Monday, January 31, 2011

Carrots for Prisoners

No this is not a post about what we are feeding prisoners because frankly, I do not care what they are fed. Instead, this is a new perspective on the "Faint Hope" clause, which is under debate, well, everywhere and always. 

I have always believed that if you murder someone, serve your damn time. If a court convicts you and you are put into jail for eleventy billion years, sucks to be you. (I am not even going to touch on the notion of false conviction here because I have neither the time nor the patience, and the whole issue stinks on ice) and so the Faint Hope clause seemed like a slap in the face. It seemed like the government would bank on the population forgetting the impact of the crime, and would eventually open its arms to the convicts, helping proper rehabilitation.

After a while, however, I was thinking; as Halifax NDP Megan Leslie pointed out if a convict is in prison for 25 years, why should they cooperate with guards or act properly in any way? The clause coerces good behavior from convicts, it offers an incentive for good behavior. A very simplistic approach to classical conditioning,  since convicts are already familiar with the bad behavior = punishment dynamic, this offers another avenue, good behavior leads to benefits. It helps ease the prisoner into the notion of actions having consequences and that we can control our actions and thus the resulting consequences, which is essential for proper behavior in society.

I felt pretty good about this for a few minutes until the cranky part of my brain kicked in; Why the hell should we be pandering? Why the hell should we put up with a system that can be easily exploited by criminals? Where did we go so wrong with our justice system that we have to appeal to criminals because they have the upper hand? Which is what they have; we must cajole and entreat them to behave within our lines. Within this system, they have the power and the freedom, and we must react to their choices. In my opinion, they already make the choices that they feel are the best. It seems ridiculous to believe that they do not understand the connection between their actions and the consequences (as I myself have previously  suggested); they obviously understand it too well, they simply value the outcome too much.

I have always hated the reactive justice system, and this is perhaps the best illustration of why there is a problem, and the fact that every option we can see from here is lousy only underlines how deep the philosophical issue runs. We are attempting to hang a humanist clause on a non-humanist process; we will always fail.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

You Have Had Your Fun

The last two days I have been actually working for my wage, as a result of a coworker having attempted to explode his knee across the driveway (his foot swings sideways when free of encumbrances now - how gross is that?), so I have not had the usual research and post time I have enjoyed. On the other hand, new schedule changes ensure I have a better division of my hours into more convenient blocks; my timetable is officially 'day shift' now, since the majority of my shifts are now day shifts.

I plan to use this short day (I am still annoyed I was not able to post yesterday, but I spent two solid hours stuffed in my broken-down truck in a spot in Sherwood Park that was bereft of any free Wi-fi, and I was concussed into pleasant sleep by a chocolate cake the size of a brick upon my homecoming.) to talk about the UBB because the whole situation makes me so angry and sick to my stomach, that I feel it is inevitable that we will have no say in the matter, the whole issue will push ahead, and we will forget that we were ever given unlimited Internet except for the times we gustily espouse to our grand-children that we remember when we had Internet, and it was everywhere, growing wild, and now they have ruined it all.

But why is this being allowed? Especially when you consider the amount of business being conducted online. a staggering amount of transactions and indeed, new industries and companies being created simply to serve the pipes, a limitation or tollbooth on the whole affair seems destined to choke the life from this burgeoning money-mine; I could throw a lot of facts and figures at the screen, but I have never found myself the most interested in the hard realities of these ordeals. I content myself with the philosophy of events.

At the root of it, the recession is the problem. Obviously, the first goal is to make money, and they stand to do so through the nose. Leaving the Internet to develop to an almost cult-like dependency (guilty!) and then exploiting the addict's desperation is a plan so fiendish, but so effective, I would not even bat an eye if I saw it on a company's ten year plan.

Furthering that, the government is not stepping in because, let us face it, the Internet is also a time waster. Email, Facebook, Youtube, Netflix, even random Google, are so perfectly reward centered that one can simply dive in and waste away for the end of their days until such time as their bills are cut for non-payment and the neighbors start to Google, "How to tell your neighbour they smell like death (without offending them)". So you are the government, how does one extract the citizens from their contended cocoons so they can get back to the business of making the country money while at the same time not discouraging new businesses? Simple; up the ante. This new dynamic forces the average person to really consider the worth, the value, of the activity one is about to engage in, but businesses are always willing to sacrifice money on the alter of the Profit God because he always pays his debts, rewarding his followers with a short, sharp, shower of sheckles.

That is why it will go through. That is why it will become normal, why we will all roll over, whining the whole way, and take it. Start perfecting your "when I was your age" voice; the golden days are over.

Friday, January 28, 2011

It's Only in Some of you to Give

Every time I donate blood, I am stymied by the requirements that seem to be arbitrarily placed to weed the unwashed masses into "good blood" and "bad blood" (there appears to be no categories for "mudbloods" though). One time, as I was enjoying my cookie, I was approached by a volunteer, who was concerned about the yellow mark on my arm around the needle site; I reassured him that it was just the Iodine they used, and asked whether he had donated before. He vouchsafed that he had not, and for some ridiculous reason, I decided to guess why he couldn't (Nothing more fun that trying to determine if someone has AIDS or an S.T.I). I struggled for a while, and he prompted me that it started with a "G", but was not Gonorrhea. I still cringe when I recall how I blurted out "Oh! You are GAY!" Until that point I was aware of the question on the survey "Have you had sex, even one time, with a man since 1977?" (for men, obviously; for women the question asked if you had sex with a man who had sex, even one time, with a man since 1977) but it had failed to actualize for me; it was still some nebulous concept that somewhere, maybe, I guess, people were unable to donate because of who they slept with. But this volunteer solidified it for me.

The aim of the ban is to limit the chances that tainted blood will be given to those in need, and so risky activities are eliminated such as travel to some countries of a certain duration, intravenous drug usage, and certain medical procedures or illnesses. This is all a gamble. There is no 100%  certain way to test for HIV/AIDS (The nihilist in me is yelling that there is no 100% test for anything) and even one case could be devastating, so def con level four procedures are  put into place to eliminate anything that even smells risky.

The problem is that this policy represents old societal beliefs, and may be ignoring the greater risk factor inherent in heterosexuals having unprotected sex. In 1993 a study confirmed that although there were more homosexual men with HIV/AIDS, their transmission rate was dropping, while the rate among heterosexual men was rising. A study from 1996 of 96 major metropolitan American cities echoed the same findings that although gay and bisexual men have the highest prevalence, they are a much lower risk for transmission than are heterosexuals. There is also the factor that transmission rates from an infected person to a non-infected person are much higher for a man to a woman than any other combination.

A representative of the Canadian Hemophiliac society, David Page, went on record saying that the problem was not HIV/AIDS, but any generalized sexual infection, which he stated have been known to circulate first in the gay community, which is a trend I was unaware of. The trend I was aware of is the discriminatory belief that homosexuals are "dirty" by virtue of the fact that they have sex. My subsequent research revealed one disease that presented in homosexual men, Lymphogranuloma venereum, which causes one to wonder why, then, the medical community is not freaking out because presumably the rest arise from heterosexual sex.

