31 March 2009

"Baffling" Finding not so Baffling

In a study of Swedish children, intended to ferret out connections between allergies and indoor pollutants, researchers came upon a "baffling" link between autism and vinyl flooring, which emits phthalates. Had the scientists studied their own conclusions, they'd not have been baffled at all.
Experts suspect that genetic and environmental factors combine to cause autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder that has increased dramatically in children over the past 20 years....

The researchers found four environmental factors associated with autism: vinyl flooring, the mother's smoking, family economic problems and condensation on windows, which indicates poor ventilation.

Notice anything about that list of four factors associated with autism? Anyone familiar with the social determinants of health (SDOH) would spot it immediately.

Family economic problems lead to living in poor conditions. Which means living in environments with cheaper floors; poorly sealed, typically single glazed windows; and addictions such as smoking which parents worn out by the stress may use to ease the strain of day-to-day survival.

In other words, this is further evidence that one of the key SDOH - income - results in poor parents being more likely to have children with autism (also allergies) than more affluent parents. It's really that simple, that stark. Inequality is bad for your health.

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30 March 2009

Tent Cities Help so Stop Destroying Them

From Democracy Now! comes an interview with homelessness activists who discuss Seattle's most recent tent city, Nickelsville. The relevant portion begins at 15:12.

The interview brings home a message I've been trying to raise without success, locally and elsewhere. Those most resistant to my suggestion to leave tent cities alone are politicians and, of course, the neighbours who would rather see people dying on the streets alone rather than grouped together in a community of relative safety and companionship.

The point is, "affordable" housing will continue to be an issue for decades to come. So rather than bulldozing over the communities that homeless people have created for themselves and pushing some of the affected people into overcrowded, unwelcoming "shelters" which impose unkind and often illogical rules, leave the people where they are. At least in tent cities, homeless couples can stay together, pets are allowed, belongings are relatively safe and people who use substances aren't shunned.

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Where's The Beef?

As a vegan I am intensely interested in how others embrace this diet in their daily life and was delighted to find this story about a vegan body builder.
The 41-year-old is irrepressibly handsome, with a mayoral smile, shaved head, and tiny triangular tattoo under his left eye. At 6 feet, 190 pounds, he's "still in the baby stage"; he hopes to gain another 25 pounds. After a four-year hiatus from bodybuilding, he's spent the last seven months resculpting his musculature—all on a diet of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes, and lots of soy protein.

I'm impressed!

Keith Williams is not alone in advancing the vegan cause. Seems there are quite a number of athletes embracing a vegan way of being.

These individuals and other vegans are showing that humans can exist and excel on a plant based diet. Which is a good thing, in my books.

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To Eliminate Homelessness, Fix the Numbers

Want to end homelessness? Then be creative. Count the bodies differently.

That's the solution arrived at by the BC Liberal government and instituted in its new policy for welfare applicants, as made clear in those instructions for front-line staff assessing new "clients."

The document explains that the rationale for the new approach is to "better identify and track homeless clients."

Well, no. That document suggests that the purpose behind it is to fix the numbers, so that future Liberal government releases will show the homeless number to have magically come down. Then the message will be, just in time for the 2010 Olympics: Lo! The compassionate Liberal government has melted away the blight of homelessness in this province!

Yea. Right.

Notice, by the way, that the new counting method strikes particularly hard at women who are homeless. More women couch surf or are in transition houses, etc., because they're more vulnerable to violence when on the streets.

Sigh. Well, what more would one expect, given the removal of programs and safety measures for women for which this government is already responsible?

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Live Webcam: Eagles' Nest, Eggs about to be Hatched

Now that's prime real estate! 'Tis beautiful to watch and listen to life from an eagle's perspective. Be patient, takes a few seconds to connect to the live sights and sounds. The eagles don't leave their eggs alone for longer than a few seconds, so if you don't see one of the parents brooding, wait; you'll have the pleasure of seeing one flying in for a landing.

Third egg of Sidney family is due to hatch April 13th. Hornby eggs (two) are due to hatch April 26th.

Hornby camera - This one provides the best close-up. However, at this location, someone is in the habit of sawing dead trees all day long. Poor eagles!

NB: Eaglet has "fowled" this close-up camera (again). See below for the wide-angle view instead.

Wide-angle Hornby camera:

Sidney camera:

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29 March 2009

His Igginess on Electoral Reform

Here's His Nibs at the Victoria town hall today.

BAD answer on that final question, on electoral reform.

"I don't want to turn this country into Little Italy" would be referencing a popular straw man argument used by the No side against proportional representation. Which tells me not only that His Igginess is against PR, but that this former academic will quite happily use such style of argument to defend the status quo. Surprise!

Oh, then there's the arrogant "I need to be convinced" that it's a good idea.

Well, it isn't YOU who needs to be convinced, Mr. Ignatieff. It's the citizens of this country. Reforming our voting system isn't up to you, your party, or any party for that matter. It's up to the people. And if WE demand reform, then reform we will have. With or without you or your party.

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I'll call your push-poll and raise you one better

Mark Crowley has a good idea. So I told him I was gonna steal it.
The 'No' side of the BC-STV campaign has been using its public funds to conduct polls in preparation for their advertising campaign.... It sounds like the questions are ... about hypothetical information that happens to be false [for example] "How would you feel about BC-STV if you knew <something horrible about BC-STV that isn't true>?" Some people call this push polling, other people call it politics as usual.

Note: To "know" something which is in fact false is not to know it at all but to believe in it. The No side is promoting belief in an ideology which is unsupported by fact and which just happens to serve the electoral status quo.

Crowley suggests that we supporters of a democratic voting system, BC-STV, create a push poll of our own. You know, just to show we know how to play that game too. Except our questions will be based on fact.

Here are the questions he proposes, the last one slightly modified by yours truly:
  • What would you think of FPTP if you knew that only two other western democracies in the world still use this centuries old system?
  • Would you support switching to FPTP if you knew that parties alone would be responsible for ensuring equality of women and minorities and would have complete freedom to run them in unwinnable ridings?
  • Would you support switching to FPTP if you knew that in general only 40% of the vote would be needed for a party to gain complete control of the legislature, rendering the opposition parties useless?
  • Would you support switching to FPTP if you knew that it's possible for the party with the second most votes to win the most seats and form government? (this happened in BC in 1999)
  • Would you support switching to FPTP if you knew that a party gaining a moderate majority of votes, such as 58%, can win almost every single seat in the legislature, such as 77 out of 79? (which happened in BC in 2001)?
Feel free to distribute. In the comments, suggestions for more questions would be welcome.

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Recession Tips?

Stories are beginning to appear about how to navigate through the looming recession. This one, about past due-dates on food, showed up on CBC.
....with the recession biting your budget, you're hesitant to put any more pressure on your bottom line by throwing out something that might have some value.

It is more about labelling on prepackaged items like meat, dairy and medication.
It is legal to sell products in Canada that have passed their best before date as long as it's still fit for human consumption and is not labeled, packaged, treated, processed or advertised in a false, misleading or deceptive manner. Retailers aren't allowed to tamper with the best before date.

It sure doesn't have much to do with saving money in a pinch. If we are going to "cut back" to deal with lower incomes, food purchases ought to be the last to be curtailed.

I would suggest that recession tips start with changing our consumer habits. Forget the hot tub, the new 40-inch LCD flat screen TV and all things wanted over needed.

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Good News-Bad News

The good news is about bananas.

Bananas contain three natural sugars - sucrose, fructose and glucose. Combined with fiber, a banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy. Research has proven that just two bananas provide enough energy for a strenuous 90-minute workout. No wonder the banana is the number one fruit with the world's leading athletes. But energy isn't the only way a banana can help us keep fit. It can also help overcome or prevent a substantial number of illnesses and conditions, making it a must to add to our daily diet.

Bananas aid in fighting depression, reduce symptoms of PMS, morning sickness, heartburn, hangovers, constipation, anemia, stress, nerves and will alleviate the sting of a mosquito. And they are relatively inexpensive to buy.

