now-defunct WISE, a poverty group
  • grant/funding proposal writer
  • researcher
  • writer
  • poverty, electoral reform activist
  • speech writer and presenter/speaker
  • workshop facilitator
  • all 'round ruckus raiser
There's much more, but this'll do.

Now passing this on to: Friend Daphne (thought you were gonna escape this, woman? Ha, ha, ha, ha!), JimBobby Sez, The Regina Mom, Jan from the Bruce and Wandering Coyote.

Apologies if you've already been tagged; if so, you will of course ignore. You may ignore this directive anyway. That was my temptation. :-)

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23 December 2008

I Hate the Holidays - Part 3

Part 1. Part 2.

Here's the last of the three posts. Private and public responses from listserv subscribers came between the three and continued after the last one.

It's interesting that my original 'I hate the holidays' post was taken as a philosophical point to be discussed, and therefore subject to dispute, rather than what it was - a message straight from the heart, from myself and my community. What I wrote is how we feel. Others obviously do not feel the way we do about the holidays, but I'd no more challenge their feelings than they should challenge ours.

My second post, about once-a-year gift giving, drew the most ire, as evidenced by the public and private messages I've received. The majority of writers were highly selective in what they took from that post - e.g., ignoring the 'once-a-year' qualifier and equating my words to be stamping such givers as "evil" (yes, one person used that word).

Of interest to researchers may be a tally of the public and private responses I received to those two posts.

Total received so far - 15
Number of positives (thank-yous, bravos, etc) - 6
Number of negatives (disagrees, how-dare-yous, etc.) - 9

With the exception of one person, the positives were from other people who currently live in poverty. How I appreciated your support!

The negative responses were all from people who do not now live in poverty. Some reported having lived in poverty at some time in their lives, or they know someone who lives in poverty, or they work with people in poverty.

Anyone else see the pattern?

Among the negative comments was that an 'I hate the holidays' post from someone marginalized by poverty, who was writing on behalf of herself and others in her marginalized community, was inappropriate for this listserv. Seems they may be right.

Afterwards, there was some backing off. Perhaps people learned something.

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I Hate the Holidays - Part 2

A few people appear unable to access the conversation on the listserv, so for them here's the second of my three posts. (See original here.) This one drew the most fire from listserv subscribers:

Some defenders of the holiday season say that it enables families to come together. That's part of my point. Why does it take the holidays for people to meet - or for other people, in more privileged positions, to arrange for poor families to get together?

Consider the holiday celebrants who give 'to the hungry' or 'the needy' or 'the less fortunate' - but only at Christmas.

Why do these people bother giving at all?

  • From obligation, due to religious or cultural pressures? If yes, surely they must see the hypocrisy!
  • To feel good about themselves? This suggests that such feeling can be bought.
  • From guilt, because they have so much and others so little? If so, then why give just once a year?

Here's what my community would like to tell these people: We are not here to absolve your conscience. We do not want your gifts.

Shocking, isn't it? How dare we!

We dare. We dare challenge a system that enables positions of privilege for some and imposes bottom-of-the-food-chain status on the rest.

NB: In these posts, I was writing as the coordinator of WISE, on behalf of myself and other low-income women who were members of (the now defunct) organization; i.e., on behalf of only women I knew. Responses received privately from the listserv displayed incredible lack of sensitivity and close-mindedness.

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I Hate the Holidays

In December 2006, I sent the following to a 1,200 member listserv whose focus is the Social Determinants of Health. The SDOH that draws their most ardent attention is poverty and the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

I learned sometime later that the post had been printed for distribution by a poverty group in Alberta and by an organization in Australia which serves aborigines.

I hate the holidays. So does anyone I know who lives in poverty, including the children, who are torn by the tension produced from the excitement of their peers, advertisers' unrelenting hype, and trying to accept their circumstances and be supportive family members.

As a single woman living in poverty in a rural community, what I dislike the most are the assumptions:

  • that everyone celebrates something at this time of year,
  • that everyone wants to receive gifts, regardless of whether they celebrate something at this time of year,
  • that everyone should give gifts, regardless of whether they celebrate something at this time of year,
  • that everyone should do something to celebrate, regardless of whether they celebrate something at this time of year,
  • that everyone can get around regardless of the transit system going on holiday at this time of year.

What makes it really hard is the deadening. It's as though small communities like mine, over the course of the holiday frenzy, have sucked themselves dry and stopped breathing. All stores and offices close for at least three days and some for two weeks, the sounds of human industry fall silent. It's like everyone, the community itself (including Internet communities), dies or goes away. And so those left behind, the ones who don't or can't play the holiday game, feel the stamp of 'outsider' that much more starkly.

There were both positive and negative responses to this and a subsequent post. The condescension and harshness of some of the negative posts (the majority) surprised me, especially given the nature of the listserv. But then, perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised at all.

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Tent Cities Toolkit

Have discovered a new resource to add to this blog's short list of Favorite Links & Resources. 'Tis Tent Cities Toolkit - a DVD which I'd love to get but of course cannot afford!

See also the related link Dignity Village. The organization that helped spawn Dignity Village is The City Repair Project, whose aim is to make communities, well, communities again - places that are inclusive, where all kinds of people accept one another for who they are where everyone can have a sense of belonging and of home.

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22 December 2008

HarperCo clinches deal to free up short-term debt

Anyone notice this?

Intense last-minute talks between Ottawa and major foreign banks have yielded a deal that is expected to end a 16-month crisis and head off losses of as much as $25-billion for Canadian investors.

Sources said the federal government and the banks, which include Deutsche Bank AG and Merrill Lynch & Co., reached a weekend agreement that should mean the end of the asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP) meltdown that has locked up $32-billion of money belonging to investors big and small since August, 2007.

The deal, which comes after Ottawa and three provincial governments agreed to provide about $3.5-billion in credit lines, means that investors should get access to their money in January, barring any last-minute complications.

That would be a huge relief for investors ranging from pension fund Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which is stuck with about $13-billion of the debt, to individual Canadians who had sunk their life savings into the investments because they were touted as a safe alternative to government bonds.

Am no economist, but isn't this just another bailout? The timing of the announcement just strikes me as suspicious.

From the point of view of someone having to find evermore creative ways to live on $8,000 - an income which has remained the same for the past eight years, has no cost of living allowance attached to it and of which 70 percent is consumed for rent - I do wonder about all these bailouts.

And I do wonder how so many pro-market capitalists think it justified to apply "socialist" economics to extricate themselves from the results of their own greed. Apparently, market capitalism is fine for the wealthy, except when it isn't. The poor in either case be damned.