Even as cautious as I am about diseases and such things, I would completely agree with the Canadian Blood services exchanging the old rule about no gay men to one involving no unprotected sex, since if they are genuinely concerned about STIs, this would lower the risk to almost negligible, and consistent condom use has been shown to be effective in reducing transmission of all diseases. Let us put this antiquated notion to bed, and save some lives.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Smoke and Mirrors

Anyone who is still unconvinced with regards to the whole "Money for nothing" issue, I would invite to peruse this article from B.C about a man who was severely beaten while his partner hid nearby. The RCMP believe the act to be a hate crime, given that the man decided to "kill these guys" shortly after they vouchsafed their orientation after several hours worth of idle conversation. Worse, he was accompanied by two friends, who presumably sat by and watched this happen. The man is alleged to be a Calgarian, thus adding to Alberta's stereotype as the most bigoted province, and giving lie to the belief that "homophobia doesn't happen in Canada".

Anyway, the other new revelation about Canadians, or Edmontonians in specific, is that we can not be trusted with our own air quality. All this new talk about anti-idling bylaws is down to one reason; earlier they bantered around the idea of introducing anti-idling legislation, but abandoned it in favour of a public awareness initiative. They gambled on Edmontonians doing the right thing and switching our engines off because a happy little poster reminded us to, or the radio talked about it. They put their faith in us, and the reintroduction of legislation to ensure idling compliance is a sign of one thing; we failed. The government felt people were not complying enough so now they have to bring out the stick. We ignored the carrot of better air quality and health, so now we must bear the parental disapproval and shame. Either that or the government is getting broke again. Either way, suck it up, Edmonton. Besides, +10 degrees weather is such a blessing, we have better things to focus on.

The Right to Bare Arms

If there is one thing I enjoy writing about, it is naked people. Pretty much any situation becomes a million times more funny if you just remove the clothes from the participants. The Olympics? Hysterical.Court-room drama? Bust a gut. Just picture the departure of Premier Ed Stelmach; Political analysts would have a field-day if he left for a nudist colony.

Speaking of nudist colonies, a recent court trial has caused some examination of the national views on nudity. The case is the trial of Brian Coldin who operates a nudist colony in Ontario, and has been charged with five counts of public nudity. Apparently, Mr. Coldin likes to wander over to restaurants in a nearby town and order things from the drive-thru in the altogether. The restaurant worker was so upset, she was reduced to tears on the witness stand.

So the hounds have picked up the scent, and the hunt is on for better legislation on public nudity. The debate is whether anyone is "harmed" or not by seeing a nude body. The problem I see is that this is the wrong case to be hitching a wagon to. The restaurant worker is obviously upset and was completely uncomfortable with the situation Coldin allegedly put her in; this incident is not about nudity or not, it is about what is acceptable behavior to inflict on other people. In my opinion, this is coming dangerous close to a sexual harassment case, especially considering the repeat offenses. Psychologically speaking repeatedly displaying oneself to others when it is obvious they are uncomfortable with it looks more like exhibitionism. These are not the kind of people that the nudist community should have representing them if they genuinely want to make advancements in the rights of nudists.

It is true, as we have seen from the abortion debate and civil rights debates, that most often what spurs change is someone raising hell, being difficult, and otherwise forcing the dominant powers to examine the issue more closely. This, however, is so close to a dearly held societal taboo, that some more grace and caution may be required, rather than brute deliberation; even a social movement towards acceptance of 'healthy' nudity that does not glorify nudity, but approaches it from a non-threatening, open-minded and factual perspective. Or you could, you know, keep "swaying it" in their faces.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Roofing Problems? Who not to call.

When Victor first purchased the home we live in, the Realtor specified we should look at getting the roof fixed, preferably that summer. After white-knuckling a whole winter we were able, this fall, to save the money to have it redone. Although we had several crews out to look at the roof, we went with Affordable Roofing, 10431 155 Street, Edmonton, AB T5P 2M2 (780) 819-2365.

The job was finished in two days, but when we had returned home from work after the second day, we assumed they would be back for more work, since there were shingles, wood, tools, and garbage (like a cigarette pack) strewn about the yard (Even on the roof!) and we noticed the gutters had not been cleaned, as was discussed in the contract, but just damaged and ignored. We were naive enough to shrug our shoulders, clean up the detritus, and try to focus on other things. (In future, I shall not be so cavalier about shoddy job-sites)

This past winter, as Edmontonians know, we got snow. About three days after the first heavy snow fall, Victor asked me why there was water on the floor of the kitchen. As we have two dogs I was not concerned until I came downstairs to discover the paint had peeled off, the drywall had disintegrated, leaving a gaping hole in the ceiling, exposing two support beams which were soaked, and the water had seeped down the walls, under the thick paint, saturating the entire wall (the plaster wiped off on my fingers), and creeping towards two light switches and a plug-in. The damage was so severe we could feel cold air coming in from the opening. We grabbed a Rubbermaid container (It was leaking heavily - when I had come home from work one day it had overrun, soaking the towels around it) killed the breaker to that area, and phoned the roofing company. This was a Thursday, they said they would be out to see it "soon".

Victor went onto the roof to clear the snow away, but while he was scooping with his hands, the shingles came away from the roof; they were obviously not well secured. Affordable Roofing arrived to check the place on Saturday, but despite looking at the wall, they did not mention fixing it.

Today, Monday, they are expected to arrive to put in the "flashing" that they had apparently neglected the first time, that is needed to prevent this leak. When I phoned the office, I spoke with Ben and asked if they were going to fix the inside today as well. He said they were not going to fix the hole at all, saying we could do it ourselves. I said they had done a poor job, they were negligent, and we were not going to just go away.
He responded, "That is what is going to happen."
I said, "No it won't, and we will take you to civil court to sue for damages, if we have to."
And he replied, "Bring it on." and hung up on me.

I come from a line of entrepreneurs, and that is not how you treat customers. I have never supported when people complain about their own stupidity, or expect miracles from companies (there is no pleasing some people), but all we want is for them to fix the damage caused by their own negligence. Unless you want to live under a roof that may or may not be finished, I would advise another business.

The crew was over today, they went up and did something. The owner's wife (Ben is the owner) came in and talked to me about where the damage came from; apparently since we have such an extreme bend in the roof, the snow and ice built up on the lower half where the slope is almost flat, and pushed back along the roof,causing the leak at the bend. She had assumed the crew had left off the flashing since that is the most common problem.She also vouchsafed that the estimate we had been given (and so the resultant price) was based on a normal roof, rather than a steep roof, which explains why they were so much cheaper than everyone else.They've agreed to pay for the supplies to repair the damage and I let them know I would hire a contractor to check it out (just in case). I guess we will shelf the issue pending the contractor's impression. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Prison Inside One's Self

This is a trigger issue for myself, and possibly for others, so grab something to strangle while  you read.

I consider myself open-minded and accepting; hard to offend, most days. One of the issues that I can not abide, however, is the dominant societal image of mentally-ill people. It is true, even with the decades of progress and research that has gone into understanding mental disorders, it is still scarcely understood in popular culture, and misinformation, discrimination, and hatred run rampant. An article published by The Globe and Mail illustrates the kind of narrow-minded view that keeps people with mental disorders in the shadows, afraid of the "shame" of having a mental illness.

