Sunday, October 31, 2010

When in Edmonton

do as the dEdmontonians do!

This year's Halloween is all about the DEAD: the feds smelling duck carcasses (Investigation pending), the emergency rooms possible maybe having really strict deadlines that they may or may not meet (who knows?), and two people murdered out in Millet, allegedly by a pro-hunting Meti spokesman named Ron Jones (More on that later). So what's this all mean?

Edmonton is trying to brand itself as Canada's Halloween capital, and judging by the fervor arising from this year's celebrations and preparations, I have to say we're well on our way. So to lighten the mood here are my own family's costumes this year (not really):
The puppies as storm troopers

My cat as the ghost of Christmas violence

Me, going as Victor's incredible facial hair

Victor is Batman
 Have a Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Optical Delusion

As has been discussed previously, I'm currently attending post-secondary. The majority of classes are fantastic, but some leave a little to be desired in the form of moderation. My Anthropology class, sex and gender, has become somewhat of a feminist circle where we mostly just sit around being appalled at how mean men were and how enlightened women are now. Most days I just enjoy it; it's a little drama to add to an otherwise pedestrian day, and gives me a bit of a giggle to see how outrageous we have become in our persecution of the other sex.

Today was no exception; we discussed sexism in advertising. It is true that going back even a few decades produces scads of horrifically hilarious sexist adverts, with women being portrayed as air-headed house-fraus beholden to their master and craving sex almost constantly.

When we move forward in time, however, sexism runs to both sexes, to the point that everyone's being objectified, and it's rather hard to, well, object, since it's so damn equal. But object we did. We dug and delved and read-too-far until we were thoroughly scandalized, and I chuckled to myself over the length we would go to just to feel downtrodden.

We separated into groups at this point, where we were supposed to compare advertisements we had brought in, and compare to what extent they dealt with sexism and gender issues. (I neglected to bring one, fool that I am, so perhaps I have no right to feel the way I did upon the succeeding incident) I ganged up with the two girls next to me (I claimed them by right of Dowling's proximity rule) and we spread out the two sheets they had brought. One was unfortunately quite banal, showing men and women in equal poses, suggestive, and nude, advertising jeans; we would be hard pressed to make a good contribution of this, since it was pretty much just sexy people looking, well, sexy. The other page was so sexist as to be downright confusing. (I tried to find them online to no success, maybe I'll trawl through the original page later and bring them on)
One showed a nude Katie Holmes, sprawled over a couch, butt in the air, with the caption, "Choir Boy", and I was mystified. She obviously was not a boy; what the heck were they trying to say?
The other was a Porsche against a skyline, with a ruler drawn above it and the caption; "It makes your penis feel this much bigger", and I thought, 'At last, truth in advertising.' My hopes were dashed, however, when I noticed the subtle watermark on the bottom; ""
I love something awful, I really do, and their photoshop skills are unmatched, but it was obvious these ads were faked, and expertly enough that when I pointed  it out to my group-mates, they insisted I was wrong. I pointed out that SA did excellent work, almost indistinguishable from the real thing, but it was obviously a joke.
The girl covered the text with her hand and insisted the ad was still offensive, but there's really nothing offensive about a car on a skyline, I'm afraid. I tactfully suggested I would bring in some for the next class, but the whole incident had me laughing once I left the room. How ridiculous! Worse if we had stood in front of everyone and tried to pass it off as a legitimate ad.

I have much to thank for feminism, without it, I would likely not even be in a position to argue with my fellow students, but we've evolved to a new form of feminism, and we can not use the old standards to judge sexism. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, it's just no longer institutionalized, and most sexist ads won't get the green light anymore, not to forget that we can now constructively evaluate these messages; as women I know I have other options, and that it's not "right" that I should stay in the kitchen all my life (I can if I want to, however).
We really do get preposterous sometimes so just remember:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Damocles' Sponge

There's been an issue, quite recently in Alberta, regarding hospital wait times, specifically with respect to emergency rooms. A group of doctors penned a "letter of horrors" detailing some particularly unfortunate events that occurred as a result of overcrowded hospitals, and over-stressed emergency rooms. 
People who should otherwise be keeping a cool head about things, lost their shit and decided to focus on a few unfortunate circumstances, rather than the system as a whole, (which may or may not be lousy, this situation tells us nothing, and that's not what I'm assessing) and  proceeded to leap in, both barrels blazing.
The minister of health, Gene Zwozdesky, responded by putting limits, definable numerical limits, on wait times, such as 4 hours to be in and out, and 8 hours to a hospital bed. He's confidant enough to have pledged to bring about this new policy by December, or bureaucratic heads will roll!
Boy, that's sure cracking, Mr. Zwozdesky, how's that going to work?
The thing is, we don't know. Two months is not long enough to hire and train new people, a handful of beds are being opened up, but that's not going to get anyone seen any faster, and I don't believe that the slow-down is because medical staff are simply unmotivated, so haranguing them is not going to do any good. I'm all for mindless flogging, but I'm not keen on putting energy into "programs" without any sense of direction or plan. So far the plan that's been wheeled out is that we are going to start moving people out of beds, because we need them for new people, because then if someone dies needlessly at least they weren't under our care at the time, right?
This smacks of ridiculous posturing to me.
Loosening the restrictions on when people can or should remain in hospital is just going to result in people being discharged when they shouldn't be. Is it less of a tragedy because then we can say we did the best we could? 
Years later, when election times rolls around again, we might remember the abysmal wait times, but then we'll remember the guy who stood up and "took charge" of the situation, whether or not he did any damn good. Some people may be wondering why we don't offer better incentives to doctors and medical staff, but the answer is simple; that takes time. It takes time to set people up, to build new facilities to accommodate the staff, and to ensure the greater staff is positioned to maximum effect; all this would go past election time, meaning the current health advisor would not be able to reap the benefits of the outcome. That, right there, is what is wrong with politics, and why our health care system is lousy. At heart, no one wants to make the kind of deep-rooted changes that the system really needs, because the initial stage will be unpleasant (think higher taxes) and the outcome is "too far away". Politicians treat voters like toddlers; if we don't get a cookie right away, we're going to fling poop at them (or is that monkeys?). Either way, they believe we don't have the collective brain power to understand what sweeping reforms, that may feel lousy, are going to result in. I hope they're wrong. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Two ducks walk into a tailings pond

One of them is worth $1,875,  and the other is worth a scathing criticism of our justice system.
Few people in  Alberta are unfamiliar with the case of Syncrude last year and this year; charges were pressed after 1,600 ducks landed in an open tailings pond and died there. This past week the company was ordered to pay $3 million to various organizations that support rehabilitation of the environment and wildlife.

The resulting soundbites were pithy:
"We've learned a lot and we made significant changes to our system and we're ready to move forward."
Syncrude representative Cheryl  Robb
"The company has taken responsibility, the laws have been enforced, and the penalty will hopefully prevent anything like this from ever happening again,"
Provincial Crown prosecutor Susan McRory

Yes, everyone's very contrite, humble, lesson-learned people; until today, when a flock of ducks landed on another tailings pond. 
It is not known whether any are dead, although apparently they are "heavily oiled", but this whole incident is a nightmare for Alberta, for the environment, for Syncrude, and most importantly for us, the people who are quite keen to live in a world with ducks,  please and thank you.
It's like a bad joke, and the punchline is a slap in the face.

A publically leashed private doggy

A recent probe into the 2007 death of a boy in a privately run drug treatment facility has caused many Canadians to become uncomfortably aware that there are no regulations (outside Quebec) restricting the accreditation of private drug facilities.
With drug treatment being such a volatile circumstance and so many factors, dangers, and various pitfalls included in the process of weaning someone off drugs, there really should be some sort of limit on the quality of the center. At first, I must admit I thought, "why couldn't the parents/guardians/individual check out the fitness of the center on their own?" but then I realized, I don't check out the kitchen of every restaurant I eat at, even though the consequences could be quite severe; I rely on the government for that, because they're bigger, meaner, and have access to smart people with lab coats and stuff.

What I disagree with is the instigating factor in this situation. The victim was left alone on his bedroom floor because he was staggering around and peeing on himself, the result of drinking anti-freeze found in "an unlocked garage" (where the garage was located is not specified). The federal government has decided the institution was at fault for the incident, citing that the man supervising the patient was "woefully unprepared to deal with anything out of the ordinary". Pardon me, but how the hell is staggering around, peeing on yourself "out of the ordinary" for a drug-treatment center? The parents were upset that the boy's life "meant so little to everybody" but there is no sign that the center acted callously or indeed any different than they would have treated any patient who entered the facility appearing to be drunk.