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Day FOUR without hot water

UPDATED - and still no sign of a plumber...

Sometime Friday, this building lost its hot water. The Resident Manager says it was a cracked pipe somewhere down the line - and no, it wasn't due to cold weather, but the age of the plumbing.

This building is about 40 years old and over the six years that I've lived here, has been allowed to deteriorate without any maintenance done. Finally, however, the roof was replaced, a recent job which took four weeks to complete. Due to the roofers' lack of caution - dropping heavy loads rather than placing them, for example - the job caused further damage to units on the top floor, of which mine is one.

My unit already had fairly extensive drywall damage around the window due to the leaking roof and poorly framed (single-pane) windows. Now it has lost its overhead kitchen fixture and there appears to be further structural damage.

So this time, it's the hot water that's gone kablooey. Just when the Cowichan Valley has turned into Ontario's snow belt. The likelihood that the plumber will arrive today to continue the work he began on Friday is ... well, let's just say it's hoped the man has a horse-drawn sleigh.

As for the owner of this property, he should reduce the rent for all tenants. 'Course the likelier scenario is he'll raise our rents higher than usual, using the new roof and plumbing repairs to justify the hike.

PS. It's also cold in here. A few days ago, we were without heat for 36 hours. Feels like the heating system is still having its problems.

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21 December 2008

Winter Solstice - Michele McLaughlin

The first post of the day was our 300th! And now post 301, for your listening pleasure...

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20 December 2008

WS-minus 12 hours

WS as in winter solstice, that is.

At 12:04 GMT on Sunday Dec. 21, 2008, the northern hemisphere begins its tilt back toward the sun. (That's 7:04 a.m. for those who think the Eastern Time zone is the centre of the universe.)

From that time onward until June, the days start getting longer. Now that is something to celebrate.

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New Homeless Shelter Gets It Right

This is more like it.

Less than a week after the pews and floors at First United Church became a night time-shelter, the church's Rev. Ric Matthews believes the experiment is already offering Vancouver's newly minted homeless task force some "important lessons."

"We need shelters to feel more homely," said Matthews... "A shelter may not be a home, but it needs to feel like one."

Unlike most shelters, First United doesn’t have any restrictions on its guests - people can come and go as they please, men and women can stay together and people can bring their pets and shopping carts... Matthews said some homeless people like the First United shelter because it's like a "sleepover with their friends."

"I don't think shelters give people a sense of belonging," said Matthews.

Now all we need is affordable housing which permits the same freedoms. After all, such freedoms are what property owners and more affluent members of society are allowed.

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19 December 2008

Vancouver Homeless Fix: About damn time!

The solution? Less than aesthetically-pleasing, 'temporary' housing intended to deal with the immediate situation. Not that similar ideas haven't been promoted for decades by those at risk of homelessness and homeless people. But of course, no one ever listens to us, the real experts on what will and won't work.

A plan to house Vancouver's homeless is taking shape on the drawing board of a local architect. It calls for the rapid erection of temporary villages assembled from the same type of modular units that mining companies provide for remote workers.

"Stop Gap Housing" is what architect Gregory Henriquez calls it...

"It's portable dwellings. It's not meant to be a permanent fixture on the landscape. But it could serve for several years until we complete the construction of permanent housing," he said...

It's also cheaper... this sort of housing would save B.C. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year in police, ambulance, and health expenses...

Henriquez took plans from Britco Structures, which operates plants in Agassiz and Penticton, and showed them to managers from the Portland Hotel Society, which rents to hundreds of the Downtown Eastside's hardest-to-house individuals.

The Portland team suggested that individual units - with ensuite bathrooms and fronts that open directly to the outdoors - would be more acceptable to individuals not accustomed to coping with neighbors, as well as to those reluctant to give up pets or bicycles.

Pets! People who have been homeless would be 'allowed' to keep their animal companions! It's about damn time.

If this actually gets done in Vancouver, I would hope the project would spread to other parts of the province.

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Headline angers and I've lots of company

It reads: Auto bailout greeted with optimism in Canada.

The mayors of Oshawa and Windsor ... welcomed Friday's announcement of U.S. support for the troubled Detroit Big Three.

Oshawa Mayor John Gray said the bailout should help to lift some of the uncertainty the Big Three are facing by getting them to a March 31 deadline to ensure their viability.

"We can, at least, get these companies through the hurdle," Gray said.

"Hopefully by then, some of the credit will start to ease up so that buyers buy vehicles," he said.

Idiot. You'd have to have been living alone on a desert island, with no communications tools, to buy that idea. If I were in the market for a new vehicle, I'd certainly not shop for one produced by the Wee Three.

As to the bailout being "greeted with optimism in Canada," how much more misleading could that be? The "optimism" is by those who've a vested interest in seeing the bailout happen: the auto industry and local politicians whose cities are affected.

Said optimism, as evidenced by polls and comments on major news sites - including that of the CBC -, is not shared by the large majority of taxpayers.

Daphne and I have a lot of company in terms of being dead against ANY bailout. This recent poll reveals that low-income earners and women, particularly, are against government going into deficit to bail out industry.

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Aaawwww ... Cute Alert!

This little kitty just loves his broccoli.

Make sure you've got sound turned on.

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18 December 2008

Nature: Canada's scientists face uncertain future

In Nature magazine no less.

Political turmoil leaves key positions in doubt.

Canadian researchers are wondering what 2009 will bring for science, as an unprecedented shutdown of parliament has left the country's political future in limbo...

Many Canadian scientists have complained about the way science has been treated under Harper. In the lead-up to the October 2008 election, they rallied against the Conservative government by issuing two letters of protest. One called for politicians to crack down on greenhouse-gas emissions, the other for an end to the mistreatment and politicization of science. "While science is not the only factor to be considered in political decision-making, ignoring and subverting science and scientific processes is unacceptable," said the 8 October letter, which was signed by 85 scientists and addressed to the five party leaders. Their examples include the closing of the Office of the National Science Advisor (see 'Canada abolishes its national science adviser'), the alleged muzzling of Environment Canada scientists, and the alleged suppression and misrepresentation of research related to Vancouver's supervised centre for users of injection drugs.

The Harper government continues to damage Canada's reputation. We're not used to getting noticed by the rest of the world. And those few times we were, it was almost always in a good light. But not anymore!

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BC NDP Response: No and no

See the original post, which includes my Nov 19 email to the NDP. These were my two questions to Carole James:

  1. Will your party state its support for STV?
  2. Will your party direct Elections BC to change to STV if an absolute majority (50% + 1) of voters choose in favour of the new system, regardless of whether the government's imposed threshold of 60% is not achieved?