Their first case they refer to by a derogatory nickname, "headbanger", because he suffers from schizophrenia that compels him to harm himself. True, this is a prison situation we are discussing here, so some crudeness is to be expected, but the tone of the report continues on to discuss how mentally ill people were "flooding" Canadian Prisons, as if the tide of people being incarcerated would be better if they were not also diagnosable, and refers to them as "demented" which either means suffering from dementia (I hope we are not imprisoning too many Alzheimer's patients) or behaving irrationally due to anger/stress/etc. which describes likely all inmates, with the exception (Har. Har.) of psychopaths, who rarely act out due to emotions.

The news story continues, describing the plight of  "harried staff" who have to "gauge how dangerous they are and place them where they are least likely to run afoul of tougher inmates or try to take their own lives", which is not a problem they have with regular inmates, because no sane prisoner has ever harmed another or tried to take his/her own life. It continues to describe how they take up valuable space and eventually return to the streets, often untreated, to re-offend, again, not problems that occur with "normal" inmates.

Another problem is displayed with the suggestion that there are "other locations that would be preferable for these types of inmates"; true, help and treatment would be preferable, but suggesting that anyone with a mental illness is somehow not responsible for their actions is a dangerous and misguided belief. Many are responsible, and dis-empowering them by assuming they are helpless, ineffective, or broken is both backwards for their rights and our safety. (I can not believe I am arguing about why mentally ill people can be dangerous. I am the worst rights defender ever.)

Functionally, all the complaints leveled at the prison system about why mentally ill people are suffering (lack of care, resources, treatments) can be precisely equated to the case for inmates that are not diagnosable. If we considered therapy to help inmates, in the same way we struggle to help mentally-ill inmates, perhaps the recidivism rate would decrease. Implying that mentally-ill patients are deserving of better care is just creating a system begging to be taken advantage of by anyone who commits a crime and can Google "disorders". It also creates a system, like the problem described by the article, where individuals were in prison who could not even form the intent to commit a crime, since the justice system would just chuck them in prison, denying them a fair trial.

Rather than an article about the issues of mentally-ill people in prison, the whole story reads like a bigoted view of mental patients that could be extended to either anyone in prison, or anyone with a physical disorder in prison. There are so many problems with the prison system right now, it is ridiculous to single out inmates with mental disorders.

The title:
From the song "Prison" by Joseph Arthur, a very nice listen and reasonably related lyrics.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Money for Nothing, Censorship for Free

I love when a hot-button issue comes up that I consider win-win. The whole debate covering this song, "Money for nothing" and its use of the word "faggot" (and I do not think he is talking about firewood) actually makes me happy. On one hand, we have people arguing for free speech and down with censorship, on the other hand, we have people arguing that we need to be aware, especially in the light of many homosexual suicides, how we are talking about people. Either way we should come out better.

To be frank, I think I disagree with the word. I had no idea, before this controversy, that those lyrics were in there at all; even being familiar with the song, it didn't occur to me. Reading the lyrics, however, and considering the music video which apparently includes a clip of Prince, cements in my mind why we should not be using the word. Let us examine the nature of the usage.

The point of the word is to underline the singer's contempt for the rock star who has the life he would like, in the typical "green-eyed monster" fashion. Sour grapes, if  you wish. That is the problem. He is directing his hate at the individual, but it picks up the contempt for "earrings" and "make-up" along the way, reinforcing the notion not only that "faggots" deserve your hate (How dare they have a better life than you?) but also that all homosexuals engage in deviant behavior like cross-dressing, which offends both homosexuals and transvestites. If there is ever a reason for censorship, and I think that the censorship should only extend to alter (as little as possible) the song when it is played on public radio, this is it: to prevent harm. Tacitly condoning the use of the word in such a hateful context, is simply too much. However, I will admit a large amount of glee at the meta-message, that the singer hates the famous rock star, when the singer is, himself, a famous rock star.

A lot of people have compared the usage of the word to the use of the N-word, which I will admit I am too bashful to use, even surrounded by the protective arms of "quotation marks". I completely agree, the words are very similar, and please note that we attempt to restrict usage of that word to cases where it is educational,  such as, I believe, Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. If there was ever a reason to use such a gross word passing on a warning about the culture that the word use originated from so future generations can understand why the word is not used, would be the best one. But this song does not; it just glorifies the contempt. There is no point to it; Let us edit it.

On a final note regarding the man who may be sent to jail for defending his property from fire-bombers; He is not being punished because he defended his home, or because he fired his revolver. He is being charged because he was not storing his firearms correctly and as a firearms instructor, he should have known better.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Looks like Canada, Smells like Canada

The next chapter in the G20 summit riot issues is the case of a Police officer wrongfully informing a citizen, while attempting to cajole him to empty his backpack for searching, that he was "no longer in Canada" and that he had no civil rights. The incident has led to a formal complaint, so the officer has had no comment; the matter is in the hands of the Ontario Independent Police Review Director, who have issued no statement. The only comment offered by an official is that Sgt. Mark Charlebois, alleged to be the officer with the badge number that is clearly visible on the officer's shirt (the camera zooms in), is he would be crying from all the comments about him, if he was sensitive. I am not sure if he is serious, or mocking the stereotypical image of protesters as "bleeding hearts".

The problem in the video comes from the misinformation. Doubtless the police were told that the site of the G20 summit was "private property" or no longer public domain, and so was subject to a different set of rules to ensure safety. The citizen appears uncertain about whether he has the right to refuse a search, stay where he is (voices on the tape discuss how they are not within 5 meters of the cordoned zone) or is obliged to leave the area. As private citizens, I find this unacceptable on many levels.

We Canadians have a level of trust we have placed in the police that we expect to uphold and rely on, otherwise a lot of systems fall apart. If we cannot believe the word of an officer, we are in for a problem. Worse, you can see as the group moves away, the officers follow them down the block, even though his only "suspicious" action was to decline a search (Although he is wearing large dark glasses and a bulky hat). If we are not allowed to remove ourselves from situations in which we are being ordered to submit to a search, there is a whole new dictionary of words to describe our country. In addition, Police are only allowed to detain a person to question them if the questioning is deliberately leading to an investigation, it is decidedly NOT to be used to control a crowd or to establish a "powerful police presence".

These laws are, of course, ignored with the Public Works Protection Act. People or groups can be detained even if they offer to leave the designated area and people have no right to remain silent. Any reticent or disagreement can be arrested for this. Since the officers failed to arrest the man for failure to comply, however, it is likely that they were aware that the situation was not occurring within the safety cordon.

But on the other hand, it is our duty to be informed of our rights, and to insist upon those rights. This is an issue that has been prevalent in my professional life as of late. If I agree, under any pretenses, I accept all responsibility for my actions. There are very few rights which can not be waived away under any circumstance, and the police are aware of this. If the man had simply been convinced to had over his bag, his complaint later would have been meaningless, since any action would be considered compliance and assumes consent. There is no record of how many people gave in, handing over their bags to be searched without even questioning. Not saying this validates the actions of the officers because, to be honest, despite my intention to provide a balanced view of the whole incident, I find myself more and more siding with the individual. Sure many of us just think, "Give him your damn bag, idiot." and that would be the easy way out, but without the periodic assurance that we can refuse a search, rights break down.