I agree that the center should be regulated, this is far too important of a process to be left to chance, but regulation is unlikely to ensure this incident does not repeat itself, and we need to guard against becoming so narrow sighted, trying to prevent this occurrence, that we miss out on other aspect that are critical. It is just the nature of the beast.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The hazey days of summer

First things first; I'm not pro-abuse, and given that people have died from hazing before means that I think it should be regulated fairly heavily, if allowed at all; but the recent news storm from the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity house seems overblown and ridiculous. The video which was secretly obtained and given to the university of Alberta newspaper, The Gateway (which only reinforces my belief that it was someone connected to the paper itself. Given the ridiculous amount of attention it has received, who in their right mind sells it to the ho-hum local school paper?) allegedly shows students being kept in boxes, forced to eat vomit, and tormented in various ways.

CBC, the news-source with exclusive access to the footage, cautions people that the images on the video may be disturbing, and they're right. I can't see a darned thing, and that's disturbing. I'm pretty gullible, so when I hear a news story, my instinctive reaction is not usually skepticism,  but when I can judge for myself, well, I have no idea what people are getting their panties in a bunch over.

Parents, when they send their children off to post-secondary, often worry that their children will be corrupted or harmed while they have left the safety of the nest, and this fear is occasionally played upon by people who are bored of tormenting their Sims. But even I, with my incredible low tolerance for violence, find the video hum-drum.  A box is displayed which allegedly holds a pledge, a  kid sits on a couch with some tape on his shirt, a guy stands up and makes vague allusions to "paddling" someone, and there is some yelling. The announcer intones that there is booze everywhere, to which I can only reply, "have you ever been to a college party? Of course there's booze (mostly just beer is seen, and not even in a quantity to get most university students buzzed enough to fail an English test) and people are yelling because it's loud.  The final scene is so much cheese that I must ask Dear Reader to have faith that this is not a joke. The last scene is in a black room, only lit by candles, filled with people in black robes. A voice intones that when they eat whatever is in some nebulous cylinder, they will be members. It has been reported to be vomit, but the likelihood it actually is, as opposed to something gross looking, is pretty damn low (running the risk of giving new pledges some kind of blood-borne pathogen through tiny throat cuts and stomach fluids seems like a bad idea if you want to remain under the radar).

The filmmaker has conveniently decided not to come forward, out of fear of "retribution" and some "high level supporters" have been alluded to, but the whole thing stinks on ice. A sketchy video by an unknown person with unknown motives and some dog and pony show about how it's abuse and no one complains because they're scared  but people keep joining? Uh-huh. No more spy movies for you.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Smells like urena

Even though the election is over, it seems the public may have made a difference in Edmonton. City Council is hosting four public open houses to provide information and a dialogue about the Arena. But let's take a look at the numbers first, shall we?

The estimated cost of renovating Rexall place is $250 million, and the result is that Edmonton has a refurbished arena. A new arena is estimated to be $450 million, with $100 million coming from the Katz group and $250 million coming from ticket taxes and a "revitalization" levy. ($100 million is also pledged from Katz to be put into the surrounding community.) This means that if we can find 100 million, Edmonton can have a new arena. Functionally, we get a new arena for the price of half of Rexall refurbished.

Some people are wondering why Katz would pledge  $100 million to go into the surrounding area, instead of Edmonton simply putting that money towards the arena (since the funding model is short exactly that much) but it's a form of leverage; the investment is likely to come back to the new arena in the form of increased traffic, which is much more sustainable (You know what they say, feed a man and you feed him for a day, teach him to feed himself...)

Another concern is whether we should be spending money in this economic climate (which is really not as bad as people think it is) but as anyone who has taken a 100 level economics course can tell you; spending is not necessarily a bad strategy during times of low interest, just so long as inflation is also low. It's the whole "buy low, sell high" principle at work. During times when people are broke, everything is cheaper, so it is actually a really good time to be investing in our city.

Which is what the arena is. A lot of people are talking about no "public money for private projects", but sometimes if corporations, which we could consider the city to be, and perhaps even should consider it to be, want to prosper they work together to pool money to achieve something awesome. Plus, if we don't put any money in, we won't get any money out, and I don't  believe that the city council is so stupid as to sign away any claim to subsequent revenues from the area

Some people are concerned about the location. But this is the big problem with Rexall, and even Northlands, to an extent. The downtown is spread out, the whole city is bisected rather messily along strange lines. What the airport and the arena and the LRT are aimed at doing is hammering the city into a convenient mould that fits the shape that we know cities work best in. I don't appreciate that the only "case studies" presented to us are all covering American cities, or that one of them draws the incredibly tenuous link between an Ohio brain drain (much like Edmonton has) that was halted by a new arena (plus some housing, but the drain was caused by lack of jobs, not homes), since their public response to sports might be more elastic, but they do make the point. 

The final concern that bothers me, is what we are going to do with Rexall place. Is it just going to stay in service as an arena, or will it be re purposed into something else? Personally I think we should fill it with water and hold naval battles, but I'm also pretty sure we'd have environmentalists up in our face for it. Plus, we can't afford the subsequent "duck fee", should any wayward waterfowl find their way  under a ship's bow.

But the most exciting aspect of this forum is that it means city council gets it. People were loud and worried that the Katz group was going to wave some money in council's face (or theaten to take their toys [oh, excuse me, the Oilers] and leave, which is preposterous) and Edmonton was going to run after them, tripping over whatever we had to, blindly arriving at a shiny new arena that we had no say in. This is council saying "that flies like tailing pond duckies" (i.e. it won't). If we're fronting the lion's share of the cash, we're setting the ground rules. And you know what? I like that.
We need to spend money to make money.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A sad, sorry, state of statistics

From the report on CBC as I drove in this morning, crime in Edmonton has dropped by a significant amount (18%) in the last year, but sexual assaults have risen 37%. The police stated they feel this was due to a higher incidence of reports, but I find this answer unsatisfying and after doing some research, downright confusing.

Statscan shows the amount of reported level two assaults with a weapon or causing bodily harm as increasing steadily since 1983 when the statistics start, up through 2008 since more recent statistics are notably hard to report in a timely fashion. The next step in assault, level three, has been slowly dropping over the same time period. It is possible, from these statistics, to conclude that Canada is getting less violent, since less violent level three cases would be reported as level  two cases. If we see a drop in level two assaults once level three has leveled off, this could be a pretty safe conclusion. Overall crime reported in Alberta dropped 7% last year, including a 6% drop (on average) between all three levels of sexual assault.

However, the Edmonton police report shows a 26% drop in reported sexual assaults in 2009, but current numbers, compared to the same time frame from last year, demonstrate a 37% jump in reported incidents for 2010. Even accounting for normal fluctuations in crime rates, that's unbelievable. Unless there has been some new system for reporting sexual assaults, or some new societal view of reporting assaults, it is unreasonable to assume it is due to higher reporting.

I was hoping to obtain some information from the sexual assault center of Edmonton (SACE) but their latest report is from the year 2008, so it is somewhat outdated and may not be relevant to the current numbers. Their report did show, however, that 85% off victims were under the age of 18 and that 46% of the time, the perpetrator was a parent. SACE has, despite this evidence, announced they would be sparking a new campaign aimed at men 18 to 24 (the group they say is most likely to offend) within bars and other places where alcohol is present, since alcohol is related to 44% of cases. Please note the phrase "Alcohol - related" refers to any incident where alcohol was mentioned in any context. It is possible they are taking this stand because the "Zebra" and "little warriors" programs are focusing on child abuse.

The recent rise  in reported cases is uncomfortable at best, and I have to wonder, if it is a copycat effect brought on by the recent highlighting of the Russell Williams case. Even under the media attention, Mr. Williams was able to lead a second life of depravity and crime, and would not have been caught were it not for a distinctive tire tread pattern. Not only is this incredibly unsettling, but other people, who have perhaps been struggling with violent urges, may gain courage from this fact. This raises the question of the media's accountability in such cases. Although we the public like to be informed, and in some cases should be informed, we forget that not every serial criminal's case is the last one, and that future people may take information or encouragement from current trials.

On the other hand, it also allows us all to take a look at the inner workings of criminal investigations. This man was caught because he had a distinct tire tread and he was detained at a roadblock specifically to check tire treads. But the vast majority of cases do not have distinctive features; indeed, most of the unsolved cases have no distinguishing features, which is why first time or only time killers walk free the majority of times.