Now for the bad news.
Below the headlines about rocketing food prices and rocking governments, there lays a largely unnoticed fact: bananas are dying. The foodstuff, more heavily consumed even than rice or potatoes, has its own form of cancer. It is a fungus called Panama Disease, and it turns bananas brick-red and inedible.

There is no cure. They all die as it spreads, and it spreads quickly. Soon -- in five, 10 or 30 years -- the yellow creamy fruit as we know it will not exist. The story of how the banana rose and fell can be seen as a strange parable about the corporations that increasingly dominate the world -- and where they are leading us.

What a sad state of affairs!

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28 March 2009

Lights Out !

Earth Hour tonight.

We are being asked to turn our power off for one hour between 8:30-9:30 pm.
More than a billion people and 1,000 cities around the globe are expected to turn their lights off for Earth Hour 2009 on Saturday in a collective call to combat climate change.
That single hour reduced power consumption in Sydney by 10 per cent and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by some 25,000 tonnes.

While this collective action alone won't solve worldwide climate woes, it has brought an awareness of what can be done when we work together.

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Guest Post: Violence Against Women and the BC Government

The horrendous levels of abuse many women are forced to live with due to all the BC government's financial cuts: to legal aid, income assistance and (federally) EI is appalling, frightening and shocking to me. Ending Violence Association of BC (formerly BC Association of Specialized Victim Assistance and Counselling Programs) is doing a tremendous job providing services in women's counselling, outreach, victim assistance and children who witness abuse programs and conferences that bring leading edge speakers and trainers to the front line. But this does not mean those on the front line can hang on beyond six to eight years as witnesses, especially when the entire system is the problem.

I have been a Stopping the Violence/Women's Counsellor, Outreach Worker, Victim Assistance and Aboriginal Mental Health counsellor for 12  years in the Okanagan, northwestern BC and southwest coast of BC. Ever since Campbell became premier I have watched women's options, supports and fuinctioning decline tremendously. Women are arriving occasionally at transition houses on the west coast in severe states of post traumatic stress. Some of these outpost Transition Houses are poorly informed and unprepared to support these women. They refuse entry or send away any woman who uses substances, which is actually common with this natural, adaptive syndrome. We commonly use substances to manage the automatic emotional flooding and 'danger' alarms released by the brain. Substances help decrease the symptoms by numbing the body and helping the mind forget for awhile. After living in many dangerous and overwhelming situations where women have had no power, substances are often the one tool they have left to feel better within, despite the risks.

I use the feminist analysis of complex post traumatic stress response (CPTSR), based on Laurie Haskell's work in psychology. CPTSR involves an unmanageable state of being in your body and mind, that prevents women from knowing who to trust and not to trust, how to communicate their needs and fears. Women who grew up in abusive and neglectful homes are often developmentally impaired (unless they had someone to sooth and provide comfort); the amygdala and hippocampus in the limbic brain, which manage our emotional world by identifying, naming and triggering responses, have been shown to become damaged from prolonged childhood trauma or stress. Perception and reactivity are altered.

These areas of the brain are easily overly stimulated from an overload of adrenaline that does not shut down easily. In this state of reactivity our ancient reptilian brain takes over as it is intended [to do] for survival and with CPTSR present, it does not perceive safety easily. In fact, it often misreads safe versus unsafe people and situations. The brain is wired for sound at this state and perceptions are quick to assume risk, danger and mistrust. Thus women are extremely isolated, living with 24/7 fear and are hyper reactive at times when they fear harm. Uninformed and untreated women are reactive to the adrenaline flow of fight, flight, freeze or accomodation.

The mental health system treats women too often under a medical model using the Diagnostic and Stastistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV, psychiatry's bible, which states this as a disorder and simply prescribes anti-depressants, sleeping drugs and anti-psychotic drugs that further numb the body; women so treated often report feeling like a robots. I know there are many women who are homeless or would be if they stopped accepting spousal or others' abuse and threats, so they become the abusers' punching bags or sex slaves. With children or dependancy beliefs, a woman can be set up to be a victim to any and every kind of violence and abuse, includng hostage taking, rapes, drug injections and/or drinking alcohol despite her refusal that goes on and on, never ending until she either dies or is able to flee.

And where does she flee to when Transtion Houses do not understand CPTSR and have these ignorant policies? In TH's not in urban areas, administrators often feel they do not have the funds to support staff to obtain the training. Small town employees have small amounts of awareness about abuse, despite all the books, articles and manuals on the topic. On a good note, I understand the BC/Yukon Society of Transition Houses is hiring a person presently to examine the issues and look at advising government to fund a third stage housing or some facsimile.

But this government will only laugh if they look at the report at all. In 2007, I handed Health Minister George Abbott three reports: Women Abuse is a Health Issue, by BC Womens Hospital's Jill Cory; the SAMSHA background report; and my The Extreme Risks Women of Haida Gwaii Face. I know Abbott tossed it overboard as he was never interested in women's issues. I had him as a Political Science Instructor in 1990. This man did not raise the name of one woman during those two University semesters. And neither did he, as BC's health minister, make any adjustments to increase health supports to women fleeing abuse.

The above was sent to me in an email from a friend. She gave me permission to reprint her words here. She requested her name be withheld.

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27 March 2009

Challenging the Commonplace One-Year Anniversary Today

Well we made it. Over 22,000 visits and 550 posts later.

When I boosted up this blog a year ago today, I'd never written a journal of any kind: no Dear Diary stuff, no electronic anything. Ever. In all my 58 years. Had been advised to do it, for personal reasons, to eject into the ether all that stuff roiling and festering inside, not to mention some of my persnickety views.

Have to admit, I was scared for a very long time. Afraid of expressing what I really thought. Still experience that anxiety sometimes, hesitating to click the old Publish Post button. Then I take a big Gulp and swallow that lump into my belly.

'Course it really helped when friend Daphne joined me a few months later. Now we're a team, Daphne and I. Which, we suspect, is about to grow to three! By yet another WISE woman!

Now wouldn't that be grand? Am hoping by the end of the day, we'll be able to make that news official.

So here we are today, the first day of our second year. Please help us celebrate by sending a greeting our way.

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One Year Already?

Whew! Never in a million years did I envision writing anything, let alone post said writing to a blog! Yet, with much encouragement, teaching, praise and patience, Ocean helped me meet the challenge of expressing myself at Challenging the Commonplace.

I'll admit writing is hard work for me as I've had no training and little experience in that realm. Therefore, I am very appreciative when readers respond to the postings.

Ocean and I are looking to augment our team with another feisty, outspoken WISE woman, so, please, stay posted.

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Gordon Campbell Speech on Motion for Citizens Assembly

'Tis interesting to go back in time to see what our politicos said and did. Historical records are such useful things.

When Gordon Campbell introduced the motion to form the BC Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform back on April 30, 2003, it was a momentous occasion for the province and Canada. Not only was the proposed motion backed unanimously by all three of BC's major parties, but the BCCAER would be the first such body ever to be created in this far-ranging land.

It was a proud moment and important words were spoken.

Here are some choice comments from that speech which I encourage all politicians and political insiders to review, especially those fighting to maintain the status quo and against the change recommended to British Columbians by the BCCAER.
[I]f you go back to 1858, this is the first time in 145 years we are actually giving the people of British Columbia a direct say in how they should elect the MLAs that are meant to serve them. After all, in a democracy, we should remember we are here at the service and the pleasure of the people of this province....

There is no more fundamental tenet that we agree to as we seek office than that in a democracy, the rules of the democracy should be designed by the people they serve, not by the power brokers who may wish that the democracy worked in their interests. It is by turning to the people and trusting the public that I believe we can re-establish the critical link between our democratic institutions and those that they are supposed to serve.

Full speech is over at Dan Grice's place.

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26 March 2009

Applying for BC "Benefits" - Round and round you go

... and where you'll stop nobody knows.
There is a perverse Catch-22 in play. If you have the dogged determination and cunning needed to find your way through the bureaucratic maze to make a claim for welfare disability benefits, then clearly you're not really that disabled. That seems to be the Kafkaesque policy framework [Mr. B] was operating in. The ministry has as many "persistent multiple barriers" as some of its clients.

Try applying for Disability Benefits, which is one step further than the Persistent Multiple Barriers designation Mr. B sought.