This incident should prove to be informative in the coming months.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gerard Way Would Not Approve

There was an article today that was just so strange that I was determined to find a way to make it a proper blog post, and I have used the flimsiest of pretenses to bring it to you.
Fecal transplants.
You mean facial transplants?
No, my Dear Reader, I mean fecal transplants.
You mean poop?
Yes I do. A new procedure is being looked at closely, but not too closely because it smells, by health care boards in B.C which could potentially save many patients from fatal infections. The process removes poop from healthy patient's intestines and plants it into frail patients who are suffering from intestinal infections in the hopes that the "good" bacteria will overpower the "bad" bacteria although how this is done is not outlined. There are two ways though: one being surgical, which is not a good option on those already frail; and one is kind of like the time I pushed out too much toothpaste and tried to feed it back in to the tube with a pair of tweezers and a cotton swab.

It  is a solid concept, and the practice is apparently widely used in Europe, but testing trials are still two years away from approval over here, and some doctors are grousing. One doctor in B.C was continuing the practice until she was stopped by the health board (No word on whether the cease and desist order included the phrase "Cut that shit out"). Her complaint is that she believes she could save people's lives but is forced to watch them suffer instead because the board is still approving the process.
The vice-president of Medicine of the FHA says that "She is being blocked by a system that puts patient safety first." and let me be the first to say, "Thank Goodness."

Maybe this procedure is the global savior. Maybe this procedure is hearts and ponies everywhere. But maybe it is a gigantic mistake and we have no idea yet. We have no idea until we test. That is why we test. Because if we just start to eyeball the procedures, we are going to start admitting in problems. The cardinal rule of medicine, Mr. Hippocrates' big number one, is "Do no harm". It sucks, but what are you going to do?

Incidentally the title is a tasteless joke:
"Be yourself, don`t take anyone`s shit, and never let them take you alive." - Gerard Way

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bylaw at Large

Maybe it was a joke. Maybe it was bad reporting, or even just a chance to "laugh at the dumb hicks with their stupid bylaws", but whatever it was, the whole debacle is ridiculous.
I shall assume that Dear Reader is familiar with this piece of reporting that wandered around the airwaves for a while, since everyone wakes with bated breath to see the next installment of The Morinville Shore, which is just like the Jersey Shore, but has less Oompa-Loompas and more parkas. To be fair, the headline reads, "Morinville could ban armadillos, elephants and other 'exotic' pets" which is accurate, since Morinville could. Of course then we could just as easily write an article on how "Edmonton could ban footwear" or "Russia could outlaw happiness", since technically laws could be drafted rendering these things illegal but the implication is that there are steps being taken to move this ban into reality, which, as is the case with Edmonton's non-existent shoe prohibition, is not the case at all.

The bylaw does mention 'exotic' animals, being defined as anything other than dogs, cats, small rodents, small birds, and fish, but only in the form of a completely unimaginative passage directly stolen from the federal regulations surrounding the import and keeping of exotic pets.

 There was a fair crowd at the Morinville City council meeting this evening, and we all settled in for the review of the proposed bylaw, including a few kids, some of whom chattered excitedly about how they owned pet snakes and various other species. I could feel the activist excitement, the ruffling of feathers, and the aura of "City Council has Gone Too Far" that characterizes a lot of typically Canadian rumbling. The council was accommodating, polite and even included a speech by the mayor with a nod to our ilk about how the bylaw was not about banning animals, and had never been about that. It was a mundane bylaw regarding the licensing of aggressive dogs.

The mass exodus that followed the summary of the bylaw was pretty astonishing and I feel bad for those who left because they missed the next item; discussing per Diem allotment for councilors and the difference between committee and commission. Riveting. I plan to attend the next meeting when an official reading of the bylaw will be done, but unless something exciting occurs, I will not bother to write about it.

I think a more pertinent focus for the media should have been on why I am no longer allowed to ride my emu through town (Part 1 line 1.36 and section 502 1.02). I find this unacceptable.

Monday, January 17, 2011

C-52 Bomber Ready for Take-off

I was perusing the Internet today, looking for something to wrangle into insensibility, when I realized I had not wet my pants in almost a week! Considering how terrible that was, I went looking for the scariest political news I could possibly find. Within a few seconds I was provided with an article that made me so uncomfortable I immediately started eyeballing other people in the room, wondering if I could steal their pants. So hitch up your "Police State Panic Pants" and wander through this development with me.

I used to have a friend that did not own a cellphone. It was just about one of the largest pains-in-the-ass that I have ever had to deal with and I could see no reason for it, especially in the hey-day of "pay-as-you-go" programs, where it was easy to buy some little flip box and stuff a twenty dollar pay card on it in case of emergencies. After this, however, I am starting to wonder if it might not be a good idea.

Bill C-52 was introduced back in November, and is apparently not going very far, but just the fact that it is on the books makes my knuckles itchy. Let me just whet your appetite with a couple of choice passages:

This enactment requires telecommunications service providers to put in place and maintain certain capabilities that facilitate the lawful interception of information transmitted by telecommunications and to provide basic information about their subscribers to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Commissioner of Competition and any police service constituted under the laws of a province. “intercept” includes listen to, record or acquire a communication or acquire the substance, meaning or purport of the communication. every telecommunications service provider must have the capa- bility to do the following: (a) provide intercepted communications to authorized persons; and (b) provide authorized persons with the prescribed information that is in the possession or control of the service provider respecting the location of equipment used in the transmission of communications. This sounds uncomfortably like enabling the police to record phone conversations. At the very lowest it empowers police officers to scan regions of people then demand information from the mobile phone companies about who was present, their addresses, phone numbers, and in some cases, their current locations. Worse, it includes a provision empowering the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to reimburse the station for the costs incurred during the execution of this obligation, for any amount deemed reasonable by the Minister (to be paid by either the agency requesting the information or in the case of individual officers, by the police chief). This opens a whole world of possibilities for corruption and legal bribery. We have already seen through Bell's actions that companies care less than two farthings for our personal information integrity. If they are offered the chance to make legal money off handing over our details to the police, I think the photocopies would still be warm when they landed on the Minister's desk. I knew you would over-react. People can just leave their cellphones at home! Ah, Dear Reader has a rebuttal! That is true, people could just leave them at home. Ignoring the safety issues by not having the ability to call for help in extreme circumstances, the other hazards this raises is how often in the recent past police officers have been brought up on charges on the evidence of someone's hastily recorded iPhone testimony. We are either going to suffer decreased privacy or decreased police accountability. There is a subsection which outlines how requests must be made only under the umbrella of an Official Police Duty unless the officer really wants the information, like, right now,  in which case it is okay. The information gathered must also be stored, but it is not lawful to use it for any duty other than the original intended duty, unless the consent of the relevant party is obtained, which I consider a small mercy. All in all, I trust the police. I do. I trust the police and I trust the RCMP. So this I can relax with this whole bill since I have no current plans in my schedule to go raise enough hell that the boys in blue would want to track me down, but then the last provision caught my attention: For the purposes of the administration of this Act, the Minister may designate persons or classes of persons to exercise powers in relation to any matter referred to in the designation. Hang on; does that mean the Minister can just pick and choose people to request that  kind of information? And does the subsequent paragraph mean that if an officer can designate a house as a "telecommunications service provider" by considering their router or other "telecommunications data", they can enter any dwelling to ensure compliance with the act, including reading any documents, opening anything (Hey! My cookies!), and using any computer? This brooks further investigation. This might be just alarmist, but the whole thing stinks on ice.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Never Gonna Give You Up

When the story broke about the Chinese refugee who wore a rubber old-man mask and gained access into Canada people became nervous. Online commentators spoke of the permeable barrier of Canada and the nature of his debated refugee status. "Were there really people trying to kill him?" We all wondered, "Should we send him back?" and most importantly, "How did he get through security?"