There is also the fact of how the younger generation are viewing, or perceive, sexual assault. The recent incident in B.C, where a young girl was sexually assaulted by several males at a house party, is indicative of a cavalier, immature view of sexual assault. The attack was recorded, and subsequently posted on facebook. When it is necessary for the RCMP to tell people that the recordings constitute child pornography, that the girl was, in fact, sexually assaulted, and that they would be investigating, it is clear that somewhere along the line, someone failed at parenting.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Two concurrent life sentences

For the man who killed two women in Ontario, and raped two more. In the court transcripts he sobs that he is sorry, he will always regret it, he's done despicable things, etc.
But I can only think this; he killed one woman. Then time passed, and he MADE A CHOICE to go out, plan (and he did plan) another murder, and killed a woman, this time keeping her alive for a day. This shows escalation, the thrill he got from the first murder was not enough. Should this man ever be released into public again, his chance of re-offending would be astronomically high.

Also, in the drama surrounding the murders and sexual assaults, the victims whose lives were also violated are being overlooked. He broke into people's homes, violated their sanctity, and threatened their daughters, even going so far as to leave a "thank you" note on one young girl's computer. The amount of damage this man propagated is mind-boggling.

Details from  the court emerge that he cried only when his confession tape was played. The victim impact statements had no effect; it was only when the revelation of his undoing was brought to light that he was upset. He is dangerously apathetic about the consequence of his actions on others, except where his wife is concerned. It appears that he was deeply concerned about what effect this would have on his wife. I believe this is born from one of two reasons: 1) He has been so obsessed with keeping this secret from her, that it would simply be old habit to try and keep this new revelation from her or 2) he is truly a psychopath and knows that the only person he could possibly hope to have stand by him in the coming years (and I hope they are long, bitter years) is his wife. I hope she sees through this and runs.

The most insidiously line that haunts me about this case? When he writes an apology to one of the women he raped, saying "no doubt [she'll] rest a bit easier now that [he's] been caught." This to me just implies that he loves the control that he has over his victims; that he's in their lives now, still having power over them (which is the main motivation for rape).

Letter to the Editor

Note to my Dear Readers; this letter is a tad over-reactive, but the case of Col. Russell Williams has bothered me deeply, and I have never been fond of the Sun. Also, I apologize in advance if the subject disturbs any of you the way it disturbed me.

To the Edmonton Sun;

                 I was having a super day. I'd fled work early, got to the gym on time, my outfit was comfy, I was feeling awake despite only four hours of sleep, and I had green curry for supper planned. As I skipped (Yes, skipped.) to the gym entrance, I scanned the headlines of the day across the four newspaper boxes lined like school-children waiting for the bus. But, lo, a speed bump in my mood: a picture of a young women, cheekily half-grinning, in uniform (obviously a military photo) graced the cover, next to the headline, in huge capitals: "I WANT TO LIVE". I stopped in my tracks, 'What is this about', I pondered, 'some sort of charity drive for a disease?' But alas, it was not so. It was the dying plea from one of the victims in the latest high-profile murder trial. She had been brutally murdered right after uttering this entreaty.
                Now, I do not read the Sun. Having noticed inconsistencies within stories, statements that were so misleading that they were dressed as other "facts" which I knew to be false, being disappointed with the pedestrian writing style, and not interested in any of the garbage that the Sun believes to be "news", I have eschewed it in favour of national papers which may not always be directly relevant, but are at least not the mental equivalent of a greasy cardboard burger. This avoidance approach has worked with many things: milk, mentioning the long-gun registry to victor, and petting my cat with wet hands, and was effective in keeping me inoculated against the tripe put forth by your newspaper. I have little to no recourse when you insist on shoving information in my eyeballs, however.
               I will admit to some overreaction here, since the case has affected me deeply, perhaps I feel a kinship with the young women who had likely felt safe in their homes, prior to its invasion, and lately I have been nervous at home myself, since this story broke. But when the Sun sacrifices good taste, decency, and common sense, to run a cheap, attention-getting headline, such as parading around the words of a murder victim, with the sole desire of obtaining a few readers who could easily get their violence fix off the Internet, it is clear there is no journalistic integrity. Edmonton will never be considered a "World-class city" without solid news sources to keep the citizenry informed, not scandalized, and just your presence in the media market of
Edmonton takes up space that could be better served by more serious papers. Needless to say I shall be using the full force of my four years of Philosophy (or as I like to call it the "Degree in Making Others Feel Stupid") to deliver a withering look anytime anyone mentions the Sun in any capacity other than that reserved for supermarket tabloids. That's just my little contribution to making the world a better place.

I bid you good-day;
Edmonton, AB

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

So this is blah...

Now that the election is over, the confetti is swept up, and Mandel stored his luggage back into the closet, untouched for another three years, we can sit back and put our feet up with congratulations for a job well done. If only there was a job we'd done well.

What does it take to get voters out to the polls? The average voter turnout since 1989 is 39.9%. That means if you grab some random person from the street (don't really; people are so testy) the odds are in your favour that you grabbed a non-voter. Personally, I thought this election was exciting, but I also get really riled up about window-ledge frogs, so perhaps we'll consider that moot.

So we turn to the resident authority on everything: Wikipedia. The Wik-tastic funk machine spit out a formula for us which runs as such: PB+D > C where P represents the chance one vote will decide the election, B is the perceived gain for getting what the voter wants, D is the happiness one gets from voting, and C is the time and effort put into voting. Should PB+D weigh more strongly on Mr. John Q. Public than C, he gets his ass out and votes. We know, for certain, that this is not the case for the majority of people, but where does that lead us?

It is safe to assume that D > 0. Unless there is some kind of hidden belief in Canadian culture that it's "uncool" to vote (which I wrote off as preposterous...until I thought about it), we should be pretty confident about removing that off the variable charts for now.
P is a bit of a wild card. Given the highly publicized turnout of the last election, two things could have occurred: 1) people thought "Oh, that will motivate a lot of people, so I don't need to be motivated" or 2) "Wow that probably motivated people, my vote will count for less now". Both are likely the case, but these seem inconsequential, especially when you consider that even a small perception of voting power would be magnified by B.
Thus the problem is likely stemming from B. Especially in this election, where Mandel had already made it clear there was no turning back from what he'd done, only forward now, and this would appeal to the enthusiastic voters, but for the citizens demoralized by the issues, they're left with little to nothing. Dorward was not promising anything different, just a chance to have a say about making a difference, and Bonar was just too much of a risk.

Finally we're left with C. Since the weather was nice, and there were ample voting locations easily accessible, that means if we want people to vote we may have to commission Dowling enterprises to set up a cheap cell phone voting system. If voters really are either that apathetic or that content, we might have to drop C down to negative levels.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Election Results

The fix is in and here are the results, hot from the tubes:

Stephen MANDEL

Consumer of French Candies

I've been watching the last minute feeding frenzy that accompanies election days and I keep having one thought:
Daryl Bonar.
What is with that guy?

I remember watching the scene in "Master and Commander" where Russell Crowe tells a story about Lord Nelson, and how he needed no coat because "'his zeal for King and country kept him warm'" and I recall thinking, "Boy, what a wiener." which is a bit mean of me, but I think few people read this blog for warm fuzzies. (Should you require warm fuzzies and are here mistakenly, please follow this link: )

Anyway, I was skeptical as always, that such a person could exist in current times; that kind of fervor only comes with a single-minded vigor, undeterred by modern media (Whether you choose to believe they hype, fabricate, or simply report violence, one fact remains: There is a lot of sadness in the media.) and unabated by the disillusionment that comes with over-familiarity with politicians, which we are taught breeds contempt.
But everywhere we turn, here in the City of Champions (Yes, we are, so shush. I'm not going to stop feeling it just because they stop using it.) there is Daryl Bonar. He is at The Edmonton Sun's board meetings, at my university shaking hands, with the homeless on the street, on my twitter feed, and darned if he is not the single biggest search that leads people to this blog. That means we want to know about him. Who is he, and what the hell does he want?

Because I now dry-heave uncontrollably when people iterate that candidates like votes (Uh-oh...No, I'm good, I'm good.) I'll just make a vague allusion to that fact that he'd like you to be his friend. I'm not going to endorse him, I just wonder what is making him tick? He is absolutely burning; do we want someone like that running the city?

He's got heart, charisma, drive, and a plan. He also has a team that seems positively rabid to promote him. Despite objections from his opponents that he "can not" offer a tuition rebate because "it is a provincial" matter, we do know that yes, he can, and if he gets elected and then fails to provide, we have got a solid promise to turf him on his allegedly well-shaped butt.