Here is Carole James' response:

Dear Chrystal Ocean,

Thank you for your e-mails regarding STV. We feel that this important decision about our electoral system needs to be determined by the voters, free from partisan intervention from the political parties.

The rules for the referendum have been set by the government. If the referendum succeeds, the NDP will support its full implementation.

As you may know, the NDP has long supported electoral reform, and we have put forward a model for mixed proportional representation. If the STV referendum fails, we will continue to work for an electoral system that is fair and balanced.

Thank you again for writing

Sincerely, Carole James, Leader
Official Opposition


Thank you for your e-mails regarding STV. We don't want to tell you what we think.

With our agreement, the 60 percent threshold for passage of the referendum was set in place by the Liberals. Should we form the government, we therefore will not accept any YES vote which is less than 60 percent - although we would certainly have the option of doing so.

The NDP has long supported electoral reform - of the kind which WE, not necessarily the people of British Columbia, approve. The model of reform we might work toward in the future is mixed proportional representation

In other words, the answers to the two questions are NO and NO. Which tells me that the NDP, already shown to be hypocrites and opportunists concerning carbon taxes, have revealed themselves to be interested in democratic principles only when they suit them.

[Sent a response to James, asking for clarification of her and the NDP's position. Shall post that to the blog in the New Year or after I get a response, whichever comes first.]

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Of recessions, depressions we choose depression

About recessions and depressions, Daphne and I are hoping for a Depression. You know, spread the poverty. A depression would be one way - perhaps the only way - of levelling things out a bit. Perhaps others, in tightening their belt, might come to some conclusions we poor people are well aware of. For example, one can live with less, a lot less and continue to have a satisfying life.

According to Warren Jestin, Scotiabank's senior vice president and chief economist, "global economic activity is receding rapidly, despite unprecedented government actions to support credit markets and inject big doses of monetary and fiscal stimulus to revive consumer, business and investor confidence."

In other words, had the damn governments left well enough alone, had they not spent trillions upon trillions of taxpayer dollars on bank and stock market bailouts, with industry bailouts to follow, had they let mismanaged corporations, banks, whatever, go bankrupt, then the global economy would have been no worse off. Likely there'd have been short(er) term pain, but that pain wouldn't have lasted so long.

If the market capitalists are so gung-ho about their ideology, then they should damn well let the market correct itself.


If we all fail together, we MAY come up with a better way to live on our shared spaceship!

Contrary to hype, the philosophy of "share the wealth" doesn't occur. The wealth in a market-driven economy only gets hoarded by an increasingly narrower group of the elite and powerful. But if a depression happens, then more people will get to "share the poverty" - whether they choose to or not.

And now we read that "powerful people are less compassionate." Which bolsters our point that perhaps, just perhaps, sharing the poverty could expand the extraordinarily scant amount of empathy we have in our society currently.

Some might say our approach is simplistic. We disagree. Once everyone realizes that capitalism is failing, we will all be looking for alternatives. Steady state economy is one idea that has been touted for some time. Why not take steps to grapple with that concept? Or the Venus Project.

Many minds have been offering solutions. Why does it take a looming disaster before we begin to take seriously our precarious position?

[Co-authored by Daphne and Ocean.]

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White House considering "orderly" auto bankruptcy

Now THAT's more like it.

The Bush administration wants to avoid a "disorderly collapse" of the sector, Dana Perino told reporters on Thursday.

There is an "orderly way to do bankruptcies that provides for more of a soft landing," Perino said.

"That would be one of the options. I'm not saying that is necessarily what would be announced," she said, according to Reuters

NO BAILOUTS. Have we made ourselves clear? - Assuming anyone with the power to prevent them is listening!

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Left-Right "brain test" an optical illusion

Turns out that the test some of us did yesterday isn't a scientific test of left-right brain orientation at all.

And I finally managed to visualize the dancer turning counter-clockwise, thanks to this helpful tool.

H/t to Antonia over at BnR.

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17 December 2008

Tests results surprised the heck out of me

Try it yourself. See if you're right-brained or left-brained.

In which direction is the dancer turning? Clockwise or counter-clockwise?

Have always supposed myself to be more left-brained than right-brained, but it's the other way around. And that meshes well with the lists of left/right brain functions.

uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies
uses feeling
big picture oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy and religion
can "get it" (i.e. meaning)
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
risk taking

Tried visualizing the alternative orientation. Couldn't do it and the effort made me feel sick and thoroughly discombobulated.

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16 December 2008

Bailing Out the Auto Sector

Daphne and I don't accept the necessity of a bailout for the auto sector nor, for that matter, any sector which, had it been managed correctly, wouldn't be in the trouble it is now.

Nor do we accept the numbers in the supposedly at arms length report which is currently circulating media outlets and the blogosphere.

Regardless of whether or not the numbers quoted are correct - a potential 517,000 jobs lost if the (now) wee three are left to perish -, we wonder about this scenario:

Suppose major retailers - say, Wal-Mart, Superstore, Costco and such - all were on the verge of bankruptcy, crying their imminent demise and begging to be saved through a government bailout. The retail sector is HUGE. How likely would it be that governments would rush to bail out these corporate giants?

We suspect that governments and politicos would remain silent.

Why? Because all the jobs are low-paying, and losing 517,000 of them would affect only the lowest income class of workers.

As for an auto bailout, that amounts to nothing but corporate welfare. Alternatives to the gas-guzzling North American automobile were firmly in place via the electric car. This vehicle was being mass produced, was affordable, had excellent mileage rates and was a boon to the environment. However, the little car that could created serious competition to Big-Auto and Big-Oil in the USA. These groups lobbied the Bush administration to have it removed. All existing electric cars were "recalled" and sent to a company that shredded them to scrap.

[This post was written by Daphne and Ocean.]

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Worsening Economy Hard on Animal Companions

Same old story, over and over and over again. Yet the interests of property owners continue to override the right of renters to hang onto what may be the only thing keeping them alive.

The North Cariboo SPCA, one of the busiest in the province, takes in more cats than any other shelter in the province, and it's second only to Surrey in rescuing dogs.

Anne Gough, who manages the branch that stretches from Prince George through Mackenzie, said many people in the area have lost their jobs and now they can't afford to fill their dog dish.

"We have some people that love their pets but can no longer care for them," Gough said.

Another problem, Gough said, is that some people are being forced to leave their homes and that often means they must give up their pets.

"More and more are moving into rental complexes that don't allow animals,"
she said.