The information surrounding this case is laughably confused. Initial reports showed people noticed an "elderly Caucasian man with young hands" boarded the flight but became a "young Asian male" after visiting the bathroom. An official inquiry into the matter, however, included testimony that he boarded the flight without the mask and put it on while on-board. The same news reports indicate that he had a legitimate passport, but switched to using a fake one, one of a 55 year old man, once on the plane. People have speculated that it is possible to obtain a passport through bribery and other illegitimate means (Gasp!), but cannot conclusively say where it came from. When he was confronted at the airport, the man claimed refugee status. If we assume the more recent story that had come to light, the man willing donned a disguise when he was already free and clear to enter the country. The only reason one could theorize for such a bone-head  move is either because they were stupid, or because the plan had already worked before. In fact, authorities have admitted they think this ring  has smuggled as many as nine people through already. This theory could explain the recent rash of hyper-alert over-sensitive airport security stories that have surfaced recently. An old woman vows to complain about airport security because she feels they were mean, a story about a four-year old who threw a tantrum because security had to scan her dolly, and the accompanying noise-makers who insist this type of security is uncalled for and unnecessary, despite the fact that if our airlines included a loophole like "People 80 and older get through security free!", we would not be able to move for the terrorists.

The articles indicate he was being assisted not only by two airport staff members who have been arrested, but also by professional human smugglers (five more people are in custody, but it is unclear whether they were smugglers or not), and it seems the smugglers would "contact him upon arrival" for payment (because if there is one thing smugglers are known for is being accommodating with payment schedules), but also that his parents had already paid HK$300,000 for his trip.

He is being held still, despite earlier thoughts that he was to be released on bail, mostly because he is known to be in contact with human smugglers and constitutes a flight risk, which has not really stopped the bail system before, but carry on.

The most recent developments are the arrests and denial of bail, but rest assured, we will be keeping a close eye on this situation.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Lighting of a Fire

Whenever people grouse about ineffective government programs, the chief complaint heard is that the money could be better spent elsewhere. But although this comment gathers unfailing support where-ever government critics gather, the second step, ascertaining where the money is better spent, is typically neglected. I am pleased to report, however, that I had found a program that I felt genuinely did deserve the money, and at only $250,000 a year for the next three years, it is practically a bargain. 

The program's goal is to boost the graduation rate of students that are in any form of care program, which is reported to be around one in four compared to three in four for other students. The study showed that 15% of in-care students quit high school, three times the 5% average of other students, but I have to wonder, what happens to the other 60%? 15% quit, 25% (one in four) complete grade 12, what happens to everyone else? Anyway, regardless of the strange numbers, anything we can do to make life a little bit easier for children in care programs, I am pretty keen on supporting. 

The process by which they plan to raise this number involves increasing communication between social workers, teachers, and the guardians themselves. The same report demonstrated that there is often a deep divide between the groups of people, with guardians and caseworkers unaware if the kids are attending school, the school insensible of when the kids will show up and teachers unaware of caseworker's contact information in case of problems. I have always been a fan of communication, and this program could also help lower the risk of abuse suffered by children in care situations.

The enthusiasm I felt was sadly short-lived, and was quickly replaced by the kind of jaded cynicism I have honed to a fine edge over the years. Previous studies have shown that teacher's perceptions of students heavily effects student performance. If teachers are aware a student comes from a care program, it may cause them to be unfairly sympathetic or harsh on the student, causing harm to the ones that would have graduated anyway. Not only that, but it is unfair to the minors to simply release their personal information to anyone who happens to be their teacher. Sometimes we may need to disclose information about students for their own good, but these situations it might be more beneficial to leave it up to the student to decide if they wish to divulge such personal information. It is unfair that adults consider the right to privacy sacred, but minors are ignored. 
I am not prepared to extinguish the hope yet (Obama, you roguish minx, look what you've done!) I just think some caution is needed, and if we do not see results at the end of three years, we should probably abandon the program. But above all, it is good to see change happening.

The title:
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

An Inconveniant Delusion

I apologize to my readers for asking them to sit through this garbage video, and I shall attempt to summarize it to spare you the irritation, but the seriousness with which people approach this movie is appalling, and the message it is delivering is juvenile.

In the beginning it points out that only 5% of the money in Canada is "made" by the government, and the other 95% is made by banks. "Holy smokes!" they imagine we cry, "Why do banks have this power?!"
The truth is that they do not. The video relies on the vague notion of "money" to obfuscate the real meaning. The Bank of Canada is responsible for all  physical currency that is flying around, but without the concept of "money" as it relates to loans and such things, our economy would not grow. It is the lending of money that stimulates the economy, encouraging growth. This lending of money is either done through private lending or through financial institutes like banks. Banks do not create physical currency, but they do not need to. I have not been paid in any form of cash since I ran that lemonade stand (so last year). Please keep this dynamic in mind since it undermines the entire video's argument.

The video deliberately implies that banks can just write big honking cheques for however much they would like, with no regard to the economy's well-being. They point out that banks in the past were required to hold an amount of money in their vaults that equaled the amount of amount that people had deposited, and so were "owed". The reason we rid ourselves of reserves is not only to mitigate the loss of money due to various robberies etc, but also because the amount that is loaned out is directly correlated to the growth in the economy. They made a damn equation about it, for crying out loud, and as everyone knows, equations = truth. (Drawing angry eyes on bank logos to show how they are evil, however, = 5th grade education)

Getting into its stride now, the video asks what would happen if all Canadians suddenly demanded their money back, and implies that it would cause a massive crash of the economy, since obviously the banks do not have the money to supply to everyone. Ignoring how far fetched the notion is that everyone would demand their money back (True it happened in the Great Depression but that was due to a myriad of reasons that are eliminated today by the fact that deposits up to $100,000 are covered by the CDIC) the video failed to be aware of the presence of the BANK OF EFFING CANADA that is here to molly-coddle and otherwise babysit all the major banks in case of catastrophe. Gee, it is almost like the government has whole teams of academic economists that are much smarter than the average film-making schlemiel that checks, double-checks, and re-double-checks this kind of fatalist crap.

"How can you charge interest on nothing?" The movie asks with the kind of wide-eyed bullshit-eating grin that children use when they think they are being more clever than mom and dad. Easy, you charge interest on the risk that the bank assumes, since if you default on your payment, the bank takes a loss.
When they lose their minds over compound interest, I do wish more people would understand the severity of this phenomenon, so I can not help but agree with them a little. Owing money on credit cards is pretty horrible and it is in the best interest of most people to reduce the amortization time on their mortgage, since paying it off sooner means less wasted money, but that is a choice everyone has to make for themselves. Do you want to feel good now, or later?  Compound interest is functionally the cost of paying less today, the price of having more money to spend now.

Hang on a second, the video just implied that anyone who questions the banking system could end up being crucified like Jesus. This might be the first movie on the "Pun'd it Mandatory View list".

The narrator, who I am beginning to hate more and more, tells us that the lack of reserve limits is allowing the banks to break the law and bankrupt Canadians. Last time I checked, it was the irresponsible credit card culture that was bankrupting Canadians. Let me put this to you, the banks do not force people to borrow money. If one does not want to pay interest, do not borrow money. The notion that we need to spend thousands on vehicles or houses etc is the real problem. Now, I will admit if we all waited until such time as we possessed enough money to buy a house with cash, very few people would actually own houses, but with some intelligent budgeting and careful planning, not only should a mortgage be the only debt one ever accrues, but it should not be a horrific burden.

