31 August 2009

Post-Election Survey re Voter Turnout

... saw almost 90 percent of possible respondents declining to participate in the survey.

Of those who did respond,
some 35 percent of the non-voters ... said the main reason they did not vote was 'personal', including people who were busy, out of town or sick. Seven percent were pessimistic about their vote making a difference and 29 percent were "disengaged" with the process or politics in general.

The number of contactees refusing to participate in the survey should make people think twice about its conclusions regarding people's reasons for not voting.

Full survey results (PDF).

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30 August 2009

Heart Lifting Story - Please spread word

A woman who lost her long-term employment last summer and subsequently became homeless was just offered an internship with Elle Magazine. I've been following her on Twitter and consider her one of my newfound friends.

Bri has written her first blog post on Elle's website. If you want to negate the negative spin of people who are homeless or those living on the brink; if you want to spread understanding that the desperately poor are resourceful and inventive - how else could they/we survive? - then please click this Digg link, vote up the article and spread the word.

Two weeks ago, Bri tweeted that her trailer and truck had been towed. Now she has an Elle internship, is being contacted by various media and it sounds like she's also getting other offers of employment.

It can happen, but it won't happen enough unless attitudes change - not the attitudes of people living at the bottom of the poverty well, but the attitudes of people in positions of power, including all owners of property in neighbourhoods everywhere.

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28 August 2009

HST: Woe to families

According to some, British Columbia's new HST, to become effective July 2010, will mean serious hardship for middle-income families. For example,
That morning bagel and cup of java you grabbed this morning cost $4.20, but a year from now breakfast will cost 28 cents more.

A quarter and a few pennies may not seem like much, but over the course of a day, a month or a year, dollars lost to the harmonized sales tax are going to add up.

Just picture it: Ted and Suzy have two boys, Timmy and Sally, aged seven and 12 respectively.

Ted works as a forklift driver and his wife Suzy is a receptionist at a chiropractor's office.

Suzy took the car to work today so Ted, pressed for time, had to take a taxi. Cost for the ride today: $12.80 cents. Cost with the HST this time next year: $14.34.

Suzy gets out of work early and picks up the boys to get their haircut. As the barber dusts the hair from Timmy's forehead, mom picks the $40 tab. Next year: $42.80.

When the couple comes home tonight..., sitting on the dining room table are bills for hydro, cable and Internet, telephone and newspapers totalling $250. Next year: $267.50.

And the couple still hasn't considered a mechanic's bill, fees for the kids to go to karate classes, back-to-school supplies, and four super-saver plane tickets on sale now for a flight before Christmas to go see family in Winnipeg.

Tomorrow it's grocery shopping for the week and family night out at the International House of Pancakes - a Saturday night tradition.

Forklift driver Ted and receptionist Suzy are fortunate. Each has a full-time job.

The family has a car, a home, a telephone AND Internet connection, rather than having to choose one or the other because they can't afford both. The family also buys newspaper subscriptions, dines out once a week and travels by air for vacations and is able to visit with other members who live further away.

The children take karate classes and get their hair cut by a barber, rather than by mom or dad.

Ted, whether pressed for time or not, can afford a cab ride rather than having to walk - or to take public transit which likely would get him to his destination in the same amount of time as a cab would.

Now add to that Ted's and Suzy's daily coffee-and-bagel ritual.

To the people who buy a bagel and a coffee one or more times a day, some of you doing this five to seven days a week, I'm not worrying that you'll have to pay an additional 28 cents for the same ritual next year. Or that you'll pay more for airfare, haircuts, cab rides, etc. I worry about staying within my $67/month food budget.

Bottom line: Consumption taxes are, by definition, about consumption. The more you consume, the more you pay.

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26 August 2009

He had a sexual addiction, right?

Headline reads: Prominent psychiatrist banned after sex with patient.

For four years, this 'mental health professional' carried on a sexual relationship with his patient.