Ever wonder why there are so many homeless singles with pets?1

The fact is that for some, the presence of a pet is the only thing preventing suicide.

So when your choice is between having shelter and suicide, you've really no choice left. And temporary shelters don't allow pets either nor do the overwhelming majority of subsidized housing units in BC.

When everything else is gone, when distrust of humans has taken hold, for those with an affinity for animals their companions are all that's left to help them maintain their humanity, their ability to care for and love another being. Yet these most vulnerable members of our society are shut out from the very services which are supposed to help them, services such as shelters and subsidized housing, because they literally cannot live without their animal companions.

The BC residential tenancy act must be changed to reflect this reality.

1 Take a look at the first category listed in the Photos section of the Dignity Village website. Such a village, of course, would never be tolerated in places like Victoria or Toronto. And one can completely forget about BC's (and Alberta's) corporate government disallowing no-pets clauses in rental agreements.

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NOW will the BC NDP reply to my email?


The BC government has reversed its decision to silence parties and candidates regarding their positions on the upcoming referendum on electoral reform.

Elections B.C.'s interpretation of a regulation on referendum advertising was it banned parties from stating in their campaign materials a position about the May 12 referendum on adopting the Single Transferable Vote system.

“There was a lack of clarity in the existing regulation,” said Shawn Robbins, a spokesperson for the Attorney General ministry. The intention was never to restrict discussion of the referendum, he said. “I think it's good we've clarified it.”

“We're glad to have it clarified,” said Nola Western, an Elections B.C. director responsible for electoral finance.

The amended regulation, passed on Dec. 11, adds a clause saying “candidates and registered political parties may engage in referendum advertising and, for this purpose, the referendum advertising is deemed to be election advertising under the Election Act.”

Have written emails to the BC NDP previously and not once received a reply. Here's my most recent email, sent November 19th:

What is the BC NDP's position on the coming referendum on electoral reform and the system proposed by the BC Citizens Assembly, BC-STV?


- will your party state its support for STV?
- will your party direct Electons BC to change to STV if an absolute majority (50% + 1) of voters choose in favour of the new system, regardless of whether the government's imposed threshold of 60% is not achieved?

No answer to date, despite my sending two follow-up emails. However, the difference this time is that all emails have also been bcc'd to Fair Vote Canada and Fair Vote BC.

NB: The Green Party of BC has already come out in favour of BC-STV. The BC Liberals are known to be against it. They also set the 60 percent threshold, therefore they would reply NO to the second question.

[Updated cuz this needs to be noticed by someone in the BC NDP. Am fed up with sending them emails which never, ever get answered! What's up with that?!]

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Aaaawww... Cute Alert!

A pair of gay penguins have been given the chance to be surrogate dads.
Last month the birds were segregated after they were caught placing stones at the feet of parents before waddling away with their eggs.

But angry visitors to Polar Land in Harbin, northern China, complained it wasn't fair to stop the couple from becoming surrogate fathers and urged zoo bosses to give them a chance.

In response, zookeepers gave the pair two eggs laid by an inexperienced first-time mother.

"We decided to give them two eggs from another couple whose hatching ability had been poor and they've turned out to be the best parents in the whole zoo,' said one of the keepers...

Wildlife experts at the park explain that despite being gay the three-year-old male birds are still driven by an urge to be fathers.

"One of the responsibilities of being a male adult is looking after the eggs. Despite the fact that they can't have eggs naturally, it does not take away their biological drive to be a parent,' said one.

Too cute for words.

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15 December 2008

Putting your money where your mouth is

That's what I did today. Finally. After thinking about it for the past eight years.

Have known for some time that the big banks care little about ethical investing. Their bottom line is always profit. If the tar sands make profit, for example, then the banks will invest their - or rather, their customers' - money in the tar sands.

As customers, we've no choice in the matter. Other than to take our money elsewhere.

Which is what I did today.

My hesitation had been due to wanting some stability in my life, something which was familiar and hadn't changed. Everything else these past eight years has been unstable, and I've lived with the constant stress of pinching pennies, trying to make sure that each month there'll be enough to pay the rent and hydro, and provide food for Kiltie, Brodie and I.

As happened before, I read an article, this one a couple of weeks ago, about the banks and their investment dollars. The difference was that this time, I was ready to act.

As the international community wrapped up the first week of post-Kyoto treaty negotiations in Poland, cities around the world held rallies calling for action on climate change.

In Vancouver today, volunteers and organizers focused on the role big banks have in funding the tar sands.

Last month, the San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network (which spearheaded the event) published a report analyzing the greenhouse gas emissions of Canada’s five biggest banks, based on their financing of fossil fuel projects.

According to the report, last year Royal Bank, TD Bank, BMO, Scotiabank and CIBC provided a total of $155 billion in direct corporate loans and financing to coal, oil and gas industries.

"[Banks] play a massive role in Canada's future as a contributor to global warming rather than a country that's helping solve the problem," said organizer Graham Girard.

"The main things we're trying to do today is just raise awareness."

On hand were several laptops, on which people could check out a website that calculates exactly how much a savings account at one of the big five banks might contribute to one's carbon footprint.

VanCity and Desjardins were examples of two "low-carbon" financial institutions.

I'd been with the same bank for 30 years. I closed my account with them today.

My new chequing account is at Island Savings Credit Union, which has branches throughout Vancouver Island. Was a hard decision to make, but once done there are no regrets.

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14 December 2008

The Fake Degree Market

In a comment to a blogpost earlier this morning, I remarked about our universities having become mere diploma mills and the fact that post-secondary education has morphed into an industry like any other. Then I see this.

Marie Theriault-Sabourin is a manager in the registrar's office at Algonquin College in Ottawa. She has a master's degree in business administration.

Quami Frederick used her bachelor's degree to get into Toronto's Osgoode Hall law school and was offered a job articling with a Bay St. law firm.

Armed with his Ph.D in political science, police tactical trainer Augustus Michalik counts various Canadian and U.S. law enforcement agencies as his clients.

The problem is, their university degrees are fake.

They are among at least 220 Canadians with bogus academic credentials uncovered in a recent probe.

These diploma mills are so successful because credentialism is rife in the industrial world. Employers insist on proof of educational time served, but pay far less attention to other factors which should be counted as more relevant.

Daphne and I did a presentation at a conference back in March 2007 which included discussion of exactly this issue:

...Stay in school, get your high school diploma, go to university, get a degree, acquire a skill. If you take this advice, your future will be assured.

For decades, children have been told this and adults encouraged to pursue life-long training, all with an eye to getting and staying employed. However, there are problems with this one-size-fits-all advice, particularly when we consider it within the context of market capitalism.