Also, although I will shamefacedly admit I am not sure to whom we owe money, I am pretty damn sure we do not owe it to private banks (A quick Google reveals approximately 12% is owed to Canadian chartered banks). So despite the carefully created graphic of money being sucked out of schools and hospitals to drop into the yawning mouth of a private bank logo, I think this image may be inaccurate.

Why, despite the fact that their debt is many times larger than ours, do Americans not pay it off as fervently as Canadians do? Because the American debt is to other countries and they realize that just so long as their dollar grows faster than their debt grows, the debt is technically shrinking, and so it is not a concern. Canadian debt is to Canadians, however, so as long as our economy is growing faster than the debt is growing, holding the debt is worth it. (Whether this is the case or not is in debate, however) This is why we "keep digging to get ourselves out of a hole" as the movie suggests.

The video shows that in 1998 our national debt was $840 billion and we paid off $750 billion to leave $800 billion, but it is true that the interest has been increasing and we continued borrowing elsewhere, so it is not a surprise that we can not just "lump sum" pay off the debt. It is also pertinent to note that they do not account for the inflation of the dollar value, thus the relative value of the debt is lower than projected.

They totally just implied that the entire world is $52 trillion in debt to Canada's banks. Wow. The director (I assume) then comes on screen to point out that the money system totally does not benefit Canadians (Totally.) so why has no one told us about this? You see, my friend, they were hiding this information in textbooks. When he invokes Lincoln and Mackenzie to uphold his ridiculous conclusion that we no longer control Canadian money, I want to slap him so desperately that my fingers are itching. He parrots them saying they did not support banks, and calls it "ironic" and "disgraceful" that they are now on the money that banks own, (For the last time; Banks do not create money) topping the whole thing off with the suggestion that their anti-bank views got them assassinated. Worse, he mocks our Queen (Lord help me, I love her) by posting a quote about her breakfast preferences. Sir, leave the nonsensical jokes to the professionals.

After we are assaulted with a poor quality hard-rock song, he presents the fact that it costs four cents to make a penny, which is a bit ridiculous, or it would be if a penny disintegrated after first use, but the velocity of money (how many times money is used a year) is around 7 times, so a penny would cover its costs in the first year. Even so, considering this imbalance, there has been talk lately, of abolishing the penny, as is done in many southern countries. As someone who has to carry around those heavy boxes of coin, I am in favor.

He takes a second from leading us by the nose to lampoon Jim Flaherty, the conservative finance minister, who insists that the Canadian mint prints paper money, when it is in fact the Bank of Canada. Cheap  laughs aside though, is it really that important? Not as important as the fact that the company that prints our bank notes was responsible for printing the notes of two countries that had gone through hyperinflation, which is important in the same way that we cannot allow a printing press that prints bad news to print good news because the karmic imprint in the metal will spoil our economy. The impression that he leaves is the idea that the people printing our bank notes will just drown us in currency, spiraling us towards chaos in the form of million dollar loaves of bread, as opposed to the true picture, which is that money is just paper, and we order it when we need it. The company that prints it is about as integral to our economy as the car company that made the vehicle I had a baby in. But this is irrelevant to the movie; what is important is that private banks could  "water down" our money at "the flick of a switch" despite the fact that private banks can no more print money than I can.

More rock music. I can honestly not believe I am sitting through this thing. Do you see what I do for you, Dear Reader?

Apparently because we have debt we should be ashamed of our economy, despite the fact that we have weathered the global economic slowdown arguably better than almost all other countries, suffering the least amount of recession. But if we focused on that, we might feel happy. We need to focus on the fact that EVERYONE is in debt, and Marcus Aurelius once said "Poverty is the mother of crime". However, the only poverty the majority of us will experience is relative poverty (Canada is much too socialist to allow much absolute poverty) and if everyone is in debt, well, we are all doing okay. Prices are set by demand, and if no one can pay a certain price, that price drops. Again, they hide this information inside schools.

Furthermore, the narrator claims the bank of Canada has a "conflict of interest" because its charter says that  it must control currency and credit to promote the best interests of Canadians, but he thinks that it is not. I am debating writing him a letter with the definition of "conflict of interest" because it has obviously escaped his notice.

The final delightful cherry on this sundae of ridiculousness is that he plays on the fears of parents, saying that if we really loved our children, we would save them from a lifetime of debt slavery. Pardon me if I do not panic and rush on out with a picket sign boycotting banks, but it is likely that by the time my children are grown, the economy is going to keep puttering on the way it always has.

(The next half an hour is occupied with showing that powerful people tend to have powerful friends and are usually connected. Wow. Also, someone should explain to the leader of the Green party that sometimes people keep things secret because other businesses will steal secrets for their own gain; talk to any entrepreneur about business discretion. )

The movie eventually begins to smack of someone bitter that they received no press the last time he harassed Paul Martin with dumb questions about how Rockefeller wants to take over the world. When even the local student newspaper says you are crazy, you might need to tone it down a bit (He says the fact that they called him a student despite the fact that he is not a student (Surprised? But he does belong to a student group) is "poor journalism"). I will give him one point, though, the Media is pretty corrupt. If he is looking to Reader's Digest for facts, however, he might have a bigger problem than untrustworthy media. I think a clue to that problem might be hidden in the fact that he felt the need to videotape himself puking. I did not need to see that.

The Hitler point (Point at which someone needlessly mentions Hitler): One hour, twenty seven minutes. There are nine minutes left but I am not sure I have the strength to continue.

To sum up? (Tl:dr in other words) This twit with a camera believes the world is doomed because the banks will milk us to death in pursuit of the New World Order. Despite his recommendations I will not be passing this on to other people and what I will, in fact, be "getting up and doing" is turning this crap off.

(One final, childish kick. You can tell when he is singing his remixed sardonic version of "Oh, Canada" that he has to stay quiet, likely because he'll annoy his mother, whom he has to still live with. Oh, Snap!)

Monday, January 10, 2011

$300 Fine Must be Assembled

I have been craving sugar and other sweets lately, which might explain my interest in the latest story. A lady named Lind Bird was travelling across the United States/ Canadian border when she was stopped and randomly searched. Authorities discovered an illegal item in her vehicle, threatened her with a fine, and eventually released her without a fine when she surrendered the object. She was later surprised to receive a letter asking her permission to destroy the contraband, informing her that if she wanted to contest the destruction it would cost her $250. She consented for the item to be disposed of.

The typical news commentators have gone wild for this story, but not for the reason one would suspect. Far from being an examination into searches, seizures, destruction of illicit property and so on, the focus is on the property itself; The object in question was a kinder surprise egg, which is illegal in the U.S because it poses a chocking hazard.

This is going to be tough for me to say, so no one say anything while I steel myself for it.
Here goes:
No one gives a tiny amount of a hell about this. 