The situation is made worse by the medical forms for DB running to 30 pages and requiring a doctor who has known the applicant for a certain period of time. The problems are threefold:
  1. The 30-page form can be enough to send people with mental health challenges running as fast as they can in the opposite direction.
  2. It can be a challenge for people who haven't lived at the same address for several years to find a family physician. Thus this requirement disproportionately affects people whose lives may be transient due to their health.
  3. The applicant must be well enough to endure the long, invasive and demeaning process. If your illness exhausts you, is developmental, and/or mental, good luck with that!
But let's return to the saga of Mr. B, who we discover sought the help of the ombudsman after his seventh or eighth run-in with the ministry. After examining Mr. B's file, the ombudsman found SEVEN ways in which the ministry failed to carry out its job as prescribed.
[Mr. B] didn't get notice of the first cut-off, he was declared ineligible without an assessment, he wasn't informed, the requests for multiple forms were unfair, the delay was unreasonable, they failed to respond to various letters and they unreasonably delayed the decision for special status.

The ministry's response to those findings was capitulation, to a point. He was made eligible for the persistent multiple barriers status, retroactive to 2006. They paid him the difference he was shorted and backdated his application for another program. He got $5,000 worth of retroactive payments and a written apology.

But it still clung to the position he was ineligible for that status in the future, which prompted another round of reconsideration and appeal. Mr. B finally won the day last December and is now officially a person with persistent multiple barriers, and likely the most experienced of the 7,500 so designated.

Just So You Know: That caseload number (from 2007) is significant because it's about a third less than it was five years ago. The ombudsman says there is no reliable explanation as to why, although Mr. B's story seems to explain a lot.

Indeed it does. Sadly, Mr. B's story is all too familiar to people living at the bottom of BC's poverty well.

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Jewish British Columbians to Carole James

The NDP and the big lie about Israel: An open letter to Carole James.
As Jewish British Columbians we were disappointed and angered by your treatment of newly-chosen Kensington candidate Mable Elmore regarding comments she made some years ago about the difficulty of dealing with Zionists in her union when trying to organize around peace issues. We want you to know that we are not at all offended by Mable's remarks but rather by your response to them, which we think does a disservice both to Jews and the community as a whole.

You listening, Ms. James, other than to the Zionist lobby?

Nah, didn't think so.

[Read the entire letter. See previous related post and this evidence of the priorities of the provincial NDP on another topic.]

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If truth doesn't support your arguments

... there's always push-polling. Which is the No side's latest technique to preserve the electoral status quo.
No STV has retained Ipsos-Reid Corp. to do argument testing, asking British Columbian polling questions that electoral reform supporters says are "based on simply untruths." But a spokesperson for No STV has rejected that charge, noting the reformers simply "don't like a lot of the things that we say about STV based on what we believe are the facts."

Note to said spokesperson: BELIEF is irrelevant to FACT.
In an email, Fair Voting BC campaign manager Susan Anderson-Behn alerted senior supporters to the poll - which reportedly asked respondents if they would be more or less likely to vote for STV if they knew:
  • "only two small countries in the world used it"
  • "you would be less likely to have women representatives"
  • "MLAs would have less accountability"
  • "small towns would have less representative(s)"
  • "the politicians would have less power overall"
  • "there would actually be less proportional representation"
"These questions were all asked negatively, so that there was no way to respond to any of the questions positively... Most of them were based on simple untruths about STV... which need to be responded to," wrote Ms. Anderson-Behn.

Among the ironies of the No campaign is that its leaders and staunchest proponents of the status quo are well-known NDP insiders and pundits David Schreck and Bill Tieleman, the spokesperson mentioned above. And the arguments they're using against STV have nothing to do with democracy and everything to do with retaining party power.

Clearly, NDP insiders don't want the power to rest with the voters, as it would with STV. Power in the hands of voters under a proportional system would be a veritable disaster! Because it would mean British Columbians getting the representation they voted for!

Note to proponents of the status quo: An electoral system should never be about satisfying party ambitions. It should be about representing what the VOTERS want and IF that means certain parties don't get to hold power, so be it. Under STV, the parties and their candidates would have to earn votes.

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For Those Mourning the Demise of Corporate Media

... and supposing that, through their demise, so goes journalism (an association I've always questioned), comes this notable nugget.
According to an Ithaca-based expert on alternative media, the much advertised decline in print publications is being offset by the rise of a robust muckraking alternative. Jeff Cohen, a longtime media watchdog and director of Ithaca College's Park Center for Independent Media, believes that the alternative media has grown up to the point when it needs to officially recognize its leaders and champions.

The newly founded Park Center has announced the winners of its first annual Izzy Award, named for the iconoclastic muckraking journalist I.F. Stone, who died in 1989 after six decades of afflicting the comfortable with his prescient questioning and vivid prose. This year's winners are Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, and Glenn Greenwald, an independent blogger whose work appears at Salon.com.

THIS is where some of the good journalists from the corporate media are fleeing. They are being joined by upcoming new journalists who, disgusted with the profiteering of the fourth estate, want to deliver the truly newsworthy to the public.
The Park Center studies media outlets "that create and distribute content outside traditional corporate systems and news organizations." According to Cohen, the center's founding director, "Our purpose is to bring attention to the growing sector of independent media. Independent media is breaking stories, and bringing down corrupt officials around the country. We needed an award and we couldn't think of anyone better to name it after than a guy who, in the depth of the anti-communist frenzy of the 1950s, started his own weekly newsletter."

Amid the gloom in the newspaper business, Cohen finds hope. "No doubt the Internet has caused upheaval and hardship in journalism," he said, "but it has helped independents to bring their work to a broader audience. The good news is that we had a tough decision because there is so much exciting work going on in alternative journalism."

Here Cohen makes an error. In the above, he appears to equate "journalism" with the work done by journalists to serve "traditional corporate systems and news organizations." But journalism is journalism, no matter where it is done or for whom. It is necessary to separate the task performed and those who perform it (journalism, journalists) from those for whom it is done (corporate, independent media, oneself).

Yes, the "upheaval and hardship" has been to journalists serving corporate news outlets and that has been unfortunate. But as this article makes clear, the corporate giants aren't the only game in town. There are independent media cropping up everywhere and if some good journalists don't quite see themselves fitting in with any of the existing independents, well they can do what the likes of Glenn Greenwald and Amy Goodman have done. Start up an independent venture of their own.

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25 March 2009

Abortion: Mexican Style

Mexico's lawmakers have voted to recognize "right to life" at conception.
On March 12 lawmakers in Puebla, Mexico, voted to amend the state’s constitution to recognize a "right to life" that begins at conception. Puebla is not the first Mexican state to adopt such a provision -- Colima, Baja California, Sonora, and Morelos have all recently passed similar legislation. The trend among Mexican states to reinforce what are already strict restrictions on abortion access comes in reaction to Mexico City’s groundbreaking 2007 policy to legalize abortion in the Federal District of Mexico during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Challenged by abortion rights opponents, the law was recently upheld by Mexico’s Supreme Court.

These barbaric measures are resulting in more death to women who seek illegal abortion.
These policies not only demonstrate a shocking lack of compassion, they also directly contradict strong evidence from Mexico and other parts of the world that restricting abortion access does not make abortion less common -- it just results in more women dying or being injured by clandestine and unsafe procedures.

When women have a choice, abortion rates tend to go down.
A worldwide study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization found that abortion rates tend to be lowest where the procedure is broadly legal and contraceptives are widely available and used. Moreover, abortion rates are roughly equal in regions where abortion is legal to those where it isn't. The only difference, once again, is that the procedure is very safe in countries where abortion is legal and often unsafe in countries where it is highly restricted.

From all the evidence, it would seem that those who are deciding for women, instead of offering a safe choice, are risking more than one life.

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24 March 2009

Ignatieff "Check"; Harper "Mate"

Ignatieff, March 2nd: "We cannot write a blank cheque on $3 billion worth of stimulus. We have to have some indication of what this is going to be spent on."

Harper, March 6: "Rather than trying to throw up roadblocks, they need to get out of the way and let that money flow."