First, it assumes that people who are unemployed do not already have training or education. Yet a great number of us do and the larger that number grows, the more it exposes a serious problem.

Suppose that everyone followed the advice to get an education, get trained. What then? It used to be that a Bachelor’s degree was enough to land a decent job. Then it was a Master’s degree. Now having a PhD isn’t good enough.

Newly-minted PhDs are increasingly required to have at least one post-doc before even being considered for a pseudo-permanent position. As things stand now, many of them are being used – and abused – as contract workers and often getting paid no better than $10 an hour; this, for a decade and more of post-secondary study. How’s that for an investment! For the student, that is. There’s no argument that it’s a great investment of the student’s and taxpayers’ money for educational institutions.

If new PhDs cannot find contract or adjunct work at a university, you may find them flipping burgers, cleaning up other people’s messes, driving taxis, and so on.

In other words, there are and always will be a finite number of jobs for the credentialed.

The knowledge industry is self-perpetuating, self-sustaining, and as our institutions of purported higher learning become evermore made over into the corporate model, contractual and part-time employment is increasingly the norm. But that’s just one aspect of the transformation of our educational institutions...

If you would like to read the full presentation, please send me an email and I will send you the file.

The 20-minute paper discusses i) how values tend to differ from those of the status quo as one undergoes prolonged and severe financial distress, ii) the erosion of our educational institutions, as education is linked to the government subsidizing of industry - the auto industry gets particular mention - and, iii) the changing definition of 'work'. The presentation received a big thumbs up from Guy Standing, former Director of Socio-Economic Security, International Labour Organization.

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Nooooo! - Part 3

Click to view larger version.

Looks to be 20 to 24 cms so far. And it's still snowing.

Sigh. Thought we'd escaped the white stuff.

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13 December 2008

Nooooo! - Part 2 (Yessss!)

UPDATED - See below.

When one lives in paradise - Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island -, one does not expect to see this on one's Google home page:

Have had that staring at me since yesterday. And now it's starting to SNOW.

OK, it's WET snow, but still things look to be getting serious.

Now last year, we had snow on November 30th. About 30 cms of the stuff. But that was OK, because less than ten cms fell over the course of the entire winter which followed.

UPDATE: They were wrong. Yippee! At least, they were wrong about the stuff hitting Duncan.

Yes, there were a few flakes which fell from the murky grey sky as I wrote this post yesterday - but then that was it! I awoke this morning, saw the occasional car driving along the road with snow on its roof, but there was not a single flake anywhere else except a scattering over on yon mountains.

[Click to view larger versions.]

That warning bar is still there though: SNOWFALL WARNING - WIND WARNING CONTINUED.


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12 December 2008

Proportional Representation: Two recent conversions

First - yesterday - it was Maclean's editor Paul Wells.

A conversion: One rough division of labour here at Maclean's has long held that Colleague Coyne advocated for electoral reform, whereas I didn’t care. Those days are over. Part of the recent crisis was due to the way our electoral system affords the Bloc Quebecois far more space than the other parties are willing to afford it legitimacy. If we don’t think a separatist party has as much right as the others to determine who keeps or loses power, then it makes no sense to hang onto an electoral system whose many insanities include its tendency to give the Bloc more seats than its share of votes. I will be looking for a mainstream party that credibly and seriously advocates major electoral reform, to bring our Parliament more closely into alignment with the voters’ wishes.

Then - today - in an editorial on the Globe and Mail is found this.

This newspaper prefers the abolition of the Senate and the adoption of proportional representation for the House of Commons, a measure that would allow the latter to better fulfill some of the functions that the Senate currently performs.

Now if only the purportedly progressive - relative to the G&M and Canwest, at any rate - Toronto Star would see the light.

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11 December 2008

Homelessness: Advice from a "rougher"

Have a folder on my computer named 'Treasures'. In the five years it has existed, only four items have found their way into it. The following is number four, which I discovered recently on a discussion board.

Have been unable to connect with the author, whose real name I don't know, to get his/her permission to reproduce the article.3 However, given the content of the piece, I feel safe in supposing the author to care far more about the message than being recognized as its source.

The message has way too much importance not to be spread as far and wide as possible. If you're anything like me, it will haunt you long after you've read it - which is a good thing.

Poverty, Homelessness and Willpower
The Secrets We Don't Tell Non-Roughers

Ask the poverty-ridden and homeless in a conventional group what they want and they will tell you exactly what they think the public wants to hear. We've all been nicely trained to parrot the party lines.

You'll hear about addictions, mental illness and system scamming. You'll hear about the need for “supportive housing”, more shelters and better social work services. You will hear exactly what you expect to hear. I refuse to go to any more conventions to hear the same shit that's shoveled to the tune of no real results. Billions of dollars wasted to say, “Homelessness is a problem.” With a unionized construction crew, we could have housed every homeless person in this country on far less money.1

Ask those same de-housed people what they want behind closed doors, without any co-ordinator class, social workers or political influence peddlers and listen to the difference.

The story is very, very different.

Behind closed doors, with our own, we hear about how the system is so broken it leads to chronic frustration, clinical depression, increased emotional crisis', feelings of complete inadequacy and mental breakdowns. You'll hear how some clients have to have 2-10 workers/lawyers/doctors just to negotiate the paperwork of Ontario Works, ODSP, medical care and housing. You'll hear the self-hating guilt about having to accept handouts, leftovers and government support from people that could support themselves on token jobs if they didn't have to pay huge rent or stay in subsidized housing or because we need to obtain the necessary drug/dental/health benefits of government hand-outs that we can't get unless we succumb to OW/ODSP.

You'll see the tears over homes we've had and loved that weren't “acceptable” to the outside world. “They took our freedom. They destroyed our community,” are statements I hear frequently.

Squats, camps near train tracks, under the bridges, street crews.

Our dreams of something better—shattered. People we've loved, people who helped us survive that we must turn away from our doors on a freezing winter's night because “housing” doesn't allow us to have overnight guests that stay too long or make too much noise. Of how many of us have been evicted because we've let the very people who insured our survival crash on the floor. Oh yes, it's pleasant to be warm, the toilet flushes and there's a sense of gratitude corrupted with survivor guilt because for everyone who is housed, we leave dozens behind, abandoned. We go to their funerals to mourn and feel more shame for being alive. We don't talk about that to “outsiders”.