At some point in the past legislation was passed that made the egg illegal, it is ridiculous, preposterous, and past the damn point to whine about it now; let alone realize the insanity of it at this late occasion because the enforcement of the law feels strange. One of the steps in evaluating legislation should involves considering the logistics of enforcing the law. If it is entirely unfeasible, the bill needs to be adjusted. If the notion seems ridiculous, deal with that.
But she was a Canadian; we have no say over United States law.
That is true, Dear Reader, but we do have control over what we bring on in, and if we travel to a foreign country, we should make sure we are not bringing in illegal crap, whatever form that might take, regardless of our views on the law. It is the duty of a conscientious traveler. When I was in Britain, I made sure to drive on the correct side of the road. I did not understand it, and I mostly did not like it, but I did it anyway. When I was flying recently, and the security pulled out of my bag a small Swiss army knife (the look security gave me when I was explaining my extend-able chopsticks was withering), I did not raise a stink about the fact that it was contraband because then I would not have gotten on the plane. If I had genuinely wanted to be a pisser about that, there are avenues to do it and they are not standing in line with your shoes off, waiting to board.

This relates to another problem Canada is facing. Over in Mission, B.C some homeowners are objecting the searches that have been conducted of their properties. The provincial law was intended to stop grow-ops, but is beginning to affect people that happen to like growing cucumbers in their basements (A tad eccentric, but honestly, if it would bring my decrepit basil plants back from the dead, I would dig myself a basement to keep them in) Functionally, the law describes the circumstances under which reasonable suspicion can be cast, allowing officials to search the premise, which can cause fines of typically $5,200, but have been known to go higher, for the process. Apparently, this whole system is different from most government plans because it has already paid it's own start-up costs back, and generates revenue.

Some of you may be wondering how this relates, other than the fact that both stories contain integral elements that you can stuff in your mouth, but the relation is this: Marijuana should be decriminalized. The enforcement of it is too strange and invasive for far too small of a benefit. Some might argue that it would open the door to decriminalizing all drugs, but there is a definable difference between weed and other drugs. Mostly that weed is a plant, and harassing gardeners in the fashion they are carrying on in, is different than harassing some person with a chem lab in their basement.

There is always a portion of rationality that must be applied in the building and enforcement of laws, and sometimes living with the laws reveals how unfeasible they are simply by the fact of their actualization.
Too often we ignore situations where laws conflict and cause unfair situations, but we should be spending more time paying attention to these, they will help us shape a more balanced society.
Anyway, that is my little soapbox for the day.

The Blog Post can Only be Accessed with Form 3X-B997

Oh Yeah! We're rock bottom!
In terms of information regulation, that is. Turns out a couple of British academics were comparing the freedom of information laws between several parliamentary countries and we lost to everybody. Well, four others anyway. But saying last out of five does not provoke the kind of outraged horror the newspapers want us all to engage in.
I will confess, the idea that our dearly held notion of questioning the government is being called into question is a fairly uncomfortable idea; they even specified that it marked a reversal of the earlier view that Canada was a "global leader" in information regulation, but precisely who it is who feels this way is not stated, and whether that view was merited or a side-effect of the notion that Canada is a big, open, friendly country, so they could not possibly have strict information laws, is not addressed.

What else is not addressed is how the study was conducted, what the ratings were, or how big of a gap is significant. It is one thing to say we are communist China next to Sweden, but it is quite another to compare Finland and Sweden. Some perspective would be cool, but  is apparently too much to ask.

Apparently this is nothing new, however; a 2009 study by a French group showed the same downward trend, and marked us 19th (out of 175), down six places from 13th. One of the top three spots, it is interesting, was given to Ireland, one of the countries we lost to this year. Various speculations were given for the fall, but these were all temporary considerations of lawsuits that might affect the score. It was, again, never addressed how the ratings were gathered or assessed.

To be honest, I'm not sure I am going to panic just yet. Especially considering who our opposition was (The United States was not including, but we have historically ranked better than them) and that the main explanation given for the placing was because there were too many delays in processing information requests; a problem, to be sure, but not the dire, gestapo-like societal chains I had pictured from the news report.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

In the Darkest of Night, Just Before Dawn

The headlines for all the major newspapers I frequent today was that Edmonton was snowed on. Also, water still wet, people still do stupid things, and the sun has not exploded yet. I can not fathom why they felt the need to point this out to us, other than to possibly draw in more readers that do not live within the confines of our province, such as the avid Swedish readers of the Edmonton newspapers. They certainly can not be telling the good citizens of Edmonton and area. I had (shameless bragging) to push a thirteen tonne truck out of the snowy rut it had gleefully settled itself into much like Jabba into another stripper. I can no longer relax my right shoulder blade. I have stuck a feather in it; perhaps I can pass it off as a retro flapper hat.

So to distract from the disheartening mess that we are all kicking away from our spinning tires, I think we should discuss something that unites us all in common goal, hope, and inspiration; Superheroes.
When I had first seen the Dark Knight movie, the scene with the teenagers in hockey pads trying to ape Batman struck me as particularly poignant and I predicted that within a few years, we would see a rise in this particular brand of vigilantism, even before the advent of such movies as Kick-ass and Watchmen. Deep within all of us, I believe, is the desire to hide ourselves and become an unstoppable force for whatever side we feel for (Hell, some people rooted for Joker, it is only by the grace of god that we have documented no "super-villians" yet) but the constant refrain is that "They might hurt themselves!"

Let us be frank for a moment here; if they are not doing this, they are going to be doing something else stupid and harmful. The point of the whole exercise is the rush of adrenalin, the feeling of having power over other people, and that desire is not going to just go away. At least it seems the majority of these people are the age of majority, although one of them is old enough to have kids, and mentions in an interview that this is the only way he knows how to improve the world for his children. Apparently he has never heard of volunteering, donating to charity, or maintaining a career path that will improve society, like a garbage truck man.

It should be a telling sign to these people, who have their own organization, that they could not find a better way to contribute to society. It is likely that the majority (the heavy majority, if not all) tried out for the police or army and were denied, which should tell you something. Current societal message is that if you are denied, they just do not understand your special brand of brilliance, and that your specialty is still needed, you will just have to work harder to express it, but sometimes one's brand of specialty is so moronic that it should only be expressed in private. Yet these people persevere, keep pushing and trying, despite the mounting evidence that it is not like the books say it is. It is cold, wet, thankless work.

We confuse comic book thanklessness with real thanklessness, and what I mean by this term is more than just not one person says "Thank you" but you stand outside the window as grateful citizens become wrapped up in their good fortune (which they come to expect, but that is another issue) and lift their eyes heavenward to mouth "thank you", while you whisk away to another crime scene. Real thanklessness is where you swoop in to stop a mugging, but the guy kicks you and runs off anyway, and the victim is annoyed and scared, wondering who the hell you are. It is never seeing any good from what you are doing. In the movies, when we ask, "who are you to judge?" we always know that they are the ones to be judged, because the world is a story there, but here in the world, there is no one who should be judging. Least of all on the street, hampered and mired in the dirt with the rest of the evil. There are no bad people, only ourselves. 

The question bleated in response from so many latex-covered mouths is, "What then?" and is that not the problem we all struggle with, What then? Every morning we all get up (whenever your morning should be) and do the same thing, or move to a different thing, and try not to think about the massive strangeness of a whole life split, hacked into tiny moments everyday. Petrified by the entirety of our time, we chop it into manageable bits, chewing days down into the pit of our past. Because we are truly afraid at heart to look at the issue and wonder what are we doing and why does it matter? But that is the human condition, and it is the easy way out to simply put on some Lycra and delude ourselves into believing we are upholding some nebulous notion of the greater good.

