30 December 2009

Post Revival: We are Separatists

Encouraged by Boris' Option 3, I think it a good time to revive this post, written by Daphne and I in January 2009. The situation has not improved since then.


For a long time, I've pondered the benefit of my community, now Vancouver Island, being part of the political entity that is the Dominion of Canada. Not because of any dislike for Canada's land, waters or people - that aspect of being Canadian makes me go all mushy inside - but because I can't see how a nation so large, structured as Canada is politically, can fairly represent and administer and distribute justice to all of its people.

As long as Canada maintains the power structure that it has now, then I would prefer that British Columbia be a nation unto itself - i.e., separate from Canada. Even better, that Vancouver Island go it alone.

Our top-tier government has only grown more powerful over the decades, not less. It has been steadily sucking political power from the nation's provinces, territories, regions and municipalities. Thus the federal government, together with its puppet masters, has steadily been eroding the ability of citizens in their communities to directly influence change.

More and more, citizens are taken as irrelevant by our politicians. The support of the federal government by large corporations powers the agenda of Canada's politicos. Their concern for the people functions only as an electoral device to "win" a mandate to govern, one that is rigged by our outdated voting system. And then the winning party governs for the CEOs. For "ordinary" Canadians (to which our political parties so fondly refer), to think otherwise is to be delusional.

Recently, I emailed these reflections to Daphne, and asked: Have you ever thought about things like this?

We don't always agree and I wasn't expecting agreement here.

"Yes," replied Daphne, "have pondered this and have talked to others over the years... At one time, I printed T-shirts which depicted Vancouver Island as forming the Vancouver Island Liberation Organization, hence breaking away from the rest of Canada."

Vancouver Island Liberation Organization t-shirt

Vancouver Island Liberation Organization T-shirts, anyone?

We are not alone in wanting to detach ourselves from the rest of Canada, friend Daphne explained. An emerging notion is that of Cascadia. The boundaries of Cascadia vary but in most proposals, all or part of British Columbia, Oregon and Washington state are included.

While some notion of Cascadia might be workable in the future, Daphne and I prefer thinking only in terms of BC or Vancouver Island separating from Canada.

Seriously, we're fed up with successive governments which are supposed to be OF, FOR and BY the people being instead OF, FOR, and BY Canada's CEOs. And a heckuva job those CEOs have been doing lately!

Consider one example which exemplifies the joined-at-the-hip relation between Canada's government and big business.

Successive governments have been selling off our1 resources under the guise of the Security and Prosperity Partnership "agreement" endorsed by the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the USA. (Don't be fooled. The name keeps changing, but the agenda remains the same.)2

Instrumental to the SPP is our very own Grand Ayatollah, one Tom d'Aquino, president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. Mr. d'Aquino is one busy guy! Read the article. You'll understand why we two, having trashed our rose-coloured glasses long ago, prefer to divorce ourselves from Canada Inc.

1 A sizeable chunk of "our" natural resources are on and in traditional native land and water.
2 Excellent Canadian sites for information on the SPP include Global Research and the Council of Canadians.

[This post was co-written by Daphne Moldowin and Chrystal Ocean.]

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How to Game Canadian Parliamentary System

... in five easy steps.

1. Promise 'em anything. While the Official Opposition, complain about the unfair voting system, lax election laws, rules discouraging people from voting, lack of government transparency, Senate appointments...

2. Win by a plurality under said unfair voting system, lax election laws, rules discouraging people from voting, lack of government transparency, Senate appointments... Do not legislate improvements.

3. Write a 200+ page book on how to disrupt House of Commons (and Senate) committees. Make sure all MPs follow it religiously.

4. Control the message: all leaks/messages must be authorized by PMO, whisper Ottawa news in ears of media buddies first, zip your loose-tongued MPs - have them pose as potted plants.

5. If, despite following the first four steps, you find things getting a little too hot for you, prorogue Parliament.

Remember, the Canadian Parliament is no longer for the purpose of governing - designing and getting key legislation passed, studying vital issues in committees, or MPs representing their constituents. No, it's about which white ageing male can grab and wield power the longest and the men who will trade whatever integrity they've left in order to share in a tiny portion of it.

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Get Rid of Parliament

... and we get rid of MPs. Canadians would save a whole bunch of money.

Let the federal service do the work of government. Our MPs certainly aren't.

Oh, and about taking the knives to the pension plan for federal civil servants, you might start instead with the lucrative 'early retirement' package for MPs. Six years of 'service' and our elected 'representatives' are set for life.

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29 December 2009

Culture of Disability

I am disturbed by the focus on DISability in our culture, both physical and intellectual, as starkly evident in the 2009 Federal Disability Report.

By definition, few people are going to sit at the top of the bell curve of abled-ness and intellect. Which makes all the rest of us either prone to athleticism and/or genius, or falling-apart dullards.

In civilizations past there would have been a place for every last one of us, with no disability industry standing by, chomping at the bit, ready to label us and rake in the big bucks.

As I suggested in my "Needy Renters" post, in this society the emphasis is always on what's lacking, not on people's untapped talents and capacities. This needs/incapacities approach celebrates victimization. It raises victimhood to an elevated status.

Alternatively, the capacities approach highlights what people can do, not what they can't. It treats all people with respect and dignity. Rather than looking at people in terms of their potential drain on society, it recognizes them for their potential benefit to society.

Too bad the social service sector is more focused on needs than capacities. It doesn't help that the industry is encouraged to do so by our own governments.

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28 December 2009

Logic Challenge

If Canadians don't want an election but instead, as expressed by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, they "want an alternative to the Harper government,"...

And if Parliament is dysfunctional, as suggested by Liberal MP Keith Martin,...

And if the NDP (and presumably, the Liberal Party of Canada) wants to make Parliament work,...

And if the same parties want to solve this conundrum,...

Then doesn't this mean, in the current minority situation, that said parties must...

Capitulate to all of the government's demands whilst assuring Canadians said demands are good for them OR,...

Form a coalition government?

Of course, non-partisan Canadians might consider another solution. As one tweeter put it: Revolution!

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For 2050 Olympics

... training in gymnastics begins now.

I canna stop laughing.

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It Just Warms My Heart

... to read such drivel.

Where DOES the Times-Colonist find these people? First it was this privileged whine. Now Lawrie McFarlane blusters forth with his inflated two cents:
Two B.C. courts have now ruled that the City of Victoria was wrong to prevent homeless people setting up tents in downtown parks.

Let's bypass the fact that a good portion of the campers were propagandists who use "homelessness" as a bludgeon. Our courts seem bent on redrawing civic rights in a way that has no foundation in law.

Their first step is to suppose that if a serious issue exists, it must be the duty of government to fix it.

Careful, Mr. McFarlane. Your stereotypes are showing.

Agreed: It is not the business of government to provide housing.

That's where our agreement ends.

It IS the business of government to regulate market conditions such that affordable housing is available to anyone who wants it. This includes half the people living in poverty who work one or more full-time and/or part-time jobs on low wages without benefits, and a considerable number more people living in poverty who worked in similar employment much of their lives and now face the end of their days in meagre retirement.

Among these people are those who serve you at your favourite retail haunts, wait your tables, serve you at theatres, monitor your home security, take your parking fees, wash your cars, book your travel arrangements, and provide your catering, home cleaning and home repair needs.

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26 December 2009

Sloppy Journalism

The National Post this morning reports on a poll conducted for Canwest News Service and Global National that shows Canadians to be as disenchanted with our politicos as ever.

No surprise there.

What caught my eye was this bit:
When asked if they agree with the statement, "I've tuned out of participating in any kind of political activity, including voting," better than two out of three, or 67%, said they disagreed with that statement.

Still, the last time there was a general election, in the fall of 2008, just 59% of eligible voters bothered to cast a ballot.

The second paragraph isn't relevant to the preceding one.

There is so much more to political involvement than just voting. The people who responded to that Ipsos Reid question know that; among them will be those who no longer vote but are otherwise politically involved.

Apparently, the pollster and the National Post have trouble sorting out certain distinctions, even when their own polling questions suggest them.

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25 December 2009

Targets Can Target Back

Most readers of this blog know that I am an atheist and have a low tolerance for blind faith. I've even less tolerance for the religion industry.