The federal government won approval Tuesday afternoon to quickly start pumping $3 billion into Canada's sputtering economy after the Liberals dropped an earlier demand for advance details of how the money is to be spent.

How do Ignatieff Liberals differ from Dion Liberals?

Ignatieff Liberals add pomposity to their hot air.

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Because Truth is "Offensive," it's to be Denied

In speaking to the online magazine Seven Oaks back in 2004, then and current BC NDP candidate Mable Elmore spoke of the sometimes hostile reception she received from fellow workers to her anti-war activities. Among the questions she asked was this one.

5. What kind of reactions have you received -- because you’re a rank-and-file activist -- from your co-workers and your fellow union members in your local to some of the anti-war work that you’ve been doing in the union?

Elmore's response has caused yet another firestorm of misplaced outrage. Why? Because she dared to use the word 'Zionist' in her response.

It’s been tough. And I’m in a male-dominated union, we’re ninety per cent men, and a lot of middle-aged brothers and I’m in the minority; I’m an activist, I’m a lesbian of colour, and out in the union, and so it’s kind of hitting all those fronts. And in terms of the anti-war stuff, it’s really been a struggle. We have vocal Zionists in our worksites, and we’ve had to battle them, and – really, I’d characterize it as ‘battles,’ in terms of turning our executive members around, and bringing educationals into our workplace, and being shut out by management, and having to have our workshops outside of the worksite, and facing continual backlash. But the backlash is also a sign of making progress. So that’s how we take that perspective, but, it’s been tough but we’re going to continue to push. We’re signing up more and more members [to the Peace and Justice Committee], and that’s continuing that mobilizing, and that hasn’t been easy.

And what does Elmore's then and current leader do? One Carole James?

The "dimwit" (as this Georgia Straight reporter calls her) demands that Elmore apologize. For telling the truth. For using 'Zionist' in its proper meaning.

When James first became leader of the NDP, I was hopeful. But ever since, it has been downhill with barely an occasional incline along the way.

ETA, Mar 26: See this post by Derrick O'Keefe, one of the young Vancouver writers who used to publish Seven Oaks. Among his comments: "Within 24 hours of [Elmore's] nomination win, the echo chamber that is the provincial Legislature press corps produced this nauseating performance by BC NDP leader Carole James. Elmore, for her part, produced a frankly nonsensical apology, claiming among other things that the word Zionist has a different meaning in North America than in Europe.... The really offensive thing is that the NDP wouldn't welcome a candidate with a long record of standing up for justice in the Middle East."

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23 March 2009

On Food for Poor, Price Rises the Steepest

'Tis exactly what I've been saying and my budget has been telling me.

In the 4th quarter of 2008,

the food price index accounted for over 60 per cent of the increase in the CPI, compared to six per cent in the first quarter. The increase was mostly the result of a 3.9 per cent annual rise in prices for food bought from stores. The annual pace of growth in the prices of store-bought food has been increasing since 2003. The steepest rise in prices came from staples such as bread, rice, flour, milk and eggs.

Those would be the food items which the poor depend on. In other words, the food industry knows it can jack up the prices of these products because the most vulnerable, trapped market has no choice but to buy them regardless of the increases. Except that people like me just keep buying less.

As for food bought from stores, WISE storyteller Anna, made these very wise comments:

For the 15 years of my life in Canada, this is the first time that I have owned a garden. I am very much enjoying it because it reminds me of how I was raised. It was natural for every family member to have their own little patch of land, to grow their own fruits and vegetables....

Here, people without gardens must go to grocery stores. That’s how the corporations have taken over. It used to be that people would make cherry pies or vegetable dishes or whatever. They were able to sell that to the neighbours and they would survive that way. Now there are all types of liability issues and insurance and licensing and...

When you look at all these big manufacturers, what are they doing but making that very same pie and earning millions and billions in revenue and profit? They’ve managed to take away the very essence of life in terms of how we survive, and turned it into a multi-billion dollar business. The pie that we get at the grocery store now is less nutritious and has no value and no meaning. In fact, we cannot afford the pie anymore. (p16)

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Wanted: Fake homeless

I find this hugely distasteful. As demonstrated by the women with whom I worked on the WISE project, members of the target population are as capable of conducting research as anyone else. So why hire "fake homeless"? Why not hire members of the homeless community to do the research? For one thing, you'd get a result which better reflected the reality.
In an e-mail sent out last week to different social agencies and individuals, city employee Monica Waldman said they are looking for "tons" of people to sign up to be "decoys" on April 15, the night scheduled for the city's second homeless head count.

You don't think that homeless people read or won't be aware that they'll be targeted that day? Many among the homeless are as loathe to give up their privacy as anyone else, which is why the last count resulted in lesser numbers than expected.

Look to see fewer people on the streets or in their usual hangouts on April 15th.
"Decoys are essentially 'faux' homeless people for quality assurance purposes in this research," [Waldman] wrote. "As a decoy, you would need to come to a 30-minute training session and then be deployed [speaking of jargon] to various sites throughout the city where you will wait to be approached by the research volunteers."

Each decoy will receive a $100 pre-paid Visa card as an honorarium.

In other words, objectivity is being sought. But as academics have known for decades, objectivity cannot be achieved no matter who does the work. Right from the start, the question which motivates the research also directs the quality of the answer which will result.

Moreover, you think the truly homeless won't know who are the fakes? Homeless communities are tight-knit. They'll know who doesn't belong and likely will make a game of, Identify the Mole!

Not only are homeless people capable of doing this task, they'd also benefit from the $100. Furthermore, as Michael Shapcott of the Wellesley Institute noted "the decoys are supposed to look like homeless people but a lot of homeless people don't look like homeless people because it's a survival strategy. It's only really counting a tiny fraction."

The whole notion of inserting plants is disrespectful and repugnant to me.

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Want to Downsize, Get Back to Basics?

Then you may be interested in this new online journal which focuses on the "small living" movement. I subscribed to its feed the moment my eye fell upon this adorable brick house tucked away in a meadow.

Until very recently, the concept of living in a space 500 sq. feet or less was definitely contrary to the American mainstream in all but the most dense of cities. In fact, from the 1950’s onward, the American home seemed to be ever increasing in size and grandiosity with little regard to the costs to either individuals or the environment....

It wasn’t until the recent decline in housing values, failure of the sub-prime housing industry, and subsequent impact to the broader U.S. and world economies that most people were willing to consider any solution out of the norm when it came to housing options. Now, however, there is an increasing amount of media attention on any form of cheap housing solution. Older inner city homes, yurts, tiny houses on wheel, houseboats, RV’s, log cabins and the like are now featuring on the evening news and regular pieces in the New York Times.

... [T]he small shift in mainstream mindset toward more modest housing options has been exciting to many members of the small home movement. But we realize that there’s a long way to go in terms of right-sizing the “American Dream”. In the meantime, the group of us on SLJ thought it would serve a useful purpose to have a website where we could regularly release articles that might prove useful to people interested in downsizing their lives to more manageable proportions.

Jump over to the Small Living Journal and have a look.

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Vegan Scoreboard

Mmm-mmm good! Vegan's score 8 out of 10 on the aphrodisiac foods lisitng.
The food you consume can have a direct impact on your sex life, affecting your hormones, brain chemistry and energy and stress levels. Some foods have psychoactive properties, others arouse because they are psychologically suggestive, and some can actually increase blood flow to the genitals. And if it does not have all that aphrodisiac effect, at least it’s healthy and it will do you good!

While I knew about the healthy part, I didn't know about the aphrodisiac effect of asparagus, figs, almonds, avocado, basil, bananas, GARLIC and CHOCOLATE!

I'm going out to stock up right now.

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Electoral Reform and BC-STV are on the Move

The electoral reform movement is building and there's excitement in the air! Witness the following exciting news from Fair Vote Canada.

24 Days to Victory: register now for the April 18 AGM in Vancouver
The first Fair Vote Canada AGM to be held in British Columbia takes place on Saturday, April 18, at the Segal Business School in downtown Vancouver. The AGM theme is “24 Days to Victory”, indicating the countdown to the critically important BC-STV referendum on May 12.