The tribunal held by the College of Surgeons and Physicians of Newfoundland and Labrador took place behind closed doors because the former patient "was so distraught she couldn't complete a victim impact statement."

"She was a person in a very vulnerable situation," said lawyer Bob Buckingham, who was representing the victim. "There's nothing consensual whatsoever about [Dr. Thomas Cantwell's] behaviour."

Cantwell retired in the fall of 2007. Before that, he was clinical chief of mental health and addictions for Eastern Health.

One wonders how Cantwell's defence went. Did he claim to have a sexual addiction or, closer to reality, the God complex? - Oops! I mean narcissistic personality disorder, the psychiatric industry's preferred term for it?

H/t to tweeter canadaliving.

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Isn't this lovely?

Here's another technique for managing street people:
A controversial manure cure for homelessness in Surrey was apparently the result of discussions between city staff and members of the Surrey RCMP, Deputy City Manager Dan Bottrill said Monday. Bottrill said he is still trying to determine exactly who came up with the idea of spreading smelly chicken manure around a Whalley social service building to drive away vagrants.

By definition, 'vagrants' are without a place to stay, day or night. Until communities and this province see to it that there is sufficient affordable housing for all, we are going to have people on the streets.

DEAL WITH IT, HOUSE PEOPLE. Until then, allow encampments on public land so that at least people without housing can feel safe in their own tent communities. Also arrange for safe, serviced parking areas for the wheeled homeless to stay in their vehicles.

By the way, can you catch the jargon in this sentence? It's from one of the quotes in the original article: "Our neighbours in Vancouver seem to have a little better approach to the problem of dealing with the disease of substance abuse."

Can you spot it? Call it the psycho-medicalese that encourages the pathologizing of everyday life and the delicate stepping-around and reinvention of reality. The English language is now saturated with it.

H/t to Penlan who, in a comment on another post, brought this item to my attention.

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25 August 2009

Portland's Solution to Homelessness

So much for praising Portland to the rafters: "Portland's homeless problem may seem less pressing, but that’s largely because ... Portland locks a large portion of its homeless problem in jail."

Such a solution for 'managing' people without housing is decidedly un-Canadian.

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Depression: Disorder vs Adaptation

A question worth considering:
Research in the US and other countries estimates that between 30 to 50 percent of people have met current psychiatric diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder sometime in their lives. But the brain plays crucial roles in promoting survival and reproduction, so the pressures of evolution should have left our brains resistant to such high rates of malfunction. Mental disorders should generally be rare - why isn't depression?

According to a new study and others it cites most instances of depression

should not be thought of as a disorder at all [but rather] an adaptation, a state of mind which brings real costs, but also brings real benefits.

Depression is nature's way of telling you that you've got complex social problems that the mind is intent on solving. Therapies should try to encourage depressive rumination rather than try to stop it, and they should focus on trying to help people solve the problems that trigger their bouts of depression.

Well, duh!

But for many people the problems causing their depression are externally imposed and no amount of action on their part will resolve them. These are systemic issues: lack of affordable housing; municipal laws that favour those who own property vs. those who don't; the erosion of democratic institutions at all levels of government; industrial agriculture and aquaculture that displace small, local farming; a nationwide infrastructure and billions in taxes that prop up an auto industry which should have been allowed to fossilize; a market capitalism ideology that cleaves to the bootstrap principle for the hoi polloi but not for corporations.

Over-diagnosis of depression is one cause for the increase in numbers reported to have the 'disorder', but unquestionably more people experiencing distress haven't the means to resolve the problems which caused it in the first place, problems such as poverty. Thus their depression becomes chronic and they're likely to develop bi-polar swings. In such cases, depression as an 'adaptive' response becomes maladaptive because the resolution for which it exists never results.

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19 August 2009

Sacramento Tent City Demolished

... only for Mayor to propose, months later, a 'city sanctioned' tent city.