But not all religious organizations, or organizations founded by 'people of faith', are created equal. Among the stellar ones is KAIROS. Its entire raison d'être is the advancement of social justice.

Now, Jason Kenney & Company have set their sights on that organization, accusing it of antisemitism, an accusation that is so far off the mark as to be laughable; if it were not also so hurtful.

This time, Harper Conservatives have gone too far.

The target of their abuse is not without connections.

I hope KAIROS continues to fight back, emboldened by other progressives, with the light of its own special truth.

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On "Needy Renters"

One would think from reading the Cowichan NewsLeader that people who are struggling to find affordable rental housing are "needy renters."

Why do media types insist on using the word 'needy' when describing people without housing? People looking to be housed are not simply a bundle of needs. In fact, that's the least of who they/we are.

We have skills to offer, and insight and wisdom born from our struggles, which we wish others would recognize as useful and worthy of respect. We have solutions for our communities to what others deem intractable problems; and our solutions require considerably less outlay than those typically proposed by politicians, non-profits and business.

A serious shift in thinking is required. It can begin with simple acts, like journos and others no longer using words like 'needy' to describe people without housing.

Language matters. It's about R E S P E C T.

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24 December 2009

On Becoming Newsworthy

How to become Canadian Press Newsmaker of the Year: Screw your country and country(wo)men.

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One Reason I Don't Support NDP

I can't think of a NDP MP I haven't admired at one time or another. However, there are too many times when good-hearted intentions go over the top. Libby Davies' recent tweet is one example:
Canadian government should be helping Canadians travel to Gaza, not opposing them http://twurl.nl/j56ss3

I disagree. The Canadian government should be neither helping nor thwarting these activists' efforts.

I've also a bone to pick with certain leftists' interpretation of an email sent from the Embassy of Canada in Egypt. The link included in Davies' tweet contains the full text of that email:

From: <cairo-cs@international.gc.ca>
Date: December 24, 2009 1:50:44 AM PST
To: [edited out]
Subject: Gaza Freedom March, Dec 27-30th 2009

Le Français suivra

Gaza Freedom March

The Gaza Freedom March, which includes various activities in Egypt and the Gaza Strip, will take place from December 27 to 31, 2009. In response to this event, Egyptian authorities have confirmed that they will not permit entry to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing. They have also indicated that this March will be prohibited in Egypt.

The Canadian Embassy in Cairo would like to advise any Canadians considering taking part in this event that they could be found in violation of their tourist visa and be subject to arrest, detention and/or deportation.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises against all travel to the region surrounding the Gaza Strip due to the risk of rocket and mortar launches, gunfire and of ongoing military activity. The border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt has been officially closed since June 2007; however, it may open or close upon short notice. Canadians should exercise extreme caution when travelling to this area due to ongoing violence in the Gaza Strip.

Consular Section
Embassy of Canada in Egypt

Marche de la liberté pour Gaza

La marche de la liberté pour Gaza, qui comprend différentes activités en Égypte et dans la bande de Gaza, se tiendra du 27 au 31 décembre 2009. En prévision de cet événement, les autorités égyptiennes ont confirmé qu'elles ne laisseront pas entrer les gens dans la bande de Gaza par le point de passage de Rafah. Elles ont aussi fait savoir que cette marche sera interdite en Égypte.

L'Ambassade du Canada au Caire aimerait aviser tous les Canadiens qui considèrent prendre part à cet événement qu'ils pourraient être accusés de ne pas respecter les conditions de leur visa de touriste et arrêtés, détenus ou même expulsés du pays.

Section Consulaire
Ambassade du Canada en Égypt

That email reads to me like the standard travel advisory to people planning or thinking about travelling to a foreign land where unrest is known to be occurring.

I am loathe to defend anything that happens under the Harper government's watch. But leftists are their own worst enemies when they read 'agenda' of the Republican variety into virtually everything that passes their desks or computer screens.

As for my respect and fondness for many members of the NDP, it's one thing to like and admire them, it's quite another to want that party leading the Government of Canada. After all, I like and admire certain Liberal MPs too, which is not to say I'd vote for a Liberal government that would be headed by Michael Ignatieff. There are even - gasp! - one or two conservatives I like and respect ... er, that's certain former Progressive Conservatives who are serving in the Senate.

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New Year's Resolution.

Yes, in this news, vegetarians fare better.

Anyone thinking that vegetarian diets were risky was told otherwise when the Dietitians of Canada and the American Dietetic Association issued a joint statement in June.

After reviewing the most current science, the report concluded that a well-planned vegetarian diet is healthy for people of all ages, including infants, children, teenagers and pregnant women.

What's more, vegetarian diets were linked with better health, including leaner bodies, lower cholesterol levels, reduced risk of heart disease, and lower cancer rates.

Roughly 4 per cent of Canadian adults follow a vegetarian diet, a number that's expected to increase over the next decade.

Not so those who seem to eat more than enough.

Obesity rates climbed for both men and women – today, 18 per cent of men and 16 per cent of women are obese. The highest rate of obesity (22 per cent) was among 55- to 64-year-olds: 24 per cent of men and 21 per cent of women.

New Year's resolution: Eat more vegetables!

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21 December 2009

'Tis the Season

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Most of us celebrate the holiday surrounding the birth of Christ on the 25th of December, yes? Some of us celebrate the winter Solstice, which is an undeniable return of longer days to come and the celebration of new life in the spring.

Some very thorough research has been done in regard to the birth of Christ, which is nicely summed up on the video Zeitgiest - Part 1, Religion.

I include it here for your viewing pleasure and edification this joyous season. (You'll have to endure a short ad before Zeitgiest - Part 1, Religion comes on.)

As I am no expert on this subject, I suggest you take up any debate with a theologian, your minister, pastor or the like. I suggest that it will be put down to the devil's work.

End of story.

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16 December 2009

All Canadians Should Read This

More explosive material (PDF) from Richard Colvin on the Afghan detainee affair. It refutes or contradicts testimony given by others, including generals, to the parliamentary special committee.

Richard Colvin is my new hero.

New meme: Colvin for PM! Colvin for PM!

ETA: If you simply can't read the whole thing - you're lazy, can't make the time (?!), whatever - then here's Kady O'Malley's excellent summary.

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A Privileged Whine

... about the privileged homeless.

While it's true that the homeless have rights, the rest of us have rights as well. Do the rights of the homeless matter more than ours do? If so, why?

How do you balance the right to survival with the right to parks protected from overuse?

The full article, which appears in today's Victoria Times Colonist, smacks of old-fashioned prejudice and the arrogance of the propertied.

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15 December 2009

Connies Have Oily Knickers in a Twist

Retweeted by Conservative MP Jason Kenney:
RT @Spydyman: These are the nuts Cdn activists/Libs support? Radical environmental protesters cut down Cdn flag in London & douse it with oil.

To which I respond:
Sounds about right to me! Especially the douse with oil bit. Fits with our slimey Con politicians.

No source link was provided in the original tweet or Kenney's retweet.

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Have a Gift Card You Can't Use?

Just came across this site. The idea seems like a great one, a way for people to pass on gift cards they can't or won't use to people who would use them - and to make a few bucks in the exchange.

The Toronto-based company has been featured recently in a number of media, including CBC's The National.

As for me, cash or a gift card from a store I frequent is the best type of gift and probably for others in similar circumstances.

Speaking of which... a friend recently sent me a Thrifty Foods Smile card.

As I wrote in thanks, there's a reason Thrifty's calls its gift card 'the smile card': it puts smiles on the faces of its recipients. The moment I opened that envelope, my face grew a grin from ear to ear.

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Senior Couples Split to Afford Nursing Home Care

In BC, we're already well on the road to recovery from that 'worst recession since the Depression'. People again are parking themselves overnight to line up for 'affordable' housing... So much for that housing correction, eh?

It's a sorry economic boom indeed when senior couples are separating or divorcing so that they may afford hursing home care, but that's what's happening in increasing numbers, according to one seniors advocate.
As more people enter nursing homes, Veronica Ratchford, a representative from the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights, said an increasing number of couples are legally splitting up so they can get government help with the cost of that care.

"It is happening, I would say, on a regular basis and I think the reason why we do not hear about it is I feel that people are afraid," Ratchford said.