Our eighth annual meeting will feature a great line-up of speakers, including Rafe Mair, Rick Anderson, Judy Rebick, Jim Harris, as well as BC-STV campaign leaders.

See the full agenda and online registration form at www.fairvotecanada.eventbrite.com. We hope to see all of our British Columbia members and many others at this important event to support the BC-STV campaign.

BC-STV campaign rolling ahead: please donate and volunteer
The BC-STV campaign is now in high-gear. Regional organizers and committees are in place, additional campaign staff are being hired, materials are being prepared and distributed. If you are in BC or elsewhere, please visit www.stv.ca. If you can volunteer, please sign up now. Wherever you live: please donate to help win this nationally significant referendum.

Facebook enthusiasts can check out a number of related Facebook groups: Yes for BC-STV (the main campaign group), Friends of BC-STV (set up for supporters outside of BC), New Democrats for BC-STV, plus other regional BC-STV groups throughout BC.

BC-STV cross-country house parties
Kenn Fisher, who serves on the executive of the Toronto Chapter wants electoral reformers in all parts of the country to organize BC-STV house parties on a designated day to show our support and help raise money for the BC campaign. Stay tuned for more details or contact Kenn at kenneth.fisher@utoronto.ca.

Allan Blakeney, Nancy Ruth, Stephen Owen join FVC Advisory Board
The FVC National Council is pleased to announce the appointment of three more people to the FVC National Advisory Board: Allan Blakeney, former NDP premier of Saskatchewan and past president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association; Senator Nancy Ruth of the Conservative Party, and founder of the Canadian Women’s Foundation; and Stephen Owen, former Liberal MP and cabinet minister, and currently the Vice President for External, Legal and Community Relations, University of British Columbia.

The National Advisory Board now has a total of 37 distinguished Canadians who support the fair voting movement.

New chapters formed in three provinces
The fair voting movement continues to spread across the country. The FVC National Council has recently welcomed three new chapters: Fair Vote Canada, Saskatchewan Chapter; Fair Vote Canada, New Brunswick Chapter; and Fair Vote Canada, Peterborough and the Kawarthas Chapter.

Sell-out crowd at Toronto electoral reform forum
Fair Vote Ontario organizers were delighted by the great response to their January 21 forum in Toronto: “Moving Forward on Electoral Reform”. The forum organizers had to cut off registration several days in advance because the demand was exceeding the size of the 175 seat conference room.

For those who did attend, the event was very informative, interesting and motivating. Among the many highlights was the final panel addressing “How I would put electoral reform back on the national agenda”. Journalist Andrew Coyne, Greenpeace executive director Bruce Cox, and former Green Party leader Jim Harris provided a rousing end to a great day.

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22 March 2009

Journalism's role in creating/enabling war (Video)

John Pilger, Australian journalist, author, film maker, speaks about global media consolidation, and the drive to empire. Filmed in Chicago June 16, 2007. Highly recommend viewing.

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Pot, meet Kettle

Headline: Shun witchcraft, Pope tells Angolans.

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Final Reports: Issues and Recommendations

These final reports complete the WISE book and represent the culmination of an intense project which was done by low-income women in my community.

As much as the preceding portions of the book - the story behind the project and the stories by the women - are compelling, the first report reflects the women's own assessments and hopes for the future and contains shocking and unexpected facts. The second report completes the book with the women's recommendations and is full of surprises, particularly in light of the preceding stories and the Issues report. It stunningly challenges assumptions concerning where the solutions truly lie and who the real "stakeholders" are or should be.

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21 March 2009

Jobs vs Mutual Aid: Taking Back the Meaning of 'Work'

In March 2007, Daphne and I did a presentation to the Economic Security Project's Jobs & Justice conference. Given the current crisis due to runaway capitalism the issues we raised couldn't have been more timely, e.g., the auto industry, credentialism, and the valuation of everything and everyone in monetary terms.

We took as our jumping off point the second group of recommendations from the WISE storytellers. In its plea for a return of community, that set of recommendations suggests a different way of looking at, and a revaluation of the activity called ‘work’ whose modern equivalent is ‘having a job’."

Jobs vs. Mutual Aid: Taking back the meaning of "work" in community.

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More on Drugs

I know I have been going on about ending drug prohibition but I feel more has to be said.

Even the police are in favour of legalization, risking their reputation and their jobs to do so.
Cops like David Bratzer are a rare breed.

Think of the late Gil Puder. A distinguished Vancouver police officer, Puder called for an end to the war on drugs while he was in active service during the late 1990s and continued to do so despite threats of disciplinary action from his superiors.
Or the recently retired West Vancouver police chief Kash Heed. At one time, while he was still with the Vancouver police, Heed, according to Bratzer, also spoke about the legalization of drugs.

Bratzer has been with the Victoria police for only three years, and already the 31-year-old officer has stepped forward to question the basis of the country’s drug laws.

The resources spent on fighting crime is staggering.
> Share of enforcement-related activities in Canada’s drug strategy: 75 percent

> Share of drug-related criminal charges in Canadian courts in 2002: 23 percent

> Cost associated with drug cases before the courts in 2002: $330 million

> Policing costs for drug enforcement in 2002: $1.43 billion

> Correctional-service costs associated with drugs in 2002: $573 million

> Canadians reporting having used illicit drugs during their life in 1994: 28.5 percent

> Canadians reporting illicit-drug use during their life in 2004: 45 percent

Source: “Canada’s 2003 renewed drug strategy—an evidence-based review”, published in the HIV/AIDS Policy and Law Review’s December 2006 edition

Canadians are not alone in this endeavour. A widely read on line US journal has sent a pleas to help end the sham.
It is clear. We have the biggest opportunity in history to truly transform public policy about drugs.

Dramatically different political circumstances -- a new president and increasingly dire domestic and global economic crises -- give us a fresh opportunity to challenge the basic premises of the failed and destructive drug war.

But in order to seize the moment, we need to educate and mobilize the largest audience possible for drug reform in the next few months -- before the drug warriors reassert their influence

What can you do? Find out what is happening in your area about drug reform. Ask your local, provincial and federal politicians what their stance is.
Make some noise!

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20 March 2009

Iggy vs Galloway: Who's the one talking "rubbish"?

In his speech to the US Senate in May 2005, George Galloway said the following:

I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction.

I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda.

I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001.

I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives; 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths on a pack of lies; 15,000 of them wounded, many of them disabled forever on a pack of lies.

Today, Michael Ignatieff made these comments to The Canadian Press.

I have never in a long life of listening to George Galloway heard a single sentence out of his mouth that I believed.... Galloway has said his share of ridiculous and absurd things.... [But] he can come to Canada and talk rubbish all day long, as far as I'm concerned. If there's a security threat, that's another matter.

Which of Galloway's statements quoted above do you not believe, Mr. Ignatieff?

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Getting There

On rare occasions, Daphne and I have had opportunities to contribute our unique perspectives at special (usually poverty-focused) events which have been held outside our communities and, usually, off Island. Whenever this has involved hopping a plane (thanks to door-to-door subsidies), we've had to scramble to find willing drivers to take us to and from the airport, because public transportation between the Cowichan Valley and the airport is zilch.

So when I caught this cutie in Google Reader, I had to chuckle. What a great solution for Daphne and I!

Of course, it comes with a $200,000 price tag. But a gal can dream, right?

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Dinner Shift

Don't be alarmed, this is good news. Seems the many people who have been protesting the way our food is raised, grown, prepared and delivered have been heard.
For decades, foodies, animal welfare advocates, labor and environmentalists have joined together in an effort to educate their peers and affect policy change with the broad goal of improving the way our food is grown, processed, distributed and eaten. They've snuck into animal factories with hidden cameras, staged protests in Washington and boycotted fast food establishments. They've shopped at farmers markets and planted seeds in community gardens. They've formed a massive and remarkably powerful food and farm movement, and in general, they've kept quite busy reaching for a goal that until recently seemed completely futile and utterly out of reach.

The US administration has taken the lead, starting with the front lawn of the White House.
First, it was just announced that the Obama's are putting in their very own vegetable garden on the White House lawn. This is something that the food movement has been dreaming of since day one, and not one but two separate organizations -- Eat the View and the White House Organic Farm Project -- have been tirelessly promoting for years.