So where's the downside? He's new. He is squeaky, shiny, fresh-out-of-the-box smelling, and in this election, which many have called "pivotal", we cannot take the time to help someone learn from their mistakes. We don't get many second chances like this one; the boom which filled our city with people and money, then a slow-down, so we can regroup, build up, keep calm and carry on, has proven to be priceless. People say the next few years will determine where we go, and they're absolutely right.

Whatever you want, Daryl Bonar will be a risk, but there is no reward without risk. It is up to each voter, now, to determine if that risk is too great.

(Also,whichever direction this sways you: he relates most to Rocky Balboa. Take that how you will.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Heavens to Betsy; More Scandal?

Was there anyone really surprised to wake in the morning greeted, in Edmonton at least, by David Dorward's huge face on the front cover of their newspaper?

For those who aren't aware, the big story today, the day before Edmonton's Municipal election, is about "Darrensbigscoop" a blog run by a man calling himself  "Darren Holmes"  who phoned up several people, councillors for city hall, etc., claiming to be the Seattle Times, even going so far as to get a fake phone number with the appropriate area code, and harassing them under the guise of an "interview". During  this time, he posted that Mayor Mandel had stolen the airport for unethical reasons and several other libellous allegations.

The fallout? Dorward has criticized the man, whose name is actually Nathan Black, saying he was disappointed it took attention away from the real issues, and that he was no longer welcome to volunteer with Dorward's campaign. The Seattle Times is considering suing. Mayor Mandel suggested that once the election is over he would talk about a lawsuit with his lawyers. The blog has run itself out, it has since been taken down, but will continue to putter around, converting feeble minds who can't be bothered to google for veracity. Envision Edmonton has kept him, however, implying that it was just high spirits, and that he had worked "tirelessly throughout the petition campaign organizing events and coordinating volunteers" (Edmonton Journal, Ed Kaiser, October 17th, 2010), which sounds a bit like keeping a rabid, incontinent terrier because it looks so cute on the sofa.

The consequences here are two-fold: 1) It is infuriating that weblogs, already of shaky reliability and reputation, are taking another hit to their credibility in the form of some twit who thought he could get away with such, if  not preposterous, goofy allegations. To be precise, I am aware that I don't garner as much respect as a legitimate journalist, but I do pride myself on accuracy, and situations like this seriously hamper my wilful suspension of disbelief. (Sometimes I have to wrap myself in newsprint, wearing a fedora, and say things like "Just the fact, Ma'am", so I can feel better) however, 2) I do appreciate that people might start to get an inkling of where the line between gossip and facts are. It is strange the proportion of people who will hear something passed on in the darkened tones of a conspirator, and our inner story teller loves a good scandal, but there must be a point where common sense kicks in. It is unlikely, given the firestorm that has raged over this airport, that something so simple could have been overlooked so egregiously. Not to say impossible since it remains to be seen whether the people of Edmonton are the only one who will be benefiting from the closure, as Mandel suggests, and we may never know what the true motivation was (A posteriori motivation is notoriously slimy), but the benefits of being the faceless voting masses is this: We don't care.
When it comes to decisions, motivations, and results, the only thing that matters to 'we, the people', is results. That's the tricky matter about being Mayor. Mea culpa just means you get to know why we turf you. Although it is considered a mark of humility and graciousness for people in office to admit when they were wrong, in the long run, it doesn't change a thing.

These things aside, one thing I think voters should take away from this whole affair is that we should not let volatile situations build up. This is a hazard present in running an election as a one-issue race; It's exploitable. Imagine where we'd be if we believed this story? Howling for a man's blood when we have no clue what is really going on. On the other hand, advanced voter turnout is over twice was it was last election, so if scandal is what encourages people to get out there and cast a ballot? Game on!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Eastglen High School Forum Part Two

After a ten minute refreshing break where I stopped laughing and wiped my teary eyes, we were back on for the furious lightening round of questions. During this, you may wonder where Mr. Lineker is; fear not, Dear Reader, remember when he stormed off the stage? He did not come back. I assume he listened to The Raconteurs because we don't understand him. Well, his loss, DR, there's plenty more Mayors in the sea.

The first question was directed at Mandel, then amended to include all the candidates later, but this just shows the entire race is really just a ball in his court. It's all about the Stephen, people. He was questioned why he voted against having an internal audit of the council's departments, and he responded that council had an internal auditing department and he felt there was no need to belabour the issue. Mr. Ligertwood agreed that it would be a waste of  money, Mr. Dromarsky said he felt council should be accountable always (not really an answer to the question, but that's okay, because he doesn't really matter anyway), Dowling supported the audit, Dorward supported strengthening the internal auditing department, and Bonar promised more transparency, which I guess means yes. 

The next question peaked my interest, since it related to the soft cap housing model that has been thrown around as of late, and asked the candidates whether they would support a hard cap housing initiative:   Daryl supported the hard cap, saying that stopping the ghettos is not enough,  and social housing does not work. A tad confusing, but we'll let that slide.  In a strange twist, that for a brief moment allowed us to glimpse behind the stand-up cardboard cutout that is David Dorward, he admitted that he didn't know whether he did or not.  Mr Dowling wanted a plebiscite on the issue. Mr. Dromarsky thought that was a lot of plebiscites. Finally someone said it! But both he and Mr. Ligertwood support balance in neighbourhoods  Stephen Mandel declined to join the hard-cap plebiscite love-fest, instead focusing on the reality that sometimes grouping similar incomes together is beneficial for the individuals involved (Imagine being a student in Fort MacMurray) and he tentatively supports a soft cap proposal, which is good because then he's backing his council. (but may prove detrimental if the council cull is as bad as it looks like it will be.)

A voter present asked at the mic whether Mandel would have done anything differently with the LRT, were he able to do it over, and whether candidates would do anything differently.  Mandel admits they made mistakes, and since he is able to go first, the other candidates are left to pick at the scraps he has left behind, or hit him where he has already admitted he made mistakes (Platform size, overpasses needed, better traffic flow). Ligertwood says he would do nothing differently; in his own words, "He's confused". Dan  Dromarsky says he would have started ten years ago, which technically was not really Mandel's reign, so it's a cheap dig at the previous mayor (still good for a laugh though). Dowling thinks South campus is a stupid place for a stop since it's adrift in the middle of nowhere, Dorwards agrees with Mandel about his mistakes (feels weird to type that), and Bonar says he would not look into the stony plain road expansion, instead sending the LRT down 107th ave, which actually got a couple cheers.

 The next question was about how each candidate was going to restore confidence in public safety, but it become more of a question about the police force.  Bonar pledged to bring back the neighbourhood cop, which we never should have lost in the first place, but he invokes my name, and called me an officer (strange coincidence; the closest I've ever been to being an officer is playing GTA and not killing anyone), so I'm pretty pleased. Dorward supported strengthening the community leagues, which I suspect would result in more curtain-twitching, but maybe it would promote community fellowship. Dowling reiterates his position: no more cops. Let it never be said that Dave Dowling pandered to the people. Dan Dromarsky thought that if we taught children to respect officers, our general population would have less crime. Also we should change our justice system, which is a bit of a lofty goal for a municipal mayor, but what the hell, aim big. Ligertwood raised the point that if downtown was safer, officers wouldn't need to monopolize their time at one location. I think Mr. Mandel checked out at this point because his only response was that the police were doing a good job.

Last question was with regards to the selling of Epcor, which one councillor publicly denounced as being "undemocratic". The question, to be precise, was "How was he wrong?"
Again Mandel seems to be checked out since he just replies that it made fiscal sense for two businesses, which the audience found unsatisfying. Everyone else said, in varying forms, "I would support an inquiry. Fire Mandel".

The closing statements were quite dry, but worth summarizing:
Daryl Bonar: Could the other competitiors be me? That's a big, fat, maybe.
David Dorward: I pledge to listen to the voters, so please don't listen to that slogan "Forward, not Dorward."
Dave Dowling: Mandel and Dorward suck.
Dan Dromarsky: I can count to seven.
Bob Ligertwood: Statistics are wonderful.
Stephen Mandel: Vote for the future, not my past mistakes!

More important than closing statements is this:
Things I wish each candidate knew.
Daryl Bonar: Pointing fingers at other candidates just makes you look childish. Stop it.
Dan Dromarsky: No-one really thinks you should be a counciller. They're just being polite.
Bob Ligertwood: We know you are old. That does not mean anything was better back then.
Dave Dowling: Proximity does not determine ownership. It is our airport, not Leduc's.
Andrew Lineker: Plebiscite. No-one thinks a white suit and hair grease is cool anymore.
David Dorward: Yes, we can see right through you.
and finally, Mr. Mandel: Just because you are the best man for the job does not mean much. Please try to respect us a little more? We may not be the best city to govern, but we're the city you've got, and you're the mayor we've got so let's try to live together.