"They're afraid to speak up against government policies and also they are embarrassed for the public to know their income and what financial situation that they're left with."

When public services fail and your very survival is in question, you develop strategies to work around a program's stringent criteria. These criteria, of course, are designed less to help people than to prevent 'abuse' of the system.

When the system itself is abusive, no recourse is left; it brings back onto itself that which it so generously inflicts upon others.

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14 December 2009

Did you vote for this?

I started a post on the latest social funding slash by Gordo's BC Liberals, when I came across this page.
“The cuts are coming fast and furious in all directions, “ wrote Times Colonist columnist Jody Paterson on October 2, 2009, “with neither a plan nor an understanding at any level of what it’s all going to mean when the dust settles. Without a word of public discussion, vital social programs and supports that British Columbians have counted on for years are vanishing.

Yep, and we're lambasted with propaganda that BC is the best place to live...
Paterson alleges that vulnerable people are being “cast to the wolves.” In October she listed just some of the programs she had noticed were cut. These included:

* School lunch programs
* Community mental health and addiction services
* School sports
* Intensive behavioral therapy for young autistic children
* Support for programs preventing fetal-alcohol damage in children
* Help for people raising their grandchildren
* Reading centres
* Treatment for children who witness abuse
* Outreach for victims of domestic violence (later reinstated after a public
* Help for problem gamblers
* Elimination of B.C.'s only prosecutor specializing in domestic violence
* Support for sports for people with mental handicaps.

There is more, read the whole article.

Did YOU vote for this?

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Let's Pathologize our Children: for Profit

Big Pharma is onto a good thing when doctors, teachers, health care professionals, physiologists, psychiatrists and parents recommend, subscribe or outright order prescribed drugs for childrens' 'dis-orders'.
The path to child drugging in the US started with providing adolescents with stimulants for ADHD in the early 80s. That was followed by Prozac in the late 80s, and in the mid-90s drug companies started claiming that ADHD kids really had bipolar disorder, coinciding with the marketing of epilepsy drugs as "mood stablizers" and the arrival of the new atypical antipsychotics.

Robert Whitaker, author of "Mad in America," describs the dangers of psychiatric drugs:
"When you look at the research literature, you find a clear pattern of outcomes with all these drugs," he said, "you see it with the antipsychotics, the antidepressants, the anti-anxiety drugs and the stimulants like Ritalin used to treat ADHD."

"All these drugs may curb a target symptom slightly more effectively than a placebo does for a short period of time, say six weeks," Whitaker said. However, what "you find with every class of these psychiatric drugs is a worsening of the target symptom of depression or psychosis or anxiety, over the long term, compared to placebo-treated patients."

"So even on the target symptoms, there's greater chronicity and greater severity of symptoms," he reports, "And you see a fairly significant percentage of patients where new and more severe psychiatric symptoms are triggered by the drug itself."

So who benefits the most? BIG PHARMA, of course.
In 2008, psychiatric drug makers had overall sales in the US of $14.6 billion from antipsychotics, $9.6 billion off antidepressants, $11.3 billion from antiseizure drugs and $4.8 billion in sales of ADHD drugs, for a grand total of $40.3 billion.

What about teaching your child to choose alternatives when seeking attention? Hey! Maybe even give the child your undivided attention, prepare a home cooked meal then sit down to eat and let them tell you about their day.

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10 December 2009

BC Housing Plans Campaign to Combat ...

... homelessness?


Headline reads: BC Housing Plans Campaign to Combat Negative Press on Homelessness.

h/t David Eby, formerly of Pivot Housing and now executive director of the BCCLA.

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City of Victoria vs. the City's Homeless

Victoria's homeless win.

"The City of Victoria is on the hook to pay Appeal Court costs, as well as the October 2008 court costs. How high that bill will be is not known."

Tee hee.

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Those Poor, Poor Diner-Outers!

Ian Tostenson, president of the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association pleas that the BC government "allow the consumer time to adjust" to the HST.

The intent to bring in a harmonized sales tax was announced early this summer. Consumers will start getting charged HST July 1, 2010.

Time to adjust?!

And oh, those poor diner-outers! How terrible that the customers who can afford to eat higher-priced meals at restaurants will have to pay an extra seven percent!

My heart bleeds.

As for "the HST [costing] the industry in B.C. hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs," where's the evidence? Did the same industry face such dire consequences when a HST was implemented in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador - and in over 130 countries?


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02 December 2009

Google to Limit Access to News Content

This will only increase the importance of social media and bloggers in enabling democratic access to information.

A not insignificant number of people can't afford to pay for the news of what's happening in their world. Ergo, the Internet community, fostered by social media, will become all the more crucial to properly functioning democracies.

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Mass Firing of Newly Unionized Staff

[Reposted, from last night]

From my own community comes this news.
Employees at Duncan’s Sunridge seniors complex were told this afternoon about 200 will be let go as of March 31, a Health Employees Union official told the News Leader Pictorial.

“It’s a mass firing,” Margi Blamey said.

Her report comes on the heels of Saturday’s HEU certification vote when some 70 per cent of the facility’s employees voted to join the union.


The two-year-old facility receives about $10 million annually from the province.

A 70 percent vote in favour of unionization. That's a large majority and a clear democratic result.

If this privately-run facility wants to fire its staff, fine, if it's for just cause. But getting public funding to reap profits unfairly off the backs of its employees? Not on my dime!

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01 December 2009

Mass Firing of Newly Unionized Staff

From my own community comes this news.
Employees at Duncan’s Sunridge seniors complex were told this afternoon about 200 will be let go as of March 31, a Health Employees Union official told the News Leader Pictorial.

“It’s a mass firing,” Margi Blamey said.

Her report comes on the heels of Saturday’s HEU certification vote when some 70 per cent of the facility’s employees voted to join the union.


The two-year-old facility receives about $10 million annually from the province.

A 70 percent vote in favour of unionization. That's a large majority and a clear democratically-determined conclusion.

If this privately-run facility wants to fire its staff, fine, if it's for just cause. But getting public funding to reap profits unfairly off the backs of its employees? Not on my dime!

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What is going on?!

Over the past ten weeks - actually, beginning in early Spring -, virtual strangers have been helping me. Even government bureaucrats, who are notorious for thwarting one's ambitions, have speedily done their job.

I've no idea how to handle it.

First, in the spring someone whose blog I read diligently contacted me about a subsidized seniors development that might accept my application. No guarantees, of course, and there'd be a waiting list even if my application was accepted. I'd not applied to this particular project because it wasn't listed as accepting pets. Well, it takes someone who knows someone who knows someone else...

Next, there were those terrible two days in September, when Brodie was going to have to go to the SPCA. For the third time in two and a half years, Kiltie had acquired a urinary tract infection. I couldn't do it anymore, couldn't care properly for both cats, let alone care for myself; not on $67/month total for 'discretionary' budget needs - groceries, toiletries, laundry money - which was all that was left after paying for shelter costs.

Two wonderful women came forward, one who sent me enough money to pay for Brodie's food for a year. The other, to provide Kiltie with the special food she needs to get her back to health and to keep her there.

A fourth woman contacted me a few days later about another matter, after reading a comment I'd left at another blog. I'd mentioned Challenging the Commonplace proudly sporting the logo of that "Left-wing fringe group: Women" but said I wouldn't be able to order a t-shirt and wear my support in that upfront and personal way.

A few days ago, I received a t-shirt.

Then there was this personal request I posted many moons ago. The woman who sent me enough money to cover Kiltie's food for a year added a bonus: enough money also to buy an exercise bike. (She'd wanted to help in additional ways, but we ran into problems.)

I've had a Healthrider N40 upright exercise bike, bought for half price, for two months now and been using it regularly. Am already feeling stronger. My back gives me less trouble, causes less pain when I take the long walks I can't (and don't want to) avoid. The more mobile one can be, the more freedom one has and the better the quality of life. This woman's gift has improved my quality of life, for which I am deeply grateful.

About those bureaucrats...

Had been fretting for over a year that when it came time to applying for my CPP pension, I'd come up against a stone wall of administrative indifference and intransigence. As experienced with bureaucracy in the past, I imagined being required to go above and beyond what most citizens must in order to prove identity. The process has always caused me distress - delving into my the past ain't fun. Childhood upheavals of myriad number have resulted in a paper trail, of who I belonged to and what my name was, not following a straight line. BUT and this is what my hopes were pinned on, the one thing that was constant, once I began working at age 15, was my social insurance number. I was taxpayer number xxx xxx xxx and through that number all my CPP contributions were made.