Okay Harper, Canadians want "shovels in the ground". Start now and grow some greens on Parliament Hill.

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19 March 2009

Bare Decades Ago a Bonus Came as a Surprise

... and was awarded to outstanding employees whose performances far exceeded their job descriptions and their employers' expectations.

A salary was the normal compensation employees received for simply doing their jobs as prescribed. If they failed to perform to standard, they were fired.

So when did bonuses become part of the expected "compensation package," particularly for management? And when did they start getting issued regardless of performance?

In other words, what are these bonuses for? Simply hanging in there, no matter how incompetent you are?

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Of Wealth, Debt and Saving for a Rainy Day

... or, What the Affluent Could Learn from the Poor.

Jason Kirby writes an interesting piece today in Macleans: "Pay up or get out." For people at the bottom of the poverty well, a better title would be "Save up or die."

According to Kirby, six months ago Nortel employee Marcus Leech was earning an annual salary of $127,000.

He knew the telecom giant was on shaky ground. But with three decades of experience, Leech was sure he could land another good job if need be. So when his wife, who had stayed home to raise and educate their three children, went to school to become a pharmacist last August, Leech thought nothing of tapping his line of credit for the $9,000 tuition. Nor did he fret much when he took out a mortgage of around $280,000 for a new home in Smiths Falls, Ont., or when he borrowed thousands to replace the family’s two aging vehicles. In all, the family piled on more than $400,000 in debt in the last few years. [my emphasis]

Leech justifies this head-in-the-sand attitude this way.

“When I was young if you got heavily into debt it was a very serious issue, but now it’s just seen as normal. If you’re an average middle-income family with two or three kids and only a single income, debt is the only way to keep the family going.”

Perhaps it's my age showing, but I'm blown away by the failure of Leech and others like him to face up to the reality he saw around him, not to mention his eager buy-in of consumerism.

Given Leech "knew the telecom giant was on shaky ground," why wasn't he more cautious about incurring debt? Why didn't he stay in the old house and keep the old cars? Why didn't he do that and start tucking away money in a savings account?

It's as though Leech never outgrew the teen years during which a sense of infallibility is normal.

Now the man is both out of a job and his family is overburdened with debt.

I wouldn't wish this situation on anyone and hope Leech's family survives intact. But there are tough years ahead for all family members. The adjustments necessary will be more than financial; crucial to the family's survival will be painful psychological adjustments.

Return to Kirby's article. He writes:

[S]tarting in the 1990s our attitude to debt changed. As interest rates fell and soaring house prices made everyone feel richer, our nation of savers became a nation of borrowers. Debt emerged as the great enabler, the ticket to the trappings of a better life, to flat screen TVs and shiny new SUVs. [my emphasis]

No, this wasn't the case for everyone. There's a whole class of the population whose lives are lived unnoticed and unremarked, and whose lifestyles are anything but what is described.

We’re now at the point where regular Canadians are carrying even more debt than Americans. It’s true we used to save much more - as recently as 1990 we socked away 13 per cent of our disposable incomes - but the average debt carried by Canadian households has jumped 71 per cent.... As of last year, we only saved three per cent of the money coming in the door, and according to the consulting firm Deloitte, the average Canadian family now owes more than 1.3 times its disposable income. [my emphasis]

So this is where my head exploded.

As our regular readers know, Daphne and I have household incomes in the lowest decile range. Our income source is entirely through self-employment. Although our households have different characteristics, they are relatively similar in terms of finances. Daphne and I also share a virtually identical outlook with respect to money, work and employment.

In good years, each of our households might have earned almost twice as much as usual. Which means they STILL remained below the poverty line. During those years, we saved any "excess," since we knew things wouldn't always be so good, at least relatively speaking.

For example, during the years 2004 through 2007, I averaged an annual income of $12,500 from self-employment. That's $50,000 over four years.

How much do you suppose I saved?

HINT: Far more than the 13 percent the average person saved back in 1990.

What have those savings meant to me? They've meant that when times got bad, as they inevitably did starting January 2008 when contract work became more scarce and my health deteriorated, I'd have money enough to get me to age 60, at which point I would start collecting CPP and be eligible for BC's SAFER rental subsidy.

Daphne's and my excellent money management skills are not unique among the very poor. Which defies the stereotype of low-income people pissing away money faster than they can make it. In fact, the likes of Marcus Leech could learn some vital lessons from we lowly folk.

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Therapeutic Communities in Era of NIMBYism

Today comes great news for (eventually) 96 homeless and vulnerable people near Victoria. And with it comes some old news.

The good news comes in the announcement of a new therapeutic community to be created on Vancouver Island. Thanks to two major anonymous donors, the Creating Homefulness Society was able to purchase the 78-hectare Woodwynn Farm in Central Saanich.
The new owner's plans include growing organic vegetables, herbs and berries, community garden plots, horse riding, livestock and greenhouses. "Every acre of available farmland will be farmed," said society board chairman Rob Reid

Which sounds very much like the Cowichan Valley's own Providence Farm, a therapeutic community of international reputation, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and is the pride of Valley residents.

But here's the old news:
Initially, Leblanc wanted clients to live at the farm, but Central Saanich council refused to consider rezoning to allow that. The debate was often acrimonious and Central Saanich Mayor Jack Mar expects there will be some strong feelings about the purchase. Leblanc is not yet certain where clients will live, but is looking at options.

Rather than see 96 vulnerable people housed, those with property in the area would prefer they remain homeless on the streets. Because, you see, those streets aren't in their very own backyards.

But neither is the farm, given its 78-hectare size and all.

The heartless cruelty and idiocy of such NIMBY attitudes is boundless.

"Idiocy," I say, because as therapeutic communities like Providence Farm demonstrate, people with mental health and developmental challenges CAN be happy, productive and valued members of their community.

If only they are given the chance. If only other members of the community would allow these people the same pride, and sense of belonging and of home as they cherish for themselves and their own.

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Only in the UK, but wish it were here

Our governments could sure use a list like this.
Council leaders have compiled a banned list of the 200 worst uses of jargon, with "predictors of beaconicity" and "taxonomy" among the worst horrors. The Local Government Association says such words and phrases must be avoided....

LGA chairman Margaret Eaton said: "The public sector must not hide behind impenetrable jargon and phrases....

"Why do we have to have 'coterminous, stakeholder engagement' when we could just 'talk to people' instead? If a council fails to explain what it does in plain English then local people will fail to understand its relevance to them. We do not pretend to be perfect, but as this list shows, we are striving to make sure that people get the chance to understand what services we provide."

The BC welfare system could use a similar attitude, although there's a strong suspicion among welfare recipients that government jargon is there intentionally, in order to confuse and not enlighten people about their rights.
A Plain English Campaign spokeswoman said: "This gobbledegook has to go. Jargon has its place within professions but it should not be allowed to leak out to the public, as it causes confusion. It could even be used to cover up something more sinister."

Remind you of anyone?

See the full list of banned words and phrases.

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Costs Rise Most on Non-Discretionary Expenses

... or rather, on costs of food and housing, which for people living at the bottom of poverty well, amount to "discretionary" expenses. In other words, you cut down on food such that all you've left are grain products (which also have seen ballooning, sticky prices) and/or you leave your home for the streets.
Food prices increased 7.4 per cent during the 12-month period to February, following a 7.3 per cent increase in January. The main contributors to the overall jump in food costs were a 25.8 per cent hike in the price of fresh vegetables, a 9.7 per cent rise in the price of bakery and cereal products, and a 6.1 per cent increase in meat prices.

Shelter costs, the second-largest factor, increased 3.0 per cent, which was slightly less than the 3.3 per cent rise in January.

Given that the average price of heating fuel and new and resale residences have gone DOWN over the past several months, those increased shelter costs primarily reflect increases renters have had to pay. Landlords can merrily jack up their rents each year, regardless of recession, depression, whatever.

There IS something most people can do about the rising cost of food, however.