Needless to say, there is really no GOOD option here; just the least of all evils, and to be perfectly honest, it's better the devil you know...
Whatever you do, get on out and vote. Buy  yourself something to motivate yourself if you must.
Or buy me something.
I'm partial to cupcakes. 
Or, you know, whatever.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Eastglen High School Forum Part One

Those readers familiar with the Harry Ainley Forum will feel a light touch of deja vu as they peruse the pages of the Eastglen High Forum, but with one noticeable difference. This forum's cranked up to ELEVEN. More screaming! More dirt-slinging! More temper tantrums! It's the WWE of the Mayoral race world! So grab a chair, and come out swinging!

After the usual droll announcements about how dangling from the chandeliers is prohibited, and vomiting in the aisle is frowned upon, the forum opens with each candidate reminding us why they're relevant.

Mayor Mandel outlines his past accomplishments, as he sees them, acknowledging the hollers, cheers, and catcalls as they come, with the same shrugging indifference to each. He reminds us all of the frustration and  irritation that he alleviated when he defeated Bill Smith to take the seat six years ago, and urges us to keep in mind the goals not reached yet; we're not there, keep going, more weight, he bravely whispers, more weight. We need to focus on our arts, on our natives and Inuit peoples, better police, more support for entrepreneurs, and inner city cleanup. He notably also promises that the expo bid will be an investment for Edmonton, which may satisfy some voters. It's a bleeding inspiring speech, and he shrugs off the attention with the shouldered indifference of a man "just doin' his job, Ma'am". He's almost curmudgeonly, but there isn't a single issue that was untouched in his "whip speech" of an introduction, which sort of made the other candidates look like they were only important in relation to his platform...

Andrew Lineker has really shiny hair. I was momentarily dazzled by the gleam before I was able to sufficiently recover and continue my dissertation. It is odd, I must admit, for a candidate who criticized the media so heavily in the first few days of campaigning, that he would stand up and thank a laundry list of media sources, even some local ones, presumably the ones who insidiously did not post his letters. He next thanks his mother and campaign manager, Joanne, so I have confirmed, since I was still skeptical, that the women who apparently has Parkinson's, cussed me out over email in response to a platform question (Andrew Lineker Update 27/09/10), and claimed to be his campaign manager, is in fact, his mother and all of the people in question. Pressing on, Mr. Lineker supports democracy (I will donate a hefty sum of money to the first candidate to take the stage and say "I support Communism") and pleblecites. You read correctly, Dear Reader, he is still pronouncing it "Pleblecite" and apparently no-one has corrected him. He is supportive of better water, and to stop turning Fort Edmonton into "Disneyland", and up til this point he was rational and pulled together. After this, however, he implies that Daryl's tuition plan is ridiculous, and flat out says that David Dorward stole his campaign platform. Stole. His campaign platform. (Which is ridiculous because Mr. Dorward doesn't mention Fort Edmonton at all.) He ends by storming off the stage.
Storming off the stage.

As if this was not uncomfortable enough, Bob Ligertwood starts off placidly enough speaking on how he has never seen so many signs for a political candidate as he has for Mayor Mandel. I am reminded, however, of the uncomfortable scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory where Gene Wilder takes the kids on a horrific boat ride of impending dread that ends abruptly with no explanation. He begins, while he speaks of Internet supervision in Edmonton Libraries, to talk of his daughter, a special needs woman who was "lost" at age 30. As the tale winds deeper, and he makes allusions to drugs and death, we become more and more concerned for the plight of this young women, who he espouses he could not help since "kids are self-sufficient at 30", well, yes, but really? Deeper and deeper the tale and the dread spiral until he ends by informing us that she was killed by drug dealers and pimps that were using the Edmonton Public library computer system. How does he know? Because he has kicked these types of people off his computers at his own computer coffee shop. Proof positive. It would take a team of psychologists working around the clock for months to uncover all the neurosis and problems there are present just in this speech. Oh, and he doesn't support a bus line to the airport.

I am sorely grateful when Dan Dromarsky takes things back to the usual tempo, by opening with how he is pro-democracy. We're back on familiar ground now. Apparently, we the people, if we want to make our voices heard, we need to make our voices heard. It's the new Zen Democracy. He covers the bases: city center airport plebiscite, infrastructure, cheap LRT expansion, etc. Apparently people have been telling him he should have run for city council since he has no experience, to which he responds that he has no experience selling off city assets. That's true, but he also has no experience at all, and if we're going to be shafted by someone (and no matter what, some group of Edmontonians are going to feel shafted) we'd rather it was done by someone with a plan in mind.

Dave Dowling surely does not disappoint, rising to the standards of crazy he has set in previous communication. I was not able to count how many times the word "Democracy" or the phrase "I, Dave Dowling" were used, but rest assured they were each in excess of thirty times. This is not hyperbole. Perhaps he is hoping to get us all accostomed to "democracy" being thrown in our faces because he has plans to put every major issue to a vote. All major issues. This is going to be accomplished by the cellphones. He plans to buy every eligable voter in Edmonton a cellphone, so voting will be done a' la Canadian Idol style. Don't be concerned though; he won't be raising taxes to pay for this endeavour, Mr.Dowling will not be spending any money on singing garbage cans. You see, the money we save by not buying singing garbage cans will pay for a $300 cell phone for every voter in Edmonton. I googled this idea, but could only find reference to a clean-up initiative in Massachusetts, so I have litterally (har. har.) no idea what he is talking about.

David Dorward, opens by countering Mandel's idealistic speech, by stating he is a do-er, not a dreamer. (It is so much fun to go back through all his campaign information and read it all like it was a blind date ad) He promises no new taxes for three years, more peace officers, more jobs, LRT expansion, $600 property tax rebates, and openness in council. I can't help but feel, however, that he has one purpose: to counter Mandel. That alone is not really a good reason to elect someone.

The final candidate, Daryl Bonar, rounds out the bunch by promising no public money for private projects, better childcare, more police officers, accountability, student advocacy and the idea "no child left behind". I really feel he should have run for council in the Old Strathcona ward. He really appeals to students, he has that dark, young look that would make the girls swoon, and when he's thrust into the Mayoral Race, all he does is take out David Dorward with a well placed "You're Envision Edmonton's lapdog and you don't really care about Edmonton because if you did you would have started earlier like me!". Don't get me wrong, it was a pretty magnificent tackle (somewhere Terrible Terry Tate is nodding approvingly) but it was a tad unnecessary, and makes him look like the rook to Mandel's king on a giant chessboard.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Home is where-ever I'm with you

A new housing policy has been brought before council (well, new last spring) with the intention to spread the burden of poverty throughout various neighbourhoods; a flexible "soft-cap" as it has been called, means new low-income houses would not be built in the inner-city neighbourhoods if they did not agree to it, and instead a quota of "affordable" homes would be implemented, requiring new developers to either build the homes or pay a fine, of an amount to be determined later.
The problem is the relationship between low-income housing and poverty. Some see the relationship as positive, since the effect of low-income housing = slums is a very salient effect, both are easily observed and documented. However, some argue that affordable housing lifts people out of poverty, since not having a fixed or reputable address is a large factor to overcome in pursuit of  gainful employment. Once things like a secure haven becomes commonplace in a person's life, the other amenities follow.

So what does this mean for the candidates? Either housing or inner city developments are on every candidate's platform, and this might mean some big ramifications.
Daryl Bonar- He's promising to help the homeless and clean up many areas of the city, but he also purports to be a family-oriented man, and putting a large block of low-income housing in a family neighbourhood will make people nervous. He can certainly use this law, if it is not too unpopular, to his campaign advantage, but it would prove a hindrance once he was finally elected.
David Dorward- It's possible he can claim some of the low-income housing for his senior's initiative, but since it mostly applies to new  developments, which are notoriously far out of town, this may prove difficult unless more senior communities are built.
Dave Dowling- A portion of his ten billion dollar dollar plan is $1 billion for low-income housing. This may restrict his endeavours, since he now requires the permission of the communities before he can build in neighbourhoods that already possess low-income housing.
Dan Dromarsky- Seems I was wrong. I can find no way to connect Mr. Dromarsky's campaign to this new policy. Ironic that I forgot about him, given that Metro gave him a very special interview in the paper today. (That's right, Dear Reader, I'm the only unbiased news source you can trust. Or at least so biased it's flagrant.)
Bob Ligertwood- This policy goes best with Mr. Ligertwood's campaign. Given his desire to revitalize the inner-city, and provide better assistance and services to homeless people, this policy could very well have been crafted by Mr. L himself; It would fully support and justify building more low-income housing structures, bring awareness to the poverty situation, and also help integrate homeless people into better lifestyles.
Andrew Lineker- He could use this policy to support his desire to clean-up the inner-city which, if you recall his arena stance, he felt was unclean and unsafe, or it could worsen the situation, dragging other neighbourhoods down with less-fortunate neighbourhoods. It would allay his concerns about people being evicted from their homes by the LRT, however.
Stephen Mandel- should he retain his seat, this could make him very unpopular. If he goes ahead and pushes housing where-ever seems convenient, he runs the risk of annoying many new homeowners; but on the other hand, it's pretty much a God-send for his campaign to build several thousand new low-income houses, and gain the support of anyone who supports the policy.