So... filled with apprehension, I completed my CPP application and mailed it August 25th. Within three weeks - not the months I'd been envisioning -, I received a reply. In large bolded letters, in consideration of aging eyes, the letter began:

Your Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Retirement Pension has been Approved.

In slightly smaller font, but still larger than average, further information was provided. It included the statement, in all caps: THE CHILD REARING PROVISION HAS BEEN TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION - not that that will result in much; still, anything extra is welcome.

The CPP payments will begin August 2010.

My cynicism has undergone an adjustment.

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Finally, a correct, unequivocal decision.

From Michael Ignatieff, no less.

The man, and the Liberal Party, is on record for supporting a harmonized sales tax; but as demonstrated with other issues in the recent past, support for policy x has been no guarantee that Ignatieff wouldn't change his mind about policy x and thus signal a change in the party's support for it.

This time, finally, Ignatieff has made the correct decision.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said on Tuesday that his party will support a Conservative bill that would allow provinces to harmonize the provincial sales tax and federal GST on products and services.

"Our party for 15 years has supported sales tax harmonization...." Ignatieff told reporters. "We will support this legislation in Parliament."

Ignatieff added that it would not be a free vote.

...Ignatieff had previously said that if the Liberals formed a government, they would not cancel HST agreements signed with the provinces. But it had been unclear whether they would support this proposed federal bill.

It's the right decision in terms of policy, but for the Liberals the more important point is that it's the right decision in terms of ending (I hope) the waffling and fence-sitting.

Of course, the more time that passes between an Ignatieff decision and the consequences of that decision - in this case, the actual Parliamentary vote -, the less confidence one might have that Ignatieff won't, again, change his mind.

As for the National Citizens Coalition estimate that "the HST will cost the average taxpayer an additional $800 to $1,000 annually," average in this case is meaningless.

First, as the wealth of the few(er) increases to bloating proportions, the mean average makes it appear that we're all doing better. Second, over the past decade and more, the income of the average median household has either remained static or fallen. Ergo: there are fewer taxpayers.

ETA: In case you missed it, I support the HST, qualifiedly.

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In favour of Climate Change?

People the world over are shouting about Climate Change. People are demanding that their governments work together to stop the downward spiral spin. And what can an individual do, you might ask. One giant step would be to stop eating meat. Yep. Get rid of the meat in your diet.

Half, yes half of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by growing, slaughtering, rendering, transporting and distributing of live animals for us to eat, according to a report by Robert Goodland and Jef Anhang, environmental advisors (past and present) of the World Bank.
Their call to move to meat substitutes accords with the views of the chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, who has described eating less meat as "the most attractive opportunity" for making immediate changes to climate change.
In a paper published by a respected US thinktank, the Worldwatch Institute, two World Bank environmental advisers claim that instead of 18 per cent of global emissions being caused by meat, the true figure is 51 per cent.

Methane from the meat and dairy industry creates more CO2 than all the world's transportation emissions.
While looking into the paper's findings, Friends of the Earth said the report strengthened calls for the Government to act on emissions from meat production. "We already know that the meat and dairy industry causes more climate-changing emissions than all the world's transport," said Clare Oxborrow, senior food campaigner.

So, if you really want to make a difference, minus the meat from you meals.

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25 November 2009

Furry Painkillers

What a difference a pet can make!

Imagine recovering from a painful surgery and the doctor orders two doses of pet therapy a day while recovering in hospital. Imagine snuggling up to a soft and purring kitten when you are ailing, lonely, frightened or stressed to the max.

Well, it seems that researchers have finally acquired enough 'evidence' to support what we've known for a long time: that pets can reduce stress, relieve pain, encourage exercise and enhance longevity.
Julia Havey, from the Loyola University Health System (LUHS), Chicago, who led the research, said: "Evidence suggests animal-assisted therapy can have a positive effect on a patient's emotional and physical well being.

Too bad 'researchers' didn't include homeless people, who insist on keeping their pets over being forced to abandon them in favour of a roof over their heads.

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19 November 2009

One Homelessness Factor Avoided Like Plague

This story illustrates one major contributing factor to the swelling numbers of homeless in BC. It's constantly avoided by the powers-that-be in this province.

Sherry was polite and resolute.

I was puzzled. I asked why she was willing to sleep in a parking lot in order to be with her cats.

"They've always been with us," Sherry told me. "Even just moving out of the house, one of our cats - because she'd been abandoned before and she'd been abused - she thought that we were going to leave her. She just got really freaked out and stuff."

Sherry looked me in the eye. Tears welled in hers. I forgot whether she was talking about her cats, or herself.

"We're not going to leave her," she declared.

Lori gave Sherry an armload of food, and promised to check back in a few days. We wished her well and left her at the edge of the crumbling blacktop.

The minivan was quiet as we drove away. Lori finally broke the silence.

"Actually, that happens quite a lot," she said. "People who've lost everything else, they get quite attached to their pets. Their pets are like family."

Not quite. For people who have lost everything else, their pets aren't LIKE family, they ARE family.

Consider this question, seriously: Would you give up your family for a roof over your head?

Before you answer that, don't make the same mistake Lori did. Accept the fact that for some people, their pets ARE their family. You may not consider animal companions in the same light. If you have pets, you may view them as being LIKE members of your family, but you are not so attached to them that you couldn't imagine giving them up for a roof over your head. Such is not the case for the people I'm talking about. For the purposes of my question, your view of pets isn't the issue; it's their view that matters, which is why I've framed the question as I have.

So again, I ask: Would you give up your family (your children, or dependent sibling or parent) for a roof over your head?

The problem in BC isn't just about the scant few pet-friendly shelters for the homeless. Contributing to the problem is the BC Residential Tenancy Act which allows landlords to deny accommodation to people with pets. And because property owners can do this, almost every last one of them does do it.

No serious discussion about housing for low-income BC residents can endlessly avoid this issue. The more destitute or alone a person is, the more likely s/he is to have a pet. For housing legislation to allow that a pet be given up for the sake of housing, temporary or permanent, only contributes to the problem of homelessness.

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OMG! Female Sexual Dysfunction

So, get ready goils. Here's another Dis-ease being foisted on us by Big Pharma: 'Restless Vagina Syndrome' aka 'Female Sexual Dysfunction'.
You are among the "43 percent of American women [who] experience some degree of impaired sexual function," according to a Journal of the American Medical Association article. The FDA’s evolving definition of FSD includes decreased desire or arousal, sexual pain and orgasm difficulties -- but only if the woman feels "personal distress" about it.

And who thinks these goodies up?
[Irwin] Goldstein established an FSD clinic with Dr. Jennifer Berman, who now heads a Beverly Hills clinic and appears on Oprah. As one of the health professionals on a 1998 panel that received financial sponsorship from eight pharmaceutical companies, she helped define female sexual dysfunction. Some 22 drug companies, including Pfizer, had financial ties to 18 of the 19 authors of that panel’s report, the BMJ revealed.

I can hardly wait for the next man-ufactured disease to show up! Hopefully something that will cure me of ever having to come across garbage like this.

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18 November 2009

Just Be Yourself, Boys.

It seems that young men today are struggling to create a new masculine identity for themselves, one that takes them away from the good 'ole boys idea of a REAL man. And they are brainstorming new ways to be in this post-feminist world.
This is about so much more than the 200 men who attended this conference. They are on the front lines, but there are legions of progressive men of all ages, all over the country who are struggling to redefine masculinity and live that redefinition every day. They fumble without models but continue on because they know that there is so much to be gained. Guys who reject traditional masculinity, for starters, have a greater chance of finding fulfilling work that isn't just a symbol of their provider status. They might explore the joy of relationships - being nurturing with their kids, real with their friends, open with their partners. They have the opportunity to shed their socialized skin and all the anxiety that comes with trying to be a "tough guy" and make a happy life defined, not by their paycheck or their size, but by their humanity.

I say good for you, guys! Even though it appears to be difficult to come up with a model that will work for these brave men:
While it's thrilling that there is also a movement of young men all who want to tear down the patriarchy right alongside women, it's dangerous that they don't have a clear picture of what they want to build in its place.