Jack Carr, an economist at the University of Toronto, notes that "Canadians buy food from all over the world and those foods are traded in U.S. dollars so when our dollar goes down, relative to the U.S. dollar, food costs more."

Solution: Follow the 100 mile diet. Buy local.

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18 March 2009

World Water Forum Sanitation for VIPs Only

... but sanitation not permitted to the more mundane attendants. So observes Meera Karunananthan, of the Council of Canadians.
Yesterday, I picked up my media accreditation for the World Water Forum. I now don't need to pay the exorbitant fee of 100 euros a day, which has kept so many of our comrades from having their voices heard at the international conference which is being promoted as open and democratic..

Maude [Barlow], Wenona Hauter, the Executive Director of Food and Water Watch, and I needed to use the bathrooms at the World Water Forum and discovered that there were separate bathrooms for the VIPs which we were not allowed to use. When we finally made our way to the ordinary people's bathrooms, we discovered there was no running water, so the toilets wouldn't flush and we couldn't wash our hands.

The symbolism is hard to ignore. It's a perfect statement about the World Water Forum's agenda serving the rich and powerful while the poor are denied access to water and sanitation. The VIPs have a special space reserved for their sanitation purposes, while the rest of us have no running water.

While toilets based on compost technology would have been preferable, providing separate facilities for VIP hands and butts goes beyond silly. It makes obvious who matters, the men already in charge, and who doesn't matter, the people who serve to keep the men in charge. Ironically, if the latter don't get their needs addressed, the former will plunge like felled trees from their lofty perches.

Read the whole article. 'Tis most enlightening.

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HarperCon Pattern Emerges

If you ask the Minister for Science & Technology about his thoughts on the theory of evolution, you are asking him about his religious beliefs. You are not asking about his understanding and support of a scientific theory on which so much other science has been based.

If you demand that a recent immigration and refugee board appointee be fired because he opposes same-sex marriage and views homosexuality as sinful, you are making such demand on the basis of his religious belief. You are not making such demand on the basis of his support for Canadian law.

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Shell Dumps "Unprofitable" Renewable Tech

... in favour of biofuels, which environmentalists say impact global food supply.
Shell will no longer invest in renewable technologies such as wind, solar and hydro power because they are not economic, the Anglo-Dutch oil company said today. It plans to invest more in biofuels which environmental groups blame for driving up food prices and deforestation.

Executives at its annual strategy presentation said Shell, already the world's largest buyer and blender of crop-based biofuels, would also invest an unspecified amount in developing a new generation of biofuels which do not use food-based crops and are less [but still] harmful to the environment.

The company said it would concentrate on developing other cleaner ways of using fossil fuels, such as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. It hoped to use CCS to reduce emissions from Shell's controversial and energy-intensive oil sands projects in northern Canada.

The company said that many alternative technologies did not offer attractive investment opportunities.

Time for a boycott of all Shell products: for motorists, businesses and residences.

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17 March 2009

In clarifying evolution position, Goodyear digs deeper hole

... Gary Goodyear offers this nugget of wisdom on a program today on the Conservative Television Network.
Jane Taber: So you do believe in evolution. You believe in the theory of evolution. Let’s just get this off the table right now.

Gary Goodyear: We are evolving, every year, every decade. That's a fact. Whether it's to the intensity of the sun, whether it's to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it’s running shoes or high heels, of course, we are evolving to our environment. But that's not relevant. And that's why I refused to answer the question. The interview was about our science and tech strategy, which is strong…

Huh?! You were asked about the theory of evolution. Do you even know what that is, Mr. Science & Technology?

Then we've The Canadian Press reporting Goodyear having said, also today, that he "does indeed believe in evolution."

Tip for journalists: Using 'X' in a sentence doesn't mean the utterer has any understanding of X.

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Mr. Layton, you blew it.

It was a golden opportunity. But according to this report, it would seem that you blew it, Mr. Layton.
New Democrats have signalled their support for anti-gang legislation tabled by the Tories that includes making any gang-related homicide a first-degree murder charge and creating a new charge for drive-by shootings....

"We're here to underline the importance of strong action at the federal level. We haven't seen what we need to see yet from the federal government," [NDP leader Jack Layton] told reporters outside the main headquarters of the Vancouver police department.

"There's some legislation that's coming forward that we'll be supporting but we also know that there's more legislation, prosecutions, policing and prevention."

Mr. Layton suggested he would look at bolstering calls by the B.C. government for federal-justice changes that include better wiretap access to track Internet and BlackBerry communications and an end to two-for-one credits for time served.

Instead of reinforcing the anti-drug philosophy of North American political elites, the NDP might instead have demonstrated an understanding of the crux of the problem, that just as prohibition of alcohol didn't work, so it doesn't work for drug use.

Mr. Layton, if you stop the anti-drug war, then you stop creating the very condition which helps gangs thrive and proliferate.

But then, you know that, don't you? The problem is, you or your backers haven't the guts to take a bold political stand on the issue.

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Headline Scan delivers a Giggle

Item 1: Scientists discover tiny dinosaur
Item 2: Is Canada's Science Minister a Creationist?

Ya know, being a Canadian during these Harper years has become a terrible embarrassment. My sole consolation are the sympathies being extended from our southern neighbour. They know the pain we're going through, having just been through eight years of such crap.

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16 March 2009

Local Forestry Leader with a Conscience

Rick Doman is the former President and CEO of Doman Industries Ltd. A good man and a local hero, he is one of the few business owners in forestry whose dealings in business, in the community and with his workers were guided by a strong social conscience.

An article written by Mr. Doman appeared in our local paper today. He talks of solutions and the need to correct mistakes of the past, including the "very poor softwood settlement" rushed through by the Harper Conservatives.
In 2003 the government also introduced new forest policies that have caused significant job loss in the B.C. forest sector. These policy changes included allowing forest companies to leave pulp logs in the woods. This caused pulp and paper companies to have to import pulp logs from as far away as Alaska at above market prices, along with importing wood chips from Washington and Oregon.

Poor policies also caused the increase of log exports, and in some cases we were importing wood chips back into B.C. from the very same logs we exported. Also the 20 per cent takeback from all coastal tenure holders with more than 200,000 annual allowable cut [AAC] was a mistake.

It would have been better to takeback AAC from forest companies that exported logs and did not operate manufacturing faculties in coastal B.C. in line with the AAC they held. This would have allowed companies who did not wish to operate manufacturing operations in coastal B.C. equal to their AAC, to give up any AAC they did not match.

Companies that did wish to operate their manufacturing operations, like Doman Industries, could have retained their AAC, thus not having to shut down operations that were efficient and would retain and create jobs in coastal B.C.

The government was advised prior to 2003 about this, it ignored the advice and its policies have caused long-term damage to forest workers, environmental standards and sustainable forests.

The crown owns about 94 per cent of B.C. forests. It is important government does not try to semi-privatize crown forests or the B.C. taxpayers will suffer even more than they have....

B.C. has been blessed by a lot of timber. If it is harvested in a sound environmentally and sustainable way, using proper stumpage systems that are fair and equitable, we can restore our forest industry.

The government was advised as early as 2001 [that] they would fail forest workers, communities, and also forest companies that wanted to grow and build a business in B.C.

It is time to correct those policies so both current and future generations of forest workers, forest dependent communities and B.C. taxpayers can once again benefit from our forests.

Advice well worth listening to.

(Hmm... wonder if Mr. Doman would consider a new career, one in politics.)

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Iggy Liberals to Jettison Female Candidate Quota

Quietly setting aside yet another Dion policy, His Igginess shall focus on finding "winnable" candidates. In snooty-speak, that means the people with the most power connections in their respective ridings. An almost exclusively male club.

No surprise, right? What with the Liberals' flippant assent to pay equity changes for federal employees.

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15 March 2009

Jewish Canadians on Suppression of Criticism of Israel

This statement was rejected by both the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail (as an op-ed). Please help this important statement get into broad circulation - pass it on to your networks (faculty, community, MPs, university presidents, unions, etc.). You might also write to the papers, expressing your dismay that they have chosen not to publish it.
Jewish Canadians Concerned About Suppression of Criticism of Israel
James Deutsch, M.D., Ph.D., Judith Deutsch, M.S.W., R.S.W., Miriam Garfinkle, M.D.