I read about this in a post on the SLO Homeless blog. The writer points to the stupidity, not to mention the inhumanity, of dismantling an already-established community only to reconstruct another.

"Something in all of this doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

Ah, but it does.

You see, those who have, such as legislators and your not-so-friendly neighbourhood property owners, consider people who don't have as not being entitled, or even having the capacity, to do or look out for themselves. I mean, how dare 'those people' come together and form a community!

But those same Haves, with their glorious sense of superiority, think themselves perfectly entitled to tell the have-nots where to go, er, where to live.

In societies where acquisitiveness is the name of the game, forget what their individual charters of rights say. People with property have more rights, de facto, than people without property.

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Whoever Controls the Food Controls the People

Do you remember this beautiful, brutally honest piece about homelessness, from the point of view of someone who knows it from the inside looking out? After I'd copied and posted it to this blog, many people stopped by and said how moved they'd been by it. Me? I began crying and nodding agreement long before finishing the second paragraph.

M├ętisRebel continues to write with a truth that I've read nowhere else. Her latest is about the forced indignity of hungry people required to spend each day travelling to where the food is, to locations that society permits to serve or hand out food to 'the vulnerable', 'the needy', 'the less fortunate' - in this land of plenty.

You want to understand 'homelessness'? Do you REALLY want to learn the solutions? Are you - politicians, bureaucrats, nonprofit boards, NEIGHBOURS -, prepared to ACT on them?

Unless you're reading M├ętisRebel, you've likely no clue what the true solutions are, which means you are likely supporting, intentionally or otherwise, the status quo.

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14 August 2009

Jack Layton of 2004: Is he back?

Was watching on CPAC the NDP Halifax convention until CPAC determined to send its viewers to a MAY 6th Senate hearing on The Provisions and Operation of DNA Identification Act (with Elizabeth Fry and John Howard Societies presenting). While the hearing is interesting, I don't appreciate being cut off my drug of choice, a convention that can give a political addict like myself the ultimate high.

At any rate, I liked the Jack Layton I heard this morning (Pacific Time). When he said 'shove it' in reference to certain CEOs' lucrative pensions (vs. the reduced pensions for workers demanded by said CEOs) I was reminded of the Layton of 2004.

I liked the man back then. Is he back?

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"Call it a sickness if you must"

In an article today Jody Paterson writes:
Think of the creative gifts that mental illness has given us over the centuries.

Would Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf have set pen to paper in such compelling fashion if not for their mental illnesses? Would Van Gogh have painted with such passion and insight? Or Beethoven written with the same power?

Call it a sickness if you must, but the truth is that the world is a much better place for having people with mental illness in it.

I do not call it a sickness. Nor do I accept the term 'mental illness'.

So many people with 'mental illness', as diagnosed so conveniently by the mental health industry, identify themselves as nothing more than differently-abled or as ab-norm-al, where 'norm' has an ever-narrow and never-specified definition, by virtue of all that it is not.

How easy it is for governments to collude with the mental health industry and to write people off by virtue of their newly acquired labels. How convenient it is for the mental health industry to then disgorge their hordes to 'treat' the people it has so labelled with the latest fashionable 'disorder'.

Society needs people who differ from the norm. Society needs nonconformists. But what does society do instead? It pathologizes rather than embraces them and so society goes without the benefits of their sometime genius.

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12 August 2009

Adding Retweet Button to Blogger

Been trying to add Tweetmeme's retweet button to my blogs for weeks. Went to various online sources and sometimes I could get it to work. However, it would never be placed where I wanted it (in the body of the post, top-left), or the URL was to the whole blog not to the individual post, or the URL was too long, or the Twitter account for the retweet was 'tweetmeme' not my own account.

The problem was getting it to work in Blogger. Well, finally figured it out.