I question the 'dangerous' part. It's dangerous NOT to tear down the patriarchy; the sooner that's done the better.

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17 November 2009


In BC, the CEOs of crown corporations are getting grandfathered salaries.

At the opposite end of the economic scale, renters living with disabilities in this province can be denied rent grandfathering. This effectively prevents these long-term, reliable renters from moving to identical, but more accessible, units.

Where's the justice?

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Visiting the Food Bank

Went to the food bank for the first time two weeks ago. Had been putting off this visit for the past eight years, during which my household income from self-employment was at or below the poverty gap. Disabilities prohibit regular employment.

In Canada, the poverty GAP hovers around the lowest decile (i.e., 10th) income category, while the poverty LINE marks the lowest quintile, or 5th, income category. In other words, the poverty measure almost exclusively used in this country is Statistics Canada's Low Income Cut Offs (LICOs), which divide the income from all Canadian households into five groupings.

Since the LICOs are the same across the country, there are some communities in which residents living at the poverty line, as opposed to the poverty gap, are experiencing no real hardship. Certainly that had been the case in this community. Recent economic development in the form of a huge big box boom - thanks to business-friendly municipal councils - has resulted in a rapid increase in rents and other household costs. That has made living at or below the poverty gap even harder.

Anyway, my visit to the local food bank was only to get bread, which is free to anyone who walks in off the street. One doesn't have to apply for this food assistance, which is why I didn't get anything but bread. Have felt too embarrassed and intimidated to go through the application process.*

With bread prices more than having doubled over the past year, I'd stopped buying it. Was nice to have bread again and I'm grateful to local grocers for supplying it to the food bank.

I just wish our grocers wouldn't send ALL their day-old bread to the food bank.

It used to be that bread and other foodstuffs, like ripe fruit and veggies, was available at half price for customers to purchase. Now, either you must pay the full price for fresh bread or go to the food bank to get day-old bread for free.

There's no longer an in-between option for low-income shoppers. This suggests that it's not just the recession contributing to a surge in food bank use. It's also changes in local practices made in response to the existence of food banks, such as the removal of shopping alternatives for people of low income.

* For example, do applicants to the food bank have to be on government financial assistance? If not, must they reveal everything about their personal finances, backed up by bank statements, copies of their rental agreement, etc? All this can be enough to keep some people away, despite their need for help.

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Good News

According to researchers at BC Cancer Agency a breakthrough has been achieved in the fight against breast cancer.
For the first time in history, BC Cancer Agency scientists in British Columbia, Canada have decoded all of the three billion letters in the DNA sequence of a metastatic lobular breast cancer tumour, a type of breast cancer which accounts for about 10 per cent of all breast cancers, and have found all of the mutations, or “spelling” mistakes that caused the cancer to spread.

The landmark study, which will be published October 8th as the cover story in the prestigious international science journal Nature, helps unlock the secrets of how cancer begins and spreads, thus pointing the way to the development of new breast cancer treatment targets and therapies.

What does this mean for women?
“One in nine women is expected to develop breast cancer, and breast cancer accounts for 29 per cent of all cancer diagnoses for B.C. women,” said Health Services Minister Kevin Falcon. “As a result of the efforts of the scientists behind the study, this breakthrough finding gives further hope to the thousands of women with this terrible disease."

It gives women HOPE and this is good news, indeed.

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09 November 2009

For Cat - and Rossini - Lovers Everywhere

This is one of the better renditions of Duetto buffo di due gatti (Humorous Duet for Two Cats), which has been attributed to Gioachino Rossini, but likely was written by Robert Lucas de Pearsall. Have been playing it all day and it cracks me up each time I hear it.

These two boys certainly get the audience going. At about the one-minute mark, a little girl can be heard giggling - very cute.

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30 October 2009

Oh, the Compassion! - Part 2

Here's more about BC's new bill to sweep Vancouver and other cities' streets of layabouts.

The bill says the definition of 'extreme weather' will follow the definitions cities are using in their Extreme Weather Response Plans, but the provincial cabinet can make regulations to adjust the definition.

Criteria in Vancouver include temperatures near zero with rainfall making it 'difficult or impossible for homeless people to remain dry'. Sleet, freezing rain, snow, high winds or temperatures below negative two degrees Celsius also count as extreme weather.

In other words, the BC government can tweak the definition of 'extreme weather' to suit their own agenda-laden purposes, which is what I'd suggested likely in Part 1 of this post.

As the Bill itself suggests, when it comes to staying dry (or warm), 'difficult' isn't the same as 'impossible'. Street people are inventive; given how long many have been on the streets, it's safe to assume they know how to survive in all manner of weather.

Here's the short, and not so sweet, Bill 18 - Assistance to Shelter Act.

ETA: There's also this little inconsistency concerning the province's purported regard for street people's health and safety. (That David Eby! Formerly the driving force behind Pivot Housing and now, deservedly, the executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, he's a champion of the best sort.)

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29 October 2009

Oh, the Compassion!

The wording in the BC Government media release says it all. The new Act, just announced, is intended "to protect homeless in extreme weather." How fortunate that the Act has been put in place in time for the Olympics!

The Province has introduced the Assistance to Shelter Act to keep homeless British Columbians safe from extreme weather by giving police the authority to take people at risk of harm to emergency shelters, announced Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman.

"When an extreme weather alert has been issued, we want people at risk off the streets and into safe accommodation," said Coleman....

Once at the shelter, [homeless] have the right to decide whether or not they want to stay at the shelter....

"The RCMP fully endorses efforts to assist homeless and less fortunate people on our streets," said Gary Bass, RCMP Deputy Commissioner, Pacific Region. "We recognize that for the most part, these individuals do not commit crimes, but consider it a key pillar of our Crime Reduction Strategy... We view this as a positive step forward in terms of assisting not only the homeless but those making efforts to avoid a criminal lifestyle."

For the most part, street people are VICTIMS of crime, not the perpetrators, you idiots!

Victoria Police Chief Jamie Graham said, “The terrible dilemma for police officers is when the weather is so extreme and vulnerable people are found who are at very substantial risk. When a mental illness or addiction takes over rational decision making, the only hope is for the police to have supportive legislation allowing them to take people to safety."

Who are YOU, your officers, or anyone else for that matter, to decide what is "rational decision making"? How do YOU know that the decision to stay away from shelters might not be based on excellent reasons? And who are YOU to say whether someone is 'mentally ill' rather than simply one who doesn't conform to YOUR standards?

Compassion and concern for the wellbeing of street people isn't driving this Act. It's concern for the unsightly appearance of BC's homelessness problem during the Olympics. As for the Act, now all the government has to do is get Environment Canada onside - or at least its BC equivalent - so that 'extreme weather alerts' occur regularly during the optimum period.

ETA: See also Part 2 of this post.

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14 October 2009

I Support the HST

... but I don't support the way our Liberal government foisted its particular brand of the HST onto British Columbians.

In principle, I consider taxes on consumption to be a good idea and a harmonized sales tax an improvement over two or more separate taxes. Simplicity is better; additional paperwork and process for the collection of money from the same source introduces needless complication.

However, the HST being rammed down the throats of British Columbians now, wouldn't likely have been the HST British Columbians ultimately got - and supported - had the process been vastly different. Indeed, had the May 2009 election been decided in a different manner, then the process surrounding the HST decision WOULD, in fact, have been vastly different; and so, likely, would the election campaign itself.

I am referring to the way the Liberals and other MLAs were elected.

Had BC-STV been the system by which voters elected their government, the likely result (all else being equal) would have been a coalition of the Liberals and Greens.

In a coalition government, one political party cannot arbitrarily ram through its favoured policy in a legislature. It must negotiate with MLAs of other parties. They, no less than MLAs who are members of the party who got the most votes, are elected to represent their constituents; and in a coalition government, they can do so more effectively.

In the present case, the BC Greens have come out in support of the HST, but say it should have been set at 10 percent.

Had our political representatives been elected in a fairer manner, closer to proportionally representing British Columbians' voting preferences in the legislature, our government's policies would likely have better reflected the majority's own values. We'd likely still have the HST starting in July 2010. But it's form and the process by which it was implemented and presented to the public would likely have been considerably different.