Over 150 Jewish Canadians signed a statement expressing their concerns about the campaign to suppress criticism of Israel that is being carried on within Canada. The signatories include many prominent Canadians, including Ursula Franklin O.C., Anton Kuerti O.C., Naomi Klein, Dr. Gabor Mate, and professors Meyer Brownstone (recipient of Pearson Peace Medal), Natalie Zemon Davis, Michael Neumann, and Judy Rebick.

The signatories are particularly concerned that unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism deflect attention from Israel's accountability for what many have called war crimes in Gaza. They state that B'nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress have led campaigns to silence criticism of Israel on university campuses, in labor unions and in other groups. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff unquestioningly echo the views of these particular Jewish organizations.

They strongly state that they are against all expressions of racism. While firmly committed to resisting any form of prejudice against Jewish people, their statement explicitly states that these spurious allegations of anti-Semitism bring the anti-Communist terror of the 1950s vividly to mind. The statement underlines the immeasurable suffering and injustice to the Palestinian people due to the severe poverty, daily humiliations, and military invasions inflicted by the State of Israel.

Statement: Jewish Canadians Concerned about Suppression of Criticism of Israel

We are Jewish Canadians concerned about all expressions of racism, anti-Semitism, and social injustice. We believe that the Holocaust legacy "Never again" means never again for all peoples. It is a tragic turn of history that the State of Israel, with its ideals of democracy and its dream of being a safe haven for Jewish people, causes immeasurable suffering and injustice to the Palestinian people.

We are appalled by recent attempts of prominent Jewish organizations and leading Canadian politicians to silence protest against the State of Israel. We are alarmed by the escalation of fear tactics. Charges that those organizing Israel Apartheid Week or supporting an academic boycott of Israel are anti-Semites promoting hatred bring the anti-Communist terror of the 1950s vividly to mind. We believe this serves to deflect attention from Israel's flagrant violations of international humanitarian law.

B'nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress have pressured university presidents and administrations to silence debate and discussion specifically regarding Palestine/Israel. In a full-page ad in a national newspaper, B'nai Brith urged donors to withhold funds from universities because "anti-Semitic hate fests" were being allowed on campuses. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff have echoed these
arguments. While university administrators have resisted demands to shut down Israel Apartheid week, some Ontario university presidents have bowed to this disinformation campaign by suspending and fining students, confiscating posters, and infringing on free speech.

We do not believe that Israel acts in self-defense. Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid, receiving $3 million/day. It has the fourth strongest army in the world. Before the invasion of Gaza on 27 December 2008, Israel's siege had already created a humanitarian catastrophe there, with severe impoverishment, malnutrition, and destroyed infrastructure. It is crucial that forums for discussion of Israel's accountability to the international community for what many have called war crimes be allowed to proceed unrestricted by specious claims of anti-Semitism.

We recognize that anti-Semitism is a reality in Canada as elsewhere, and we are fully committed to resisting any act of hatred against Jews. At the same time, we condemn false charges of anti-Semitism against student organizations, unions, and other groups and people exercising their democratic right to freedom of speech and association regarding legitimate criticism of the State of Israel.

To view the list of signatories, please see the first post in this babble thread.

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Some Get It and Some Don't

Or rather, some are still in denial.

Juxtapose this:
It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves - the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public - has stopped being a problem.

with this:
If you value news or entertainment, you'd better start thinking about paying something closer to the real cost of it. The current financial troubles of newspaper and television companies mean the fool's paradise of free content might well come to an end.

Which one demonstrates a failure to grasp the situation?

Hint: Consider the words 'value', 'news' and 'entertainment' used in the last quote within the context of an assumption that these can only be delivered by "newspaper and television companies."

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Advice Layton Should Take

The Georgia Straight, Vancouver's hip (and Canada's largest) weekly magazine, has a suggestion for Jack Layton: on his visit to the city tomorrow, he should announce his party's intention to campaign against drug prohibition.
Vancouver East NDP Libby Davies has set an example by courageously speaking out against prohibition in the sex trade. She has taken a lot of abuse for doing this. But she knows that in the end, this is what will save lives.

Perhaps some of her NDP colleagues in Parliament (Bill Siksay? Don Davies? Peter Julian?) can stiffen their resolve, and start talking about solutions [to crime and gangland killings] rather than engaging in cheap photo ops designed to pander to the corporate media.

The NDP has nothing to lose. With its current polling numbers, the party will be decimated in the next federal campaign. Taking a stand against drug prohibition could transform the next federal election because Layton would get lots of coverage from antiprohibitionist journalists, including Dan Gardner and Ian Mulgrew, just to name a couple. The media are full of libertarians.

Excellent advice. If the NDP were to make drug prohibition a major plank in its next campaign - and starting now, to draw people's focus to it -, then it may well see people giving it a second look. People, for example, like Daphne and me.

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Good Grief! Where was the Editor?

The article, an interesting one BTW, begins like this:
OTTAWA - The United Sates entered the recession first, but Canada's economy is falling faster now.

And if current trends continues, economists say, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty may rue their bold prognostications last week that Canada will exist the slump first and strongest.

They get "prognostications" right but screw up the name of our southern neighbour, mix subject/verb tense and use "exist" when it's supposed to be 'exit'?

Errors continue throughout the rest of this article which was distributed by The Canadian Press. Evidence, one supposes, of the mass layoffs in the news industry.

ETA: Ha ha ha ha... Someone drew somebody's attention to the errors I mentioned - or at least two of them. There have been the following corrections: United Sates => United States, and exist => exit. But the "trends continues" er, continues.

Where are the grammarians when you need 'em?

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12 March 2009

Irrelevance of Senate

... has just been proven yet again.

When the going gets tough, no one stays to tough it out and do their damn job.

At least that's how politics is done in Canada. Spineless, Senators. Truly spineless.

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Preventing Wealthy from Buying Elections

It blows my mind to have to say this, but here is one piece of legislation on which the Harper Conservatives and I agree.
Steven Fletcher, minister of state for democratic reform, intends to reintroduce a bill that would make it impossible for politicians to rely on hefty loans from wealthy individuals to finance their campaigns.

The move is intended to close a "loophole" in political financing laws, which Fletcher maintains allowed Liberal leadership contenders to do an end run around strict limits on donations by borrowing huge amounts of money from rich supporters.

As long as this legislation doesn't also include other items buried within it - such as removing the $1.75 per vote subsidy received by parties, which would disproportionately affect low income voters -, then I wholeheartedly support it.

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Chrysler Threatens to Leave Canada

Well, after all the subsidies and crying and hand-wringing and excuses and mismanagement and CEO bonuses and private jets and ...

Bye-bye. Don't let the door hit you on the way out!

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11 March 2009

More Idiots Dictating Morality

Juxtapose this:
A U.N. anti-narcotics drive has backfired in part by making drug cartels so rich they can bribe their way through West Africa and Central America, U.N. crime agency chief Antonio Maria Costa said on Wednesday. The 10-year "war on drugs" campaign ... had a "dramatic unintended consequence" - profit-gorged trafficking gangs destabilizing nations already plagued by poverty, joblessness and HIV-AIDS.

with this from the same article:
Critics of U.N. anti-drug policy want more stress put on harm-reduction policies ... or even legalization to remove the mafia element responsible for bloody turf wars and failing states.

Costa agreed with more harm-reduction efforts but rejected calls for legalization as dangerously naive and defeatist, likening this to accepting pedophilia and human trafficking.

"We should invest in the solid middle ground between criminalization and legalization - by framing our collective efforts against drugs less like a war, and more like an effort to cure a social disease."

What substance of choice are these idiots on? If it's alcohol or tobacco, let me point them to these findings.

If inhaling cannabis is symptomatic of a social disease and warrants state intervention, then so does smoking tobacco or guzzling alcohol. You choose your poison. I'll choose mine.* Just don't license YOUR choice over mine.

*Actually, I choose no poison. Canna afford it. And I've a thing about ingesting/inhaling/injecting non-food substances. But, hey, that's me. Am loathe to dictate what others can choose.

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