Behind closed doors, we talk about the isolation. About knowing that if one of us died today, our body might not be found for weeks.. If we are ill, no one will bring a street nurse from the clinic, warm a can of soup or call the ambulance. These aren't counted as “homeless deaths”. Yet, no street crew would not scream for assistance should they see a member so ill s/he cannot function. The streets are a stern taskmaster. Yet the reality of poverty housing is that death happens frequently because “the worker wasn't available” or “the neighbours didn't notice anything until it started to smell.” Then the closest social service agency will throw some sort of memorial that has little to do with anything we might have actually wanted or believed.

Behind my brown door you'll hear about the stunning invasions of privacy by social services, housing workers, case managers, supervisors, means-testers—none qualified to do intensive therapy yet digging into the painful pasts of those they claim to serve. Tearing apart the pieces without the skill of putting such a complex puzzle of a disrupted life back together.

There's the $20 research studies that carry on endlessly around this city. Go to a conference, or research study get the $20-40 for your input, let someone shred your shame apart and analyze your personal tragedy then send you home with the honorarium for saying what you know they wanted to hear. Tell them all about your destruction, recall it, flashback by flashback and spend days swirling helplessly in traumatic memories with no supports. You're just another research number. The twenty dollars can buy a bottle, or maybe a chicken dinner and chips to comfort you so you can pick your pieces up again. Maybe an old street crew friend will be around to share your woes but it certainly won't be the paid worker who spends hours stitching up the emotional razor slashes.

The poor live with a chronic invasion of privacy, the likes of which no middle/upper class person would tolerate for an instant. Their life stories are passed from worker to worker, team to team, medical practitioners, psychiatrists, housing workers, social workers, bureaucrats, pharmacists, drop-in staffs, government officials all in the name of “help”.

Sign the dozens of consent forms, please, right here, at the "X". Just in case, of course, that someone scams a nickel's worth of taxpayer's money, that although they might really need it, they are not legally entitled to have it. Then the “help” that has stomped on every shred of dignity that a poor person might possess complain that, “these clients have boundary issues.”

Of course we have no “boundaries” left. We bleed publicly to receive our pittances so often we can't help but hate those we perceive, as ever-present paid-love, inconsistently abusive foster parents. We aren't allowed to tell them, “Fuck off. I don't want to talk about it.” or, “Fuck off. You know fuck all about housing the poor, my history, what I wanted for my life, or anything else, you clueless twit.”

Then we blame the poor for a “lack of willpower”.

Well, what creates “willpower”?

Willpower is belief that since we experienced effecting change in the past, we are capable of effecting change in the future.

If you have little experience with seeing change effected, why would you have any willpower to see something new through? The poor are up against the most powerful forces in the world. Most aren't blinded by false hopes that buoy the middle class. Someone controls their money supply, controls their children, controls their housing, controls what employment that can have, controls their healthcare, controls what medications they can access, controls their food supply, controls where they can live, controls what they are entitled to receive in education and on and on.

When the poor come up with a real solution, they are ruthlessly stomped on by the so-called left and right as well as the media unless being portrayed as pitiful victims with “mental health issues”.

Great ideas that the poor promote are stolen from their brains to be sanitized then utilized by the “professionals” as newfangled programs while agencies weasel out more funding by claiming it was a “client led idea”. The same client who showed up at the meeting because s/he needed the proffered free meal. No permanent paycheque to be had for the “client” who came up with the concept, of course. S/he is 'not a qualified professional'. I stopped counting how many friends I've watched explode from injustice because some professional collected a paycheque after said friend instituted a great little inexpensive and much-needed program as an unpaid volunteer. How much “willpower” can one have left after that experience?

Housing squats and camps are a case in point. A “willing” crew gets together, unites and sets up house. Without legal title they are vulnerable to police raids. Social services might step in to “save” them, splitting them apart and isolating each into shelters and housing them far apart to “save problems”. Any sense of community or political influence they might hope to gain is shattered. They are given welfare or ODSP and turned from people with part-time work paying no rent into a begging citizenry. Some will not stay. They'll find another bridge or crew. Then that community will be raided as well. Ah yes, ladies and gentlemen, these are the “hard-to-house-hardcore-homeless”. The merry-go-round goes on and on...

Social service agencies create “supportive housing”. The residents have no say in the rules, how the place is run, the level of service or intrusion into their personal space. Sometimes there are house meetings that pay lip service to the idea, but in truth, it's just to shut the clients up, cut down on the roaches and bedbugs while it keeps the paycheques and status quo rocking along. If the residents “misbehave” the are told to “get into [name program] or be evicted.”

The 'regular' neighbours complain about the subsidized-housed ones, “They have no sense of community. They don't care about their neighbours.” The same neighbours that sneer down their noses publicly at the “lazy bums” and complain about paying taxes for “welfare frauds.” Or perhaps, the neighbours that care realize there's a problem but are simply ineffective at knowing what to do about it.

Jack Tafari who was a main founder of “Dignity Village”2 once told me, “My biggest challenge in building Dignity was convincing the de-housed they don't have to stay in the missionary position.”

Or more crudely put by someone else, “It's hard to stand up for anything when you're forced on your knees to suck colonialist cock.”

So, what is the solution?

Stop blindsiding the poor with middle class social-work agendas. Face reality.

The government is never going to build enough, or adequate housing for every need. There is never going to be a 0% unemployment rate in this country. Those solutions don't serve the politico-corporate agenda.

When the poor come up with their own communities or alternative solutions, support them. Show them that you will back solutions that are not your ideological preference. Show them that they can effect change if they fight. Fight to legalize their tent cities and their squats and their right to house themselves, work at whatever jobs they can for a little pay or jobs they can invent.

You'd be shocked at the energetic creativity some can unleash if you cut us loose.

Stop forcing us into the arms of social services because it assuages your guilt. Understand that every time a squat, trailer/van stop, or camp is crushed that you destroy our very hopes and dreams for a brighter, more independent future. Realize that you are turning your own countrymen into refugees. Fight for our right to build our own communities even if it looks like a messy eyesore to you.

Because that's what it's really all about.

The poor are an eyesore. We make you feel guilty when we're hanging around under bridges, or at hobo camps, or panhandling somewhere public and political. Our visibility is proof that we as a society do NOT have enough housing and that we don't have all the answers to poverty reduction, or unemployment, or disability or substance use or mental health struggles and we will never have perfect solutions.

Considering the economic downturn, letting people find creative alternatives is going to become even more imperative soon. We need to believe we can effect change.

Admit that the people who are considered “crazy”, or “addicted” might actually know more about dealing with other people sharing their fate than those who are profiting from their poverty. Stop blaming the poor for increasing poverty. When Harris gutted Ontario's social programs and abolished rent controls and tenant protection laws, 100,000 de-housed people did not suddenly lose their minds in the following couple of years.