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03 October 2009

Sex Trade Workers Arrested

So, there have been complaints from a neighbourhood in the lower mainland about the sex trade workers.

A targeted police investigation led to the arrest of 15 sex trade workers last week in downtown Maple Ridge.

This was the latest effort by Ridge Meadows RCMP to clean up the streets and address complaints from the community.

“It is illegal and when it is that type of activity that is so blatantly obvious, the police do have to act and intervene from time to time,” said officer-in-charge Supt. Dave Walsh.

The article goes on to say that the customers are diverted to social programs:

Men are diverted to the prostitution offender program, run by the John Howard Society, on a weekly basis, Walsh said. The program aims to give men a greater understanding of the social issues that stem from prostitution.

Nowhere does it mention that the men are arrested or charged for their part in this age-old dilemma. How much quicker the streets would be cleared if the men's pictures and their stories were made public.

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01 October 2009

Bossy, The Cow

We all seem to have an image of Bossy, the milk cow, placidly chewing her cud in a field of vibrant green grass. This is the cow we all get our milk from, carefully raised on the local farmer's field. Isn't it?

The reality of cows bred for milking is far different. This video may be an extreme example of cruelty, but it is more common than we want to believe.

The dairy industry's standard forms of cruelty also led to suffering for these cows. In order to make milking easier, cows' tails were amputated by tightly binding them with elastic bands, causing the skin and tissue to slowly die and slough off and leaving the animals unable to swat away flies, which, in addition to tormenting the cows, also led to the spread of disease. Tail-docking is unnecessary and cruel, which is why it has been condemned by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Milk produced for human consumption comes at a high price: to the cow. First they must breed and produce a calf at least once a year to maintain their milk flow. They are dosed with numerous drugs. They often do not see the light of day, as they are continuously kept in filthy barns. The calves they bear become the tender veal we find in our grocery stores. Torn from their dames almost as soon as they're born, they are put in small corrals in the dark for a short time before they are slaughtered then rendered into human food.

As I haven't had milk since I was a teenager, I am always appalled when I encounter just what takes place in agri-business today.

I choose, instead, to drink an almond beverage, rich in protein, calcium and a small amount of easily digestible fat.

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30 September 2009

UBCM Passes Affordable Housing Resolutions

Both resolutions of the Union of BC Municipalities call for action - on the part of the Province of British Columbia and the Government of Canada.

The first ... will see the UBCM lobby the provincial government to develop a strategy [for] the use of pine beetle affected timber in the construction of homes throughout BC, and demands that BC mills be utilized as part of the strategy to reduce BC's housing shortage.


The second resolution was put forward by the City of Vancouver, and also submitted and endorsed by Coquitlam, Surrey, Richmond Port Moody, and New Westminster. It called for the UBCM to urge the provincial and federal government to develop a National Affordable Housing Strategy that provides necessary long-term funding to support the construction of affordable housing across the province.

Now, here's the thing. The COSTS or MATERIALS to build housing are not the issue. It can take a mere few thousand dollars - and some have done it for NOTHING - to build structures that will provide permanent, adequate shelter. The problem is the willingness of existing property owners and municipal office-holders to enable land to be used in innovative, inexpensive ways.

The UBCM might begin not by telling other governments what they should do in support of 'affordable' housing, but by committing its members to reforming their own by-laws to allow housing alternatives that require little land, and even less in building materials and labour.

Until this happens, I question the sincerity or concern behind such UBCM resolutions.

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Oh, the Irony!

What on earth are we to do?

How can we persuade Canadians to vote for us?

Where, oh, where have we gone wrong?

So cry the Martinite backroom boys who, come to think of it, didn't do so well with Paul Martin either.

Similar hand-wringing is portrayed here.

Scott Reid, who was director of communications for former prime minister Paul Martin, said the Liberals are actually doing worse than the polls show.

The problem is that Liberal support among those likeliest to vote is soft, while Tory support is strong.

"We've got to really start to pay attention to committed voters," he said Wednesday. "The sad truth of our democracy at this moment in time is that 60 per cent of people tend to vote, particularly when cynicism is running as high as it is with respect to the prospect of an election. So how are we doing among the committed voters, those who say they are likely to vote? Those numbers are even tougher for us. And that has got to change before we get to a ballot box."

Mr. Reid said the party needs to figure out a strategy to "identify a coalition of voters that allows it a victory."

Here's a thought...

How about the Liberal Party of Canada offering something to attract MORE PEOPLE TO THE BALLOT BOX?

How about a meaningful policy to dump our single member plurality voting system in favour of a multi-member system that delivers proportional representation?

How about making the votes of all those who visit the ballot box count? Instead of what it is now, like 27 percent of eligible voters electing a party to a minority or false majority and getting a Prime Minister NONE of us had the opportunity to vote for?

Guess not.

(Doncha love the straw man arguments of the status quo?)

NB: As Ed Broadbent said recently on a September 2009 CPAC/Macleans discussion on democracy, until the Liberals or Conservatives back proportional representation, it won't happen. And that means, I ain't holdin' my breath. (H/t to nbcdipper for prodding my memory.)

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BC Backtracks !

Unbelievable, but true. The BC government has restored the $440,000 it axed from domestic counselling in the province.

Solicitor General Kash Heed made the announcement in a press release, after his government faced a wave of criticism in recent days for slashing funding to women's groups.

Now if the Powers-That-Be would only reconsider cuts that have dug into the province's daycare programs, lessen the heavily burdened post secondary students and provided truly 'affordable housing' for cash strapped working poor and seniors, we may begin to feel like our voices are being heard.

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29 September 2009

The Dentist

What do poor working people like me do when they have to visit the dentist? When they know they have work to be done or risk losing their teeth? Or suffer the consequences of infection and the following agony of pain?

For me, I visit the dentist and have the doctor inform me of what needs to be done to avoid complications before deciding to follow through - or not. Luckily for me, I have known my dentist for thirty years and he is willing to allow me to make minuscule payments each month to dispense with the bill.

But for others, especially those who are receiving welfare or disability benefits the choices, are not so straight forward. They must wait until the looming tooth decay brings on infection and almost unbearable pain. IF they can find a dentist who will work for the prescribed amount allowed by the medical system and IF they can arrange transportation to the willing dentist and IF they can afford the antibiotics necessary to reduce the infection before the work can be done, then will they have their teeth treated.

Why are the working poor, the self-employed, the disabled and those who are receiving monetary benefits from the government of the day, seemingly less worthy of dental treatment? Why indeed.

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27 September 2009

Humour and Poor Eyesight

So I was fuzzily reading the report of Roman Polanski's arrest in Switzerland, which had been based on a 30-year-old US arrest warrant. Polanski's crime, to which he confessed: sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old.

Given that media tend not to use certain words, imagine my surprise when I 'read' this:

The challenge was made after the allegation of misconduct emerged in a documentary released last year "Roman Polanski: Wanked and Desired."

Definition of 'wanked':
1. An act of masturbation.
2. A detestable person.

Either works.

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If a CEO says it, then it must be true

If a homeless or street person says it, it cannot possibly be true. Even if it is, it's a truth of little significance.

But does a truth spoken by, for example, Gates Foundation CEO Jeff Raikes have significance? Such as, "homeless people aren't just a problem to be minimized or cleared away; they have amazing potential"?

Half of Seattle's homeless population are parents in their prime productive years, with children in their prime development years.

In fact, homeless families tracked by the University of Washington had better high school graduation rates than the Seattle School District....

"Most homeless families are right on the edge of being a productive part of a healthy community and a thriving economy," said Raikes.

People living the life have been saying this for decades, probably for centuries.

In WISE's own itty bitty project - which unexpectedly resulted in a book that sold to universities, resource centres, libraries, social service professionals, healthcare clinics, nursing students... and to places on and off this continent -, we TOLD YOU that education wasn't the issue. Neither was lack of intelligence, talent or resourcefulness.

Hell, you try living on nothing and see how well you do! Resourceful?! In spades.

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Galiano or Saltspring Islands

Any of our online readers or friends live there? Or know someone who does?

There are two subsidized seniors housing developments on Saltspring Island. They purportedly accept pets, per their listing with BC Housing. Still, that policy could have changed; I've seen that happen before.