The support for the policy, needless to say, depends heavily on who is in the hot seat come November, and also how they interpret the statistics on homelessness, poverty, and low-income housing, but unless we can distract the people in the nicer neighbourhoods with something shiny, this new initiative is likely to run straight into the NIMBY crew, and they have baseball bats.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lifting the veil of a bad argument

My latest blog post about the Niqab has sparked some controversy, so I hope to better refine my position here, and then if there is still controversy, well, controversy happens.

First of all, I am pro-identification. Absolutely. We pay too much in taxes to support our stellar health care system to allow just anyone to avail themselves of our services. Re-reading the article I realize I had not made that clear. The problem, I find, is that this bill  is requiring women to remove their headscarf for the duration of the service, whatever that may be.
The majority of Sharia Law interpretations do advocate removal of the niqab to permit identification, in the presence of an official or member of authority; the RCMP confirm that no-one, to their knowledge, has ever refused to remove their niqab for a mugshot, and there is a consistent line of people removing their niqab for passport photos and other such matters. But lifting it once for the purpose of identification is a whole degree of separation away from requiring it be removed for the entire time, when anyone could see the woman's face, a result she does not want.
The landmark case on the issue was a women immigrating from Egypt, who was taking a federally funded language course in French (the fact that it was federally funded puts less weight on the woman's position, however, the ban would also apply to universities, and those are not fully funded), as is mandatory for immigration into Quebec. The instructor was originally a women, so the Muslim woman in question would test her french privately at the back of the room where she would remove her veil. At one point she did complain that the men in the class could see her face still and when the class dynamic changed to be primarily men, she refused to remove it at all (although this coincided with the change of instructor who was now a man, so there is debate as to the motivating factor). The course stipulates that the student's mouth must be seen, since it is apparently essential to elocution for the mouth to be visible (This is the argument they gave). This aspect alone is debatable and I would argue that how you achieve the correct sound should  not matter so long as the correct sound is achieved. If they had learned it over the Internet, their mouths wouldn't be judged (it is noted she was offered the chance to study online; no mention of why this option was not acted on).

It is an interesting point, although not entirely relevant to the argument, that current estimates put the number of Quebec women who wear the niqab between 20-25, but after the story broke about the woman's human rights lawsuit,  another student was kicked out of class for refusing to remove her niqab, but there does not seem to be any precedent (IE. no difficulties in class) and she is alleged to have been doing well and cooperating fully otherwise.Herein lies the biggest risk with this ban, put best by this woman:

 "Shelina Merani, a spokesperson for Muslim Presence, a network promoting common values based on Islam, charged that the bill is discriminatory and reflects growing anti-Muslim sentiment in Quebec.
“As a woman, you will have to choose between your education and our faith,” Merani said in an interview from Ottawa.
“If we want to emancipate women, I think this will do the opposite of what we claim to want to do – it will contribute to ghettoization,” she said." -Marian Scott, the Montreal Gazette, March 26, 2010

There is also the matter of security. It could certainly be anyone in a niqab, and the fact that the 2005 London bombers fled in burkas, makes the situation more tricky. But anyone who supports this measure must also support full body scans, since it is the same principle on a larger scale, and strip searches, although since these involve physical contact there is less precedent. On a confusing point of interest, the  lawyer who defended the rights of Sikh students to wear their ceremonial dagger, does not support the veil. Given the proportion of stabbings to bombings or anything that could be hidden under a niqab, I'm confused about this discrepancy. He does, however, emphasize that any further forays into legislation would begin to intrude on individual rights.

I also get very worried when these kinds of situations occur and people scream that this is "CANADA where we have our own customs and the arrogance of these ‘individuals’ that come over here and expect us to conform to their rights and religion is appalling" (Mikey35 on the national post website), but ignore what exactly Canada stands for, if not for freedom and tolerance.

Friday, October 08, 2010

New bill orders women to remove their clothing

Over in Quebec, they were getting annoyed because we weren't paying enough attention to them. "How can we assert our individuality and piss off the rest of Canada at the same time?" They pondered for a while, before Kathleen Weil, minister of justice, came up with a brilliant plan: "Let's sponsor a bill requiring women to take their clothes off!" and everyone agreed it was a good plan.
Wait, what?

Bill 94, currently under debate in Quebec stipulates creating a law requiring women to remove their niqab while receving services in certain federally funded institutions (places of child-care, education, health-care, and family resources for example.) They include all the usual noise about "respecting equality, gender rights, charter rights, etc., but specifiying that it should only be requested if it would not cause "undue hardship". Does that mean the state is going to start telling people whether or not denying their religious beliefs is too hard? Or that if they don't like it, they can just, you know, stop receiving services?

It should be noted that the government is doing this without prejudice, favor, or disfavor to any religion. Non-Muslim women will be required to show their face as well.
The sittings are only available in French, but I'll have more details as soon as I kidnap a frenchman, although I'm not sure it will make much of a difference, apparently the deadline for public interaction was May 7th.

The bill is being pushed under the headline of  solving "oppressiveness in Islam" but this is just about the worst defence I've heard since that guy who tried to explain away murder because of a caffine overdose. This is functionally, providing thicker makeup to battered women. If there is a problem in Islam (Which is a whole different debate being argued by people smarter than I see "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali) then insisting the party who is purported to be "in danger" ignores their religious orders, is going to cause more problems than it solves. Let us give them the benefit of a doubt, for a second, and assume that this really is an issue between protecting and meddling, the fact of the relatively small population of Muslim women that do adhere to the Hajib, suggests either the proponents of the bill are woefully uninformed, or that it is really not about protecting Muslim women at all. If there were genuinely interested in protecting or empowering muslim women, just trot a couple Niquabitches around the streets. No word on whether these women have received death threats yet. (I'd learn french just to figure out what everyone is saying.)

Stripping away the ridiculous defense that they have erected, one is able to realize the true motivation of this bill; to alienate and assimilate Muslim women. Creating a less hospitable atmosphere, possibly in the hopes that they will settle elsewhere, will allow them to "weed out" the people they consider less desirable neighbours in either an attempt to homogenize Quebec under one color - oops I mean flag, or a "preemptive strike" against a religion that intolerant bigots see as "terrorist".

I also really hate that this is twice now I have published a post to discover that it was a topic of hot debate - several months ago. Edmonton affairs? I'm pretty up to date. Canadian national affairs? Have you guys heard about this railroad they're building? Keen, huh?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Shut Up.

Seriously. Envision Edmonton is taking the city of Edmonton council to court over the petition rejection. At this point, I'm pretty sure they are just manufacturing attention. Fine if you get all  your signatures ratified; Next they'll turn back time so the petition won't be A YEAR LATE.
(For those who can't read the subtle subtext in this post: I had another lousy day, and this one is my own fault. I knew GDP was only goods produced, not sold, in Canada. Knew that. Until I sat down for my econ midterm.)

In a move usually reserved for little girls who aren't allowed in the boy's tree house, another group waxing poetic about the chunk of asphalt downtown has reared their collective heads, calling themselves "Yes for Edmonton", ("No for context" was already taken by Bob Ligertwood.) The way Envision Edmonton (the foremost group championing the airport) has tried to downplay them made me automatically assume they were important, but with little over 200 supporters, they couldn't even hold a very good sit-in, let alone a riot. They are said to be "grassroots" but I'll believe it when I see it, especially in a group headlining two former city council people and a current senator. But wait! They are getting their message out through "social media", which apparently does not include a facebook page. Perhaps by social media they meant telegram. That's what's hip now-a-days.