The present minimum wage will not cover the cost of rent in Toronto, or hardly anywhere else, for that matter.

Give us the support to assert our communal will, for our needs not promoted by the colonialist missionary agenda.

Support us to learn to WIN what we want, for ourselves. Wherever that might take us all.

It might even be somewhere better.

1 Want to know what it actually cost to build apx 85 cabins in Tent City Toronto that housed 115 people?

- About $1,000 in tools.
- $0 in reno scraps that we recycled.
- $200 per wood stove.
- $30 per propane heater
- and $10 per week in propane,
- candles and gaslights bought in by private donators.
- Second hand beds, bathtubs, furniture, all scrounged from the garbage of those better off or donated by supportive visitors.
- TDRC brought in some plastic houses that cost a few thousand each although that was not the majority of housing stock.
- TDRC and the city of Toronto supplied porta-potties. Cost unknown.
- Water was hauled from an open fire hydrant

In short, our actual housing cost the taxpayers $0 although some residents used their $200 per month OW “street pay” or ODSP living allowance for tools and supplies which many also lent around the camp to build more housing.

The Pope Squat was in the process of being renovated compliments of the construction unions who also supplied materials. Now the new building owner has received hundreds of thousands in reno dollars from the City to produce rent-geared-to-income apartments too small for my dog to live in.

Get the picture?

- End -

Have felt the same frustrations and heard them expressed by many of my peers. When will those in power get it? Or is it that they don't care to?

2 Here is the Dignity Village mentioned in the article.
3 July 18/09. Found the author of the article today. Writing under both TVParkdale and now reverting to MetisRebel, she has found a resting stop at Homeless Tales.

ETA Dec 5, 2010: Footnote 3 provides a link to Homeless Tales. The former owner of the domain has since moved on as has, I suppose, TVParkdale/MetisRebel. Such is life when one is homeless.

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10 December 2008

Ennui Sets In

Ennui has settled in, like a cloak of wet wool.

We are exhausted almost to the point of not caring how our elected officials behave. Kicking sand at each other, pissing and shouting contests seem to be the norm. Total disregard in listening to the majority of voters creates a dearth of regard for our politicians.

Com'n boys and girls. Get your act together. We are counting on you to go forward with solid plans that enhance the lives and livelihoods of Canadians other than just yourselves!

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07 December 2008

If caucus chooses LPC leader

... then the party will have shown itself, once again, to be elitist and undemocratic. And that will tell me all I need to know in terms of whether or not I should support ANY Liberal candidate or any arrangement, coalition or otherwise, in which the Liberal leader would be placed in the PMO.

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06 December 2008

Veteran videographer to take fall for kerfuffle?

This isn't good.

Stephane Dion’s chief of staff is firing an underling to cover her own mistakes in preparing a poor-quality video for national broadcast Wednesday, Liberal sources say...

Johanne Senecal, Mr. Dion’s chief of staff, emailed CTV on Wednesday night saying she was "livid" over the error and promising to investigate how it happened.

"I apologize for the poor quality and the lateness," she said in the email.

On Friday, Liberal sources said, she moved to fire Mick Gzowski, the party’s veteran videographer.

She did that although he didn’t have enough time to professionally produce the video because Mr. Dion’s inner circle did not finish the text of his speech in time, Liberal staffers say.

"They gave the video guys 25 minutes to shoot 20 minutes worth of video," a veteran Liberal staffer said.

An investigation will show the video crew isn’t to blame, the staffer said.

"Email traffic will show they were screwing around with text hours later than they should have been."

...A staffer said Mr. Dion and his team have lost the confidence not only of the Liberal caucus but also of Liberal staff.

"I am a f---ing Liberal and I don’t think they’re competent enough to run the government," the staffer said.

Isn't this the kind of things HarperCrits do? If the Liberals want to portray themselves as different, then those in charge (is anyone in charge?) must take responsibility for any mistakes done under their authority. In a business, it's usually managers and, less seldom, CEO's, who accept the blame for what goes wrong on their watch, not the employees who did the job they were told to do.

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05 December 2008

Harper on Pay Equity: You can stick it ...

... where the sun don't shine.

That sums up the Harper's message, as stated in the fiasco which is the Economic and Fiscal Statement 2008 and announced by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty last Thursday, November 27.

Writes Antonia Zerbisias in response:

Flaherty not only misrepresented the concept of equal pay for work of equal value, he dumped the onus on obtaining fair and equitable wages on unions.

As if every sewing machine operator and restaurant dishwasher has access to collective bargaining...

Flaherty also used the incomprehensible and misleading phrase "double pay equity," which supposedly means that, if a woman has union representation, she has pay equity.

Uh ... ?

"It's a thing they made up," Aalya Ahmad, co-ordinator of the Ottawa-based Ad Hoc Coalition for Women's Equality and Human Rights, told me. "The implication is that they're somehow not entitled to get pay equity in addition to any wage increases.

"So they're really distorting what equal pay is, which is equal pay for work of equal value.

Get informed. Go read the whole piece.

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The sound of one democratic hand clapping

After 141 years is Canada finally, albeit accidentally, on the path to modern representative democracy? Don’t pop the champagne cork yet. We still have a way to go, but the law of unintended consequences may be at work in Ottawa.

The drama began on November 28 when Jack and Gilles went up the Hill. They joined Stephane Dion to announce the historic Liberal – NDP coalition agreement, along with support from the Bloc. The three-party partnership is now poised to give Canadians an experience rarer than a Leafs’ Stanley Cup victory parade: true majority rule.

Similar to voters in most advanced nations, Canadians seldom give majority support to any single party, doing so only four times since World War One and only once in the last half-century. But thanks to our antiquated first-past-the-post voting system, Canadians are generally ruled by phony majority governments. Typically, a party will get 40 to 45 percent of the votes, but win 50 to 60 percent of the seats, which gives them 100 per of the power to set the Parliamentary agenda.

At the recent Liberal-NDP-Bloc press conference announcing their parliamentary partnership, the three party leaders correctly claimed to represent the majority of voters, thus having a more legitimate right to govern than Stephen Harper.

The emotional reaction across the country by both supporters and opponents of the coalition would baffle people in most democracies. Several parties collectively representing the majority of voters, announcing they would govern on a platform of their common policies? That’s called business-as-usual in modern democracies.

But the coalition we got is not the coalition we deserved.