Another subsidized seniors housing development exists on Galiano.

Two of the three places are for people 60 years of age and over. I'm 59. Good enough to apply I should think.

So I've done that, sent applications to all three places, but have no idea what the developments look like, their amenities, whether they're open to off-Island applicants or whether they do, indeed, accept pets.

Anyone have contacts who could find out?

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More Cuts to the 'Left Wing Fringe Group'

Those uppity women of the vast Canadian 'left-wing fringe group' and their children are going to endure more funding cuts here in BC.

The BC government, lead by Liberal Gordo Campbell, have decided that women fleeing criminally abusive partners, don't really need money already allocated to support them in their efforts to protect themselves and their children.

The province's Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General has slashed $440,000 in funding this year to groups that provide counselling and support for battered women and children.

Of course, it is merely another broken promise.

Critics accused the B.C. Liberal government of reneging on its 2007 promise to lead North America in eliminating domestic violence.

Ho-hum, more of the same. Those uppity women will have to get off their butts and raise the funds themselves, along with begging for money to provide other 'non-essential' programs, like daycare, low-cost rental units, and early childhood education.

Cuts to what the province calls the Children Who Witness Abuse Counselling program were magnified yesterday by the release of Turpel-Lafond's report, which focused on the murder of six-year-old Christian Lee in Oak Bay in 2007.

The society will now have to raise extra money privately to keep the programs running, said executive director Carolyn Fast.

I truly hope the over-taxed-paying public have deep pockets and will kindly scrape up the meagre $440,000 the BC have chopped to support those 'fringers' and their children seeking asylum.

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25 September 2009

Imagine What It's Like

... to have yearned for a tiny place all your own, a tiny house or a trailer, one whose maintenance fits within your budget and where you and your furry companions can live in peace.

Imagine that someone comes forward and says to you: "I'll buy you a tiny house or a trailer; just find a place to put it."

Imagine that, feeling hope for the first time in a decade, you try and you try and you try and nowhere can you find land on which to place a tiny home. No RV pad is available, although there's no shortage of used trailers for purchase. No land is available that hasn't restrictions on the type of structures allowed; houses must be of certain minimal dimensions, they must have this or that amenity, and so on.

Imagine then that you must say to your potential benefactor: "I can't accept your gift of a tiny place. I can find nowhere to put it."

Imagine hope fading.

Imagine that the same someone comes forward and says to you: "Alright, if I can't buy you a tiny house or a trailer, then let me buy you a scooter. Then you'll be able to get about without pain. Just tell me the total cost, including insurance, and I'll send you the money."

Imagine hope rising.

Imagine enthusiastically checking online and deciding with the help of your potential benefactor whether it should be a Honda Jazz or a Yamaha Vino. Imagine scouting out the prices, learning about the licensing and insurance requirements, adding up the costs. Imagine reporting back your findings and the two of you deciding on the Vino.

Imagine the excitement growing, not just yours, but hers too...

Then imagine thinking: "Wait. Consider what you're doing. You don't live in a secure place. This is a high-theft area. There's nowhere to keep your scooter safe: no garage, no locker, no area inside the building. There's no carport, no awning under which your scooter can be kept from 30 to 40 cm snow dumps, no protection from the snow plow when it comes to clear the parking lot. The scooter will be exposed to vandalism and theft and the elements all year-round; and there's nothing you can do about it."


Possession of a scooter depends on relocation to a more secure residence.

Now suppose that word came in the spring of a rare, subsidized, seniors residence. It's one of the few rental places in this province, subsidized and not, that accepts pets.

Imagine someone applying to that development and the applicant being put on a waiting list.

Imagine hope waits.

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Those Darn Homeless and "Affordable Housing"

Seems BC is intent upon locking up people who refuse shelter accommodation. However, as Jody Patterson points out, there are a whole lot of reasons having nothing to do with mental illness to be unpersuaded by shelter amenities.

Then there are the problems of establishing permanent housing, which I discuss further below. (Hint: Affordability isn't the problem.)

About sheltering street people,

sometimes, it's as simple as not being able to bear the thought of lying on a mat in a big room with 70 or 80 other troubled souls trying to make it through the night in noisy, restless fashion. Or about having no place to leave your cart without all your worldly belongings being stolen by the morning, or another night of waiting in line outside the shelter just to find out there are no beds left, by which time all the good outdoor sleeping spots are long gone.

It's about having a spouse and wanting to sleep like a couple, or having a pet that you can't possibly leave outside alone in the cold. When our region's "cold wet weather" protocol kicks in - and believe me, it's damn cold and wet before that happens - only one adult emergency shelter, the one at St. John the Divine, welcomes couples and pets.

Then there's a whole other group of resisters with severe addictions, whose sleep/wake cycles are so completely out of whack that the idea of lying down quietly at night for eight hours isn't even an option.

Some have mental-health issues that keep them out of shelters, although not many in my experience, and certainly not enough to give Coleman the quick street cleanup he's envisioning. There's also a tiny group who would actually choose to live outside no matter what: Modern-day hermits, maybe 32 people in all in our region.

One positive solution is already here, in Vancouver. It has nothing to do with arresting people or having them corralled by police and left at shelters that may have no room for them.

The City of Vancouver has had amazing success with such populations using a new kind of shelter piloted late last year. None of it has required arresting people.

The goal of the project was to lure resisters inside by providing shelter with a difference - locked spaces for carts, couples and pets allowed, a 24-hour TV room to accommodate the sleepless, the dignity of booking another night before you left the shelter rather than having to line up much later in the day and hope for the best.

The empty buildings used for the shelters were pulled together quickly and on the cheap, with an operating cost of roughly $1.5 million for the three-month pilot. All were located in areas where people were already sleeping.

...More than 500 people who'd previously refused to use shelters came inside within a few days of the shelters opening last December.

People who are homeless have as much right to choice and dignity as anyone else. Of the choices they might make, how hard is it to imagine yourself refusing to be separated from your spouse or your pet or your entire worldly belongings?

It's not rocket science to reduce homelessness only to those people who would choose it as a lifestyle (many of whom reject the 'homeless' label).

Temporary measures include permitting and supporting tent cities, and providing serviced parking areas for people whose homes are on wheels (cars, trailers).

Permanent solutions must begin by changing the municipal by-laws that effectively enshrine NIMBYism. In few communities is it possible under current laws for the construction of a village of tiny houses. In my own community, laneway housing is still not permitted, despite Vancouver's recent example. (Regarding the latter, $150,000 to $200,000, which includes BC Hydro servicing, are the costs typically cited for the construction of a tiny house on existing property. The City of Vancouver is allowing these laneway houses only to be rented. Why would property owners bother? The costs cited are absurd. A tiny house can be built for one-tenth the price.)

The tiny house movement has coincided with the green movement. Downsizing is in vogue. Municipal laws and other regulations pertaining to buying property and house construction haven't kept up.

The problem of 'affordable housing' isn't one of lack of innovative ideas for shelter materials, construction and community design. The developers are out there who would build these things.

The problem isn't affordability of the shelters themselves. People in the US are building their own homes for NOTHING, from recycled scraps, from shipping containers, from old railway cars. Others are buying materials for under $3,000. Still others buy their tiny houses pre-built for under $25,000. Then there is the mobile home option: fifth wheels and other trailers. Too many used trailers to count sit unoccupied on RV dealer lots.

In other words, the problem isn't the HOUSING.

The problem is systemic NIMBYism, the failure of municipalities to accommodate changing community needs, the lack of will on the part of politicians at all levels to open their eyes and see where the problems truly lie, and the "I'm all right" attitude that blinds too many residents from seeing the need for change.

The problem is the LAND on which to place the housing, land whose use is not restricted by municipal laws. The problem is ALLOWABLE housing.

The problem has NOTHING TO DO WITH AFFORDABILITY and EVERYTHING to do with keeping 'those people' out.

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24 September 2009

New T Added to My Wardrobe

... or soon will be. The new T shall serve as background to the snazzy logo which graces the top right corner of this blog.

My thanks to a certain someone who saw my comment on another site. While Challenging the Commonplace proudly sports the logo of the "Left Wing Fringe Group called Women," I expressed regret at being unable to spread the word in a more upfront, in-your-face kind of way.

Soon, I will be.