This whole ordeal is just  a cheap effort to spark interest in an election to create more votes by making people feel they are "part of something". "C'mon, everybody, vote for your favorite team!" If I see one vuvuzela anywhere near a polling booth, I'm moving to a dictatorship. One of the most trite, obnoxious, and self-serving positions a candidate can have is to "support democracy". Of course you support democracy, you bloated fart: you want votes. It is useless noise, drum beating of the most self-righteous kind, discernible only from sport fanatics because they don't wear goofy wigs (face painting is cool though).

 This is a cover group. Wheedled together out of the ramshackle vestiges of someone's dying career, or perhaps someone's shamelessly crippled one; they don't support candidates because there are none to support. The only openly anti-airport (oops, sorry, Pro-Edmonton since no-one is anti-anything) is Mr. Mandel, and he's aiming to waltz through this election like stank on a biscuit (The meme phrase "Move forward, not Dorward" pretty well reflects what Edmonton thinks of Mr. Mandel's closest competitor). Plus it's wildly hypocritical, given the current climate, to claim you are pro-choice (like as in "choices", not the abortion issue kind) and pro-Mandel because he's the "bad guy" who didn't listen to a petition and thus thinks all opinionated Edmontonians can go suck an egg because he'll do what he likes and we can do nothing, we are the downtrodden masses under an oppressive heel the likes of which the world has never seen.

The budget for "Yes for Edmonton" is under $5000, which, if it's businessmen pushing some personal agenda, as has been suggested, they are doing a sad, sad, job of promoting it (it could be entrepreneurs, however, who are notoriously loath to pony  up cash if they can't see an expected return spreadsheet [Good Feelings are not a good bottom line]), and is claimed to be used for "incidentals and support our web site". That is verbatim. I can only assume the incidentals are canisters of helium because it is hilarious to issue press releases when your voice is squeaky, and nachos because "grassroots activism" is hungry work.

So we have two conclusions: One this is a pathetic attempt to drum up support for the democratic process by appealing to the younger demographic but without the budget to research what the cool kids are doing (Admittedly, I have no idea what either; Are pogs still hip?), or two it is a front, paid for by Envision Edmonton to make themselves look better against the idiotic profile of a foil group, an entire lobby organization made up of strawmen.
Either way thank goodness they're here, or else the airport would never be closed, except for how it is now, or people's voices wouldn't be heard, all two hundred of them, or Envision Edmonton would run rampant and unchecked, instead of running themselves out of steam in a few months to a year, tops.
Again, we have good intentions misguided into a idiotic group with no thought. Does Ms. Stronach know about them?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Old Spice guy says, "Laptops for Babies"

Due to a bad circumstance at work which doesn't need to be detailed here, I'm full of vitriol and since last post was number 333 (the step-son of the beast), I'm keen to spew some bile on the Internet today.

Latching on to the first story to catch my interest, let's talk about division. One of the most surefire way to destroy camaraderie is to show favoritism; think Ender from the teen-age literary staple, "Ender's game". Equality, fairness, and advancement based on merit are cohesive forces, and can see progress even disparate from individual to individual without leaving resentment in its wake. In Canada's history, the government sought to destroy the natives by taking their children away, leaving separation and alienation behind. The damage done by residential schools, which were operating until as recently as 1996, caused schisms between generations that prevail even today, despite the Healing Foundation's efforts, which some speculate are undermined by the current government's financial assistance of Native Canadians (which is only given if the recipient lives on residential land and follows "Indian regulations" ). This financial assistance has caused some Natives to become dependant on the government's help, thus depriving them of the critical autonomy needed to repair the damage done to their culture.

Recently, the government woke from it's Brobdignagian slumber to notice the discrepancy in graduation rates (I guess a 42% grad rate is not as good as an 84%, who knew?) between aboriginals and non-aboriginals across Canada (the worst rate was in Manitoba at 71% failing to graduate) . They vowed to do something about it and so Belinda Stronach is here to make everything better. She's riding in on a white horse with a bunch of low-cost laptops, similar to a type being distributed through a children's foundation in the U.S. About 5000 will be handed out to children between the ages of 6 to 12. Her heart's in the right place; she hopes to encourage education through technology, although I guarantee the built-in wireless Internet has Mayoral Candidate Bob Ligertwood choking on his watercress sandwich ("They have what?!"); but any parent can attest to what happens when you favor one child over another: Chaos and anger. Considering the fairly narrow age range of the recipients, it's not a stretch to imagine there will be children within the same household unit jealously watching their siblings receive a new laptop. Sure, we can say it will promote sharing and all that, but what kid at 6 wants to share their new toy equitably?

"So what?" says the disillusioned masses, "At least it's something." That's a good point, but why do we so often accept 'good enough' for things when they effect other's well-being? Not to forget, even though each laptop only costs around one hundred eighty eight dollars, that computes to $940,000, and that figure only includes the cost of each laptop, not including distribution and peripherals. I can not understand why this money could not be better spent elsewhere. Textbooks for example, or a non-toxic school environment. At least this way the kids can google what type of mould is slowly choking out their lungs.

Let's be honest about the whole issue; simply giving money to rebuild the school would show favoritism for Natives; not the message the Liberals want to send. It wants to show it is sexy. It likes technology. It is hip. Vote for Liberals and you'll give laptops to babies. I wish I didn't think this would work to gain votes.

Monday, October 04, 2010


California, land where weirdness is born, has apparently been puttering away, promoting healthy eating, in the background for some time now, but it's time for us to wake up and begin to take notice.
They are proposing a bill which would force fast food restaurants to choose between a toy or unhealthy food in their kid's meals. The specific target here is McDonalds, but all fast food purveyors will be held accountable. The bill postulates that they must adhere to a calorie limit and include fruits and vegetables if they wish to include a toy, call it like it is, incentive in the package. Personally, I can't see the appeal of ten cents of plastic with flexible elbows, but I don't think it's much of a stretch to say kids are interested.

As Dear Reader may or may not be aware, I am the daughter of a businessman; although he has shifted his focus to politics in recent years (which fantastic success, Go Dad!) the mentality never really leaves. One of the main traits displayed by businessmen, or at least entrepreneurs, is that they are not real keen on legislation that tells them what they may and may not do with their business, especially when it comes to their business model, the heart of many companies. McDonalds is, understandably, not keen on the restriction because, "It's different from what we're doing today and different from what we've done for 25 years, successfully," (Karen Wells, vice president for nutrition and menu strategy). They claim it threatens their business model.

Their objection, however, raises the question: what the hell does their business model consists of that makes this bill so devastating? McDonalds has adapted to changes before, and seen nothing but growth since their inception in 1955; this new plan should be easy to accommodate, if they were focusing on their food. Let us be honest, McDonalds does not taste very good. What it does, however, is always taste the same, and when people get hungry, their bodies crave the easiest and most familiar form of calorie intake (bodies are kind of stupid like that), so we go to a place where food is provided, with all the necessary flavours to satisfy that aspect of "hunger", in less than five minutes, without any additional calorie expenditure, thus maximizing loss for gain. That's the niche they fill in our lives. As adults, we are expected to know how many times we can sacrifice our health for this kind of convenience, but we're bringing our kids into it too, who can tolerate much less sacrifice, as a result of their growing bodies that require non-crap.

People are arguing for the "government out of the kitchens of the nation" because they don't want to be told what to eat, but it is increasingly obvious that we need to be told what to eat, because in the absence of the government doing it, McDonalds is doing it. People notoriously underestimate the calorie content in their fast-food, and assuming that the balance of food groups is accurate (think of a usual McMeal; the only protein is the patty, and the only vegetables are the lettuce and tomatoes.) I won't even bring up the sodium content.  People grow accustomed, at a young age, to the government safeguarding us, especially in our western nations, and that is a habit that is hard to break.

Ultimately, this must take the place of better education and societal reinforcement; i.e. until the day that everyone can understand proper eating, and take responsibility for their intake. All in all, this is a step in the right direction, whether it feels like it or not.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Just because "cop" and "cab" are two letters apart...

There is a story just recently posted about a group of three police officers who picked up a group of nine homeless people from whyte avenue and then transported them to the north side in a van that was allegedly 20 degrees. They each have various charges laid against them, and it's a pretty stiff argument, one side declaring it was a courteous act, dropping the people off at a "friend's" house, and the prosecution alledging it was a low-brow way to remove people from whyte ave.
The fact that annoys me the most about this whole case is that there is no mention of the homeless people. No statement from them, no mention of them testifying, and no indication of their feelings on this whole matter. This only unscores how little the actual people in this case matter; they're just homeless people. We just don't want our officers breaking protocal.