If voters had used a fair and proportional voting system in the recent election and cast votes the same way, a different coalition would have emerged because the seats held by each party would have reflected their portion of the popular vote. The following scenario is based on a projection showing a fair allocation of seats.

We would most likely have had a true majority coalition with three parties, rather than the current two-party minority coalition propped up by the Bloc. The coalition would have been more politically cohesive, with stronger representation from all regions.

The three people sitting at the front of the room at the recent coalition press conference would have been the Liberal leader representing an 81-member Liberal caucus, the NDP leader representing a 57-member NDP caucus and the Green Party leader representing a 23-member caucus. Assuming a proportionate assignment of portfolios, the resulting coalition cabinet might have been 13 Liberals, 8 NDP and 4 Greens.

The regional composition of the coalition would have been dramatically different. The coalition would have boasted about 43 MPs in the west, rather than just 21, and in Quebec 30 MPs rather than 14.

What about Mr. Duceppe? He would have been sitting on the opposition benches with just 28 Bloc MPs, rather than the 49 he has today that give him the power to pull the plug on a federal government.

A fair voting system would also have provided a more stable and effective government.

The expiry date on the current coalition is three years at best and more likely less than two years. Because first-past-the-post voting allows a relatively small shift in support to produce a windfall of seats for one party or another, the current system subverts stable and effective government.

With fair and proportional voting systems, parties get the seats they deserve, no more or no less. Their fortunes rise or fall depending on their ability to form stable and effective partnerships with other parties. Elections tend to come every three or four years and government policies more closely reflect majority view because government actually represents the majority.

Today the parties’ spin-meisters are working hard to divide voters into warring camps and pit entire regions against one another. When careers in Ottawa are on the line, country be damned.

Will Canadians turn on one another rather than the real culprits? Or are we finally fed up with this madness and the old-guard party leaders who defend an electoral system that serves their own interests but not those of the voters?

Now is the time, more than ever, for Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green voters to stand together – call it a people’s coalition – to demand equal and effective votes for all and legitimate majority rule for Canada. Grassroots Canadians should unleash a storm of protest until all federal party leaders agree to convene an historic national citizens’ assembly on electoral reform – an independent body of several hundred voters, outside of any party’s control – to study and then propose the best fair and proportional voting system for Canada.

If we form that people’s coalition, we just might be able to put Canada on the path to real representative democracy. If we fail to do so, then political turmoil, bitter regional animosities, and failed governments will likely become the norm and the future of Canada itself will be at stake.

Larry Gordon, Executive Director
Fair Vote Canada

[Above reprinted in full, with permission from Fair Vote Canada.]

Here is a flyer to distribute at demonstrations and rallies this weekend - rallies both for and against the coalition - calling on all Canadians to demand a national citizens’ assembly on electoral reform. Download the flyer and photocopy as many as possible, preferably on bright yellow paper, and cut in two.

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04 December 2008

GG's decision demonstrates irrelevance of position

If the Governor General is going to take the counsel of Canada's Prime Minister, regardless of whether or not s/he has the confidence of the House, then what's the position of Governor General for?

I mean the question seriously.

Always did wonder about the point of having a GG, but thought that the goings-on recently might serve to convince me the GG was worth keeping around. Well, today convinced me otherwise.

Am not entirely disheartened by a few weeks' break. Had the coalition government been accepted, then things are unlikely to have been any less raucous. The Cons, no doubt, would have done everything in their power - including walking out - to make business unworkable for the coalition.

However, I am deeply disturbed by what looks like an unconditional prorogation. Don't imagine we'll ever know, unless Jean writes her memoirs, if there were conditions - supposing she'd reveal them, if there were. Certainly Harper's not going to talk. He'll want to give the impression he got everything he asked for.

Assuming the prorogation had no conditions placed on it, then Michaëlle Jean has just demonstrated, to me at least, the irrelevance of the position. She has demonstrated that Canada's Governor General is no more than an extremely costly, in more ways than one, rubber stamp.

Allan Tupper, political scientist at UBC, wasn’t surprised by Jean’s decision, but he also wonders whether it is healthy for Canadian democracy and the future of her office.

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Indictment of Harper government

The following is taken from Aaron Wherry's latest blog post, over at Macleans. Normally, I don't quote so much, but this is beautifully expressed.

In a simplistic reading, our present situation is a direct result of what happened last Thursday. That day, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty stood in the House of Commons and delivered his government’s fiscal and economic update. Presented as a national plan at a time of profound economic crisis, it included promises to eliminate subsidies to political parties, tamper with the public service’s right to strike, and fiddle with the system through which women are able to seek equal pay for their work.

It seemed designed only to corner the opposition. So challenged, the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois found themselves with common cause and interest. Enter the coalition. And under threat of forced exit, the Prime Minister retreated to Rideau in search of reprieve.

That is the short version.

In the longview, it is the latest chapter in what is now an epic and troubling story.

In-and-Out. Chuck Cadman. Afghanistan. Torture. Linda Keen. Arthur Carty. Marc Mayrand. Dalton McGuinty. InSite. Listeriosis. Crime. Science. Academia. Elections Canada. Omar Khadr. Gordon O’Connor. Maxime Bernier. Canadian soldiers. The Military Police Complaints Commission. The ethics committee. The press gallery. CAIRS. Access to information. Notaleader.ca. The federal budget. The economy. The recession.

The emblem of this government has become a furious male face screaming indignation in the arena of our democracy. At every turn, the response has been to obfuscate, manipulate and demonize. Everything has been opportunity to divide. Truth has been tangential. Ethics and morals have been deemed quaint. The Game has superseded all. Short-term political advantage is all that’s mattered. Nothing worth doing if it is not in one’s own personal interest.

Each time, it was possible to believe it wouldn’t happen again. But inevitably there was another low. And while individually these moments might seem relatively minor—at least when compared with the great political and human challenges of our time—taken together it is a dispiriting collage.

I had an email exchange with a friend who wrote that "they (all) remind me of boys in a school yard and the one-up-manship that happens there. I'm really sick of hearing about their antics." She wondered if this fiasco might send more people back to the polls.

To which I countered: "Am sick of this system. And am sick of the lot of them for protecting their chances to plunk their partisan backsides into House of Commons seats rather than protecting the right of the people to be democratically represented."

My friend is equally as disgusted with the system.

If the Liberal party truly cared about Canada's democracy rather than its own interests, it would i) allow each of its members to vote for their leader and executive and ii) begin a citizen process toward changing our voting system to one of proportional representation, a system determined by Canadians in full consultation and by referendum.

As this latest fiasco has proven, if nothing else has, proportional representation is urgently needed in this country.

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