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Big Box $tores

Front Page news this week in the local paper announcing the Grand Opening of yet another Big Box Store.

A few weeks ago it was the Grand Opening of a large chain drug store, with people sleeping overnight on the sidewalk to be the first fools - oops!, I mean 'shoppers' - to bustle inside the next morning for a chance at winning the door prize of an in-store spending coupon.

In late spring, the news covered the dubious 'celebration' of opening the largest American department store at the edge of this once sleepy little burg.

Sprinkled throughout the same paper are articles encouraging all of us to economize; to reduce, reuse and recycle; to choose to use public transit; to support local farmers; and to prompt voters and their children to challenge governments to 'save the environment'.

No wonder we are all confused about how to balance our conditioned desire to acquire all the stuff that big business wants us to buy - for their shareholder's profit only - and our collective need to find meaning and safety in the society we have helped create.

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22 September 2009

Funding to Clear the Streets?

What this story doesn't tell anyone is that the 'funding' provided to scoop homeless people off the streets of Vancouver and deposit them at the doorway of shelters will end, conveniently, shortly after the 2010 Olympics are over.

"This bill would have police arrest citizens who are not guilty of any crime, and detain them without any charge, simply because they are homeless," Eby said.

The officer takes the person to a shelter. If the person is not accommodated at the shelter, alternate accommodation may be found. As a last resort, and in order for the police officer to discharge their legal responsibility, the individual may be taken to police cells, either voluntarily or involuntarily, where they will be held until the extreme weather declaration is no longer in effect.

Oh, Brave New World.

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A Long Way to Go, Goils.

My clothes are chosen for comfort, not style and are often handed down to me by friends who know my tastes and intense dislike of shopping. Makeup left my face forever when I passed my 41st birthday. Silver streaks adorn my once blonde-streaked brown hair. Nearing 60, I have become 'invisible' to most of the population, except to be seen as a looming burden.

I lived through the ups and downs of the feminist~liberation age of the mid '60's and early '70's only to arrive in the new millennium to find that not much has changed for women, especially in the world of fashion.

Twiggy was the first emancipated model I remember, as she was only one year older than I and was in every magazine I leafed through. Being tall and robust at the time, I resolved never to fall for the 'I-have-to-be-thin-to-be-loved' dogma that was being sold to us, at a drastic personal price.

The fashion world claims two sets of victims. The first are the women who it uses as models, for a brief window, before discarding them. They are on average 25 percent below a normal, healthy woman's weight. We know how they achieve this, because many former models say so: they starve themselves. They live on water and lettuce for weeks. When they fall below a Body Mass Index of twelve, they start to consume their own muscles and tissues. Several models have dropped dead from starvation after success at fashion shows in the past few years.

And a lot of the rest of us follow blindly along, punishing our beautiful bodies, starving ourselves in an attempt to live up to the Western social standard that has been sold to us.

But there is a broader circle of victims, far beyond the cat-walk's cat-calls. They are ordinary women who are bombarded with these highly manufactured images of "beauty" every day, and react either by feeling repulsive or trying out semi-starvation for themselves. A Harvard University study found that 80 percent of women are unhappy with their bodies, and only 1 percent are "completely happy."

I belong to the 1% of women that are quite content with our bodies. I am healthy, fit and totally unconcerned with outward appearances. For the other 80% - you've got a long way to go.

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21 September 2009

Oh... my...

Do you hear the yearning whimper?

Court-ordered sale on Galiano Island. Rustic log cabin.

This is one island away from me. It's accessible. It has its own land. My cats and I could live there, in peace. Can I pay the $89,000 asking price? Of course not.

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16 September 2009

What's Wrong With This Picture?

As David Akin, who supplies the photo, tweets: "the gang's all here!"

My initial reaction, over three tweets: "Gawd! All but 2 r women. Ya know, it makes me feel so excluded, always has since a tot. So sick of suits in our elite instns. If you're young & female, it's even worse. All those greyheads in upper tiers of biz, gov, unis. All men, w/ only the rare token female."

This gross non-representation made me feel sick as a kid, and it still does. Soothing words to mollify, that "at least the situation has improved" only make me more angry.

How much longer must females wait to be properly represented in our society?

It won't happen in my lifetime, as it hasn't for the lifetimes of women before me.

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Crazy for Raw Food

Yep, after twelve years as a vegan I've begun eating living food. That is raw, organic food only. First to go was morning coffee, which resulted in a three day headache. Next was the one slice of whole wheat bread I consumed with tofu, garlic and tahini, which I haven't missed at all. And finally, the steamed vegetables, hot bean recipes and other specially planned menu items that were favorites on my list for an early evening meal. So far, so good.

The raw food diet has been around for a long time.
The raw food diet, though new to many, has history on its side.

It started with the ancient Greeks," says Cousens. "After studying for a time with the Essenes-an ancient Jewish sect of ascetics and mystics - Pythagoras, the sixth century BC philosopher and mathematician, returned to Greece as a believer in live foods. And according to Herodotus, the father of history, the Pelagasians lived to be around the age of 200 years on a diet of raw foods.

Dr. Max Bircher-Benner read Pythagoras' work, decided to heal himself and used raw foods in his Swiss clinic in the 1890s, His contemporary, Dr. Max Gerson, used raw foods to core Albert Scbweitzer of diabetes. He also cured Schweitzer's wife of tuberculosis of the skin. Then there was Dr. Edmond Bordeaux Szekely, who ran a live food clinic in Mexico from 1937 to 1970. People have used this diet for literally thousands of years."

Not everyone agrees that eating only raw food is good for you.

Long term, the raw diet may have questionable benefits. The same Journal of Nutrition study that touted the heart-health benefits of dining raw also found that study participants had increased levels of homocysteine due to vitamin B-12 deficiency. Further, a Washington University study found that people following a raw food diet had lower bone mass, although apparently healthy bones.

Critics of raw foodism also warn against a host of nutritional deficiencies including low calcium, iron, protein, and insufficient calories. They point out that while it’s true some enzymes are destroyed when food is heated, the body in fact produces and uses ample digestive enzymes on its own. Further, cooking can actually make certain nutrients easier to absorb, as with the beta-carotene in carrots. As Bronee points out, “Not all cooked foods are created equal. There’s a big difference between deep fried and blanched.”

I am enjoying the change. My body is responding well. I am sleeping better; my hormones are fluctuating less; I'm losing a little weight; the urge to snack on sweets in the evening has disappeared and my emotional health is improving. Not only that, I find my food bill has dropped a couple of dollars a day. What could be better than that?

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14 September 2009

Conservatives Do It Again

This time it comes directly from Stephen Harper's mouth.

When answering a question posed today by Bob Rae in Question Period regarding the lack of his government's defence of Canada's healthcare system against US right-wing attacks, Harper responded:

"The Canadian healthcare system will not only survive attacks by right-wing commentators in the United States and [sic] even survive one by left-wing incompetents in Ontario."

The hate-on for Ontario by right-wing Conservatives in this country continues.

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Making Parliament Work - or MPW - Part 2

IF the government responded with relevant answers to all questions during Question Period,

AND IF all MPs conducted themselves with decorum whilst carrying on their Parliamentary duties,

AND IF the Liberals, Bloc and Conservatives agreed sufficiently on proposed legislation that they effectively had a coalition,

THEN what happens to the NDP's position that its MPs are the only ones who want to Make Parliament Work?

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13 September 2009

Making Parliament Work

On Twitter this morning, I learned that Libby Davies, one of Canada's most dedicated MPs, is about to leave for Ottawa and for Parliament. She says that the NDP is "aiming to make [Parliament] work."™

If MPs deliberately act to DISRUPT Parliament - e.g., they follow recommendations on how to obstruct committees, as written in a book issued by their party, or members of the government fail to answer questions in Question Period and instead use deflection or rail against the acts of past governments -, their clear aim is that Parliament DOES NOT work. Ergo, such MPs SHOULD NOT get paid.

Voters elect certain individuals, including the person who, as the 'majority' party leader will become Prime Minister, to represent them in Ottawa and to make our federal government work for all Canadians.

Ministers of Parliament are employees of the Canadian electorate. In any job in the private sector, an employee who doesn't perform as stated in the job description - or worse, performs such as to undermine that position's function - is fired. In the latter case, such employees can be sued.

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