Whether it was a favour, which I must confess police are not really in the habit of indulging (they are famously NOT a taxi service), or callous treatment of admittedly drunk people, in a city which used to be famous for its community involvement program, the main point stands; these officers put themselves, and the department, in a very legally vunerable position. If anything had occured (one of the drunk men injures himself/dies, they get in an accident, they need to intervene in a situation elsewhere and leave the van unattended) the force would be culpable for a plethora of reasons, and the officers would be in an even worse situation.
Although I do feel this should be a disciplinary hearing, without the testimony of the homeless people in question to give voice to the tone of the action, it should only be considered an internal matter.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Harry Ainley Forum

I'm pleased to finally present this; finding the time to disseminate two hours of footage was a tad daunting, and the sketchy quality of the download did not assist at all, not to mention that there was a loose correlation between candidate's sanity and audio quality. It does seem the majority of supporters were there for Mandel, since he was the only candidate to receive applause upon  his introduction, but there was considerable noise for Mr. Andrew Lineker during his speech, which was a surprise since a recent Vue newspaper online survey revealed no-one planned on voting for him (Literally 0% responded they would vote for him) The other proportions were 73% Mandel, 7.5% undecided, 7.5% David Dorward, 4% Dan Dromarsky, 4% Dave Dowling, 2% Daryl Bonar, 2% Bob Ligertwood. Keeping in mind this is a self-selected survey in that it includes only Vue readers and online people (and literate people), but let's be honest, if only a tenth of Mandel's supporters show up, he's going to take it, and even we have never had that low a turnout. It seems we may be pissed he's ignoring the airport/arena/what-have-you issue, but it also seems there's no-one else we'd rather be pissed at. Or at least no one else running.

The highlight of the candidate's platform speeches, which I'll heavily condense by including only novel information, was right at the beginning when Daryl Bonar delivered the biggest snub of the evening. While everyone else was "The candidates deserve applause for attending" yadda yadda, Daryl Bonar said that he considers the race to be between two parties; the one containing two well-funded candidates and the other containing himself. Apparently the other four candidates are beneath notice. (I can't really fault him. I've been trying to figure out if they are joke candidates) Other than his vicious streak, he didn't tell us anything new during this time. I was hoping he would address the "unfair bylaws" issue, but he was mum on that.

The next candidate, David Dorward, decided he'd try to dumb things down for us, at one point even pointing out, "38%. That's a big number". Thank you, Mr. Dorward, but what does it represent? As discussed briefly, he talks about a 38% rise in property taxes but fails to provide what the nature of the increase is. Inflation? Home value increase? Genuine tax hikes? Anyway, I'm perhaps a tad cranky because he pointed out that he felt there were four issues facing us, and try as I might, I could only figure out three that he listed.

My favorite candidate, Dave Dowling, was not going to be having any of that "appeal to the voters" crap. He started the evening off right by making sure we knew who was responsible for things that were wrong in the city: Us, the voters. It is all our fault. This can be an effective tactic, but after a while, especially when he repeats it at the end, it feels a bit like being chastised by that crazy guy that you sometimes run into in the coffee shop, who feels the need to tell you how to raise your kids, and what a bad mom you are. Although he's already on record for environmental issues, I wanted to reiterate that he is disgusted with the brown air over Edmonton, and the fact that our river is brown. There is scum on the rocks in the river, people, SCUM.

Perhaps by a twist of strange coincidence or by some fancy last minute speech writing, when Mr. Dowling finishes by pointing out he used to be able to make snowballs by this time when he was a kid, Mr. Dromarsky opens with a speech about how it is fall now, and isn't that wonderful? Nothing much new here, just a strange tax initiative where one can "lock into taxes" for three years, thus enabling us to know exactly how much we'll be paying so we can budget better.

Bob Ligertwood's first major point was to address how strange he looked in his picture in the newspaper. There was no small amount of bitterness as he sarcastically thanked the photographer who used the picture in question. If he is not aware that the media generally takes every convenient advantage to make people, especially people putting themselves forward to run for mayor, look stupid, I'm not sure he's the right man for the job. He again expounds on how ridiculous it is that any child can wander into an Edmonton public library and use the Internet free of supervision, waves his ponytail around (bald on top with a ponytail), and says, "I don't know what's going on." Even when it's kept in proper context, that's usually a quote to avoid.

Now, although I've been through a fair amount of websites lately, when Mr. Linker invited us all to check out the research on his website, I could genuinely not remember any,which is a shame because I am dying to see the charts behind the reasoning that tax breaks for small businesses results in more jobs. It's true to an extent, but without the relevant consumer demand for the good or service being provided, those jobs will just disappear. Also, what is wrong with Fort Edmonton becoming an Amusement park? It's not a museum, for crying out loud, it's got a bar in it. I really enjoyed it.  The two main things you should come away from his speech with is that 1. He's promising free transit for seniors 2.He pronounces plebiscite "Pleblecite". Unacceptable.

The first question in the second half is regarding the city center airport, of course, and points out that if everyone who signed the petition voted against Mandel, he would have lost the last election, but the problem with this reasoning is three-fold; 1) not everyone on the petition would vote for exactly the same candidate 2) the last election had an artificially low turnout, and  most people agree that this is likely due to the fact that no one felt Mandel actually had any competition, and 3) it was agreed in advance that the petition would need to be filed in sixty days, and almost a year later is, to borrow a military term, a "shittonne" more than sixty days. Mayor Mandel pretty much says precisely this, but I'm prettier.

As the other candidates point out their views on the airport, Daryl Bonar asks of Mr. Mandel that 'if city council is going to ignore 90,000 people of Edmonton, what else are they going to ignore'. He also brought up that Mandel was the only one who did not stand behind the airport, but technically only half the candidates do, and the other half have promised a vote to determine the airport issue, which is a weasely way of saying they don't support it but don't want to get hung out to dry. He feels a champion should not hide behind technicality, which sounds noble, but welcome to bureaucracy, Mr. Bonar. It is built on technicalities and legislation, and if you don't know how or why to use it, life in office is going to be damn tough.
David Dorward would like us all to know that he would never treat us like Mandel does. He'd be good to us. I hate to use the dating analogy again, but I've heard that pick-up line in a bar before while I drink my relationship sorrows away.
Dave Dowling feels we need more plebiscites. I'm not sure he is aware that they cost money.
Dan Dromarsky agrees.
Bob Ligertwood is old and is getting tired of us damn whippersnappers arguing about stuff they argued about years ago, and have you seen his website, it's full of military documents.
Andrew Lineker takes a bold stance and says he does not support a lobbyist group (Envision Edmonton) trying to take over the government. Crud, I like that.

When an expo question comes up, which I feel each candidates has already addressed, they each go through the motions,support or not, until Dave Dowling shouts that we all better get out to the polls October 18th. He means it! I swear he looks for a gavel to go with his speech. Also, Daryl Bonar brought up an excellent point; If we can call the expo bid an "infrastructure project", we can go ahead with it, but if it is to "put us on the map" he feels we will fail ("epic fail"), and should pass. It is interesting to watch someone make their whole campaign. He's been stepped on, and pushed aside, but he is actually carving out a niche for himself. He's a long-shot, but not out of the race.

The candidates really need to stop plugging their websites. It's not novel to be running your cammpaign online anymore. (I know I plug my own a lot, but that's because I love you all.) If any of themm were running it by convincing their supporters to get tattoos, now that'd be something.

The moment when Mandel points out that if  Dan Dromarsky has a problem with the Anthony Henday he should talk to the provincial government because it is their jurisdiction or learn more about the municipal government, is so awesome not only did I get chills but I also got a sword because, gosh darn it, I think I might follow that man into battle. Magnificent.

After that, I must confess, I think Mandel is bored. I think he does not actually feel that anyone is a challenge. This is not really a healthy attitude to cultivate in elected officials. We might have to put the fear of voters in him, because without accountability, we have no further power. Maybe we should fake some results, just for a little bit, then when he starts packing his desk, give him the real ones. 

Hang on, Bob Ligertwood supports libraries being open 24 hours, 7 days a week. I could advocate him...until he suggests that free Internet access is causing "pimps" to operate out of millwoods library. He did not get a good response to that.

Needless to say, the forum changed very little, other than to air out the candidates and occasionally let them look stupid. I will leave this off with one notion, from the words of Dan Dromarsky, "Everything has to get paid for."

P.s. I was done. I had posted it, and was gearing up to do other things when Mr. Lineker gave his closing speech where he felt the need to inform us that he was running for mayor (is that why he is sitting at the head table?!) and that he is a citizen of Edmonton just like everyone present and on the Internet. You hear that, Internet? You're all citizens of Edmonton now, go ahead and vote! Just goes to show, it's not over until it's over.