If you're using Blogger and want to add the retweet option, do the following:

  1. Go to your Dashboard -> Layout -> Edit HTML
  2. Before going further, click Download Full Template - if you screw up, you can upload the old template
  3. Check the box beside 'Expand Widget Templates'
  4. Click Control/Command 'F' to find the following line:

    <div class='post-header-line-1'/>

  5. Immediately below it, paste the following code:

    <div style='float:left;width:50px;margin:0 10px 10px 0;'>
    <script type='text/javascript'>
    tweetmeme_url = &#39;<data:post.url/>&#39;;
    tweetmeme_source = &#39;
    tweetmeme_service = &#39;
    <script src='http://tweetmeme.com/i/scripts/button.js' type='text/javascript'/>

Here's what my code looks like, with the lines already in the template in black:

<div class='post-header-line-1'/>
<div style='float:left;width:50px;margin:0 10px 10px 0;'>
<script type='text/javascript'>
tweetmeme_url = &#39;<data:post.url/>&#39;;
tweetmeme_source = &#39;
tweetmeme_service = &#39;
<script src='http://tweetmeme.com/i/scripts/button.js' type='text/javascript'/></div>

<div class='post-body entry-content'>

EDA: If you're using NoScript on Firefox, enable tweetmeme.com.

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Google AdSense UPDATE 7

Silly me. With update 6, I thought that was the end of it. Notice had been received of my account having been cancelled, although not with my getting the outstanding amount owing to me.

Then this morning I get this email from Google AdSense:

Thanks for writing in and sorry to keep you waiting. I've taken care of the phone hold. However, you still need to select a form of payment so that we can pay you :)

My goodness. A REAL PERSON read one of my emails and has removed the phone hold! And she appended that notice with a smiley face!

Select a form of payment... Done.

But this leads to another question. HAS my account been cancelled? If it had, then I couldn't have logged back in to make changes. And now given the removal of the phone hold, which means I can finally get paid, I'd prefer to keep the account active and add Google AdSense back to my blog.

Wanna bet such a request starts a whole new round of auto-replies and a clash of live support vs. the auto-bots?

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08 August 2009

FINALLY - Google AdSense Account Closed

...but, contrary to the message just received, it was closed with the company not having paid me the $14.58 I'd earned.

Today, I tried for the third time to complete the cancellation process to get my Google AdSense account closed. As before, I filled out their cancellation form. However, in the section explaining the reason why one is closing the account, in the Other category I entered something new, the URL of the post that describes the difficulty a) verifying a phone number one hasn't got - because one hasn't a phone - and, b) with that never being resolved, closing the account.

Unlike previously, within minutes I received the following generic response - I've the damn thing memorized I've seen it so many times.

We are unable to cancel your account because you currently have payment holds on your account.

This would be the PHONE VERIFICATION hold.

Until you remove the payment holds or indicate your desire not to receive your unpaid earnings, we will be unable to close your account. Please note that we only pay out earnings that are greater than the cancellation threshold.

The cancellation threshold is $10.

Please do one of the following:

1. If you wish to be paid for your remaining earnings (above the cancellation threshold): - Remove the holds from your account.


Once you have removed all holds from your account, you may submit a new request for us to cancel your account...

2. If you do not wish to be paid for your remaining earnings and would like to close your account now: Please complete this form. The form will require you to acknowledge that you prefer not to receive your earnings and wish to close your account.

As it happens, before I'd removed Google AdSense, this blog had earned $14.58 from the program. That amount exceeds the $10 cancellation threshold for payment. But because no phone = no phone verification = no payment, it doesn't matter how much I'd have earned. According to Google AdSense policy, I'd never get paid. There was no point, therefore, maintaining the account. Hence, my determination to get rid of the thing.

So I proceeded with option #2, as I'd done twice before. This time, the auto-response was different though:

Thank you for taking the time to write to us. As per your request, we have permanently closed your account.

Since your account balance totalled less than $10, your unpaid earnings will not be issued.

Don't you love the way the big guys shape reality to screw the little guys?

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