So here is the other thought for the day; The language is a bit harsh, but it is a good listen, regardless.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

2 Boards 1 Constitution

The province is considering merging the catholic and public school boards lately, and it is high time, I should add. It seems strange to have a separate board for one religion, and a tad discriminatory to see it publicly funded. The obvious solution, however, would be better served to allow the board to buy itself from the government; it would allow the 125,000 children to continue with the education their parents intended for them, but not put our system in the awkward position Ontario is suffering.

Ontario, for those who missed it, is dealing with its Catholic school board banning gay-straight alliance groups. The rationale (and you will all love this) is that they would not allow a Nazi group either. Because neither of these are within the teachings of the Catholic church. I wonder how the one, newly-elected, gay board member feels about this; his soundbite on the matter was that he would do what was right for his community and his constituents, which is functionally "No comment" in fancy talk.

It would be nice of Ontario to hitch up its big-boy pants (Yes, I fixate on pants a tremendous amount) and say, "If we are giving you money, you give us the services we desire" but I see that as unlikely to happen. I would love to know which Catholic board member has pictures of which government official naked with a cheerleader, because that is some powerful leverage.

Protect and Serve in Fabulous Chiffon

The recent investigation in Kelowna B.C involving a police brutality charge has me thinking about plain-clothes officers. The video of the arrest, which shows the officer booting the arrested man while he is down on the ground. By the end his face is bloodied and quite messed up, while there is a pool of blood on the ground. At no point can you see the man resisting arrest or being difficult, although there is no audio relevant to the arrest.

This whole issue makes me wonder if there should be regulations for officers in plainclothes. The officer is in very scruffy jeans and a black zip-up for the arrest, but he is still carrying a handgun. The point is that being in a uniform not only commands respect, (I have seen firsthand the authority even a typical rent-a-cop uniform can provide by virtue of occasionally wearing one, and people automatically defer to my direction. It is astounding.) but also causes better behavior as a result of the sensation of wearing one - being connected to something  greater than one's self, such as a police force, is a powerful enticement to act better; it is possible that in forgoing the uniform, officers forgo a built-in security measure for both their own and others' protection.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Bigotry Circus is in Town!

Next Tuesday should prove interesting in Toronto; the English Defense League has trooped into town to set up a rally at the Toronto Zionist center. The league is "anti-Islam". That, please note, is not a vague generalization, an indictment of their policies, or even a judicious reading of their internal manifesto; that is actually how they describe themselves. They do not even try to cover it up with politically correct statements, or justify it with fancy equivocations. They just come straight out and say it.

This causes two feelings: One, I am so amazed that groups like this exist, in our modern world, and two, I am so proud to be a Canadian, that our country would open its mind enough to allow for even the most close-minded hate speech to be given fair trial, and (hopefully) subsequently anti-protested into the dirt. The best antidote for these things is to bring it out into the open and lance it like some rancid, hate-filled boil. Ideally, once they realize they do not have the citizen's support they want, they will go away. It is a noted symptom of discrimination that most bigots believe that everyone secretly supports them but will not say so for fear of reprisal. This causes them to keep thinking their delusional ideas are normal.

Anyway, can anyone think of any reason why the Federal government would keep quiet about the closure of some embassies? I have been scratching my head, unable to fathom why we would give a crap either way, or why the government felt that information was too sensitive to release, but I have come up with nothing.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Facecrime: The New Social Networking

Two minor news stories have caught my eye this week, which is tragic, I suppose. I should care more about this whole CRTC wifi access debate, but I can not bring myself to slog through the information. 

In B.C. a judge has formally rewritten a woman's will to give more money and property to her daughter, in a case noted for its unusual size. Despite being ordered to repay some loans the daughter had borrowed from her mother, she was awarded an additional $5.5 million, added to an undisclosed sum that was likely somewhere between $1 and $20 million (the entirety of the state). The remainder of the estate apparently went to the woman's 35-year husband.
I am annoyed that recently there seems to be a trend where a typically Liberal right is enacted or enforced and about a week later we regret having it. The last one was concerning a court who had rewritten a man's will because he had deliberately left nothing for his four daughters, for no reason other than simple misogynistic stupidity. The will was rewritten to allow a share for the daughters. Now, however, we are frivolously changing people's dying wishes to accommodate people who have already been given plenty. I do not agree with the wealth that any of the individuals possessed, but I hate more the notion that our final words can be warped on the whims of survivors.

The other article was involving the Calgary airport and their free wireless internet. Apparently they require users to log in through their Facebook pages, which enables the airport to gather statistics, demographics and credit card numbers.
Hey, that's not funny.
It is true, Dear Reader. The company that is helping gather and interpret the data is STREETworks, a company that can collect data about credit card transactions, but the airport insists it totally isn't using the information for bad stuff. They promise. They PINKY swear!
I am torn over this issue. It is the case that they can gain precisely no information if you a) do not use their network or b) use a fake Facebook account, but I also feel this is setting a bad precedent for similar matters. From this, we could conceivably find ourselves in a situation where simply entering a location with a network-capable item is reason enough to have information pulled off the system.
How are the alarmist pants fitting today?
They feel great, DR.
But seriously; few people may remember the article a while ago where a student conducting research in the middle east was detained while American customs agents opened his laptop and explored whatever they found on there, including personal files and pictures. The case was only brought to the forefront because the student was concerned his research would be compromised if people knew officials had access to their confidential statements. Combine these two precedents, add in the notion of "Visitors to these premises may be subject to search including persons and personal effects", and we have a delightfully Orwellian situation brewing.

The more I write this blog, the closer I get to living in the woods, eating bark stew, and staying so far off the grid I forget what the internet sounds like. (FYI; it sounds like puce) 

Monday, January 03, 2011

Theory: Altabomber

Someone took the encouragement to "have a blast" this New Years too literally, I think. This might put me in danger of having my alarmist pants permanently epoxied to my legs, but I believe we have an Oil-field vigilante operating in Alberta. Take a look at these:

May 30, 1979 an explosion on the Trans-Canada pipeline caused evacuations in Englehart, Ontario

February 7, 1999, Alberta, natural gas pipeline explosion creates mushroom cloud seen 62 miles away.

July 11, 1999, Alaska, Whistleblowers report that the Alaskan Pipeline is in imminent danger of an explosion or other accident causing damage "much worse" than the Exxon Valdez incident.

July 26, 1999 Sibbald crude oil production valley, Arcadia Valley, Alberta, explosion and fire, one worker killed.

August 9, 1999 Calgary Oil recycling plant explosions and fire send three workers to the hospital.

1 December 2003, a rupture in the Trans-Canada pipeline occurred at approximately 120 km south of Grand Prairie, AB.14 hours later, another rupture and fire occurred 15 km downstream from the initial incident.

Oct 12, 16, 31, Jan 5, 2008, July 1, 4, 2009 Blasts on six days in the B.C-Alta border region rupture the EnCana pipeline, which are listed as being "deliberately set". Letters were sent prior to the attack demanding EnCana stop or "'we' would bomb [them]to hell". Weibo Ludwig had been arrested but was released early January, 2010.

September 13, 2009 a similar explosion to that of 1979 occurred, in Englehart, Ontario,leaving a 20-foot hole at the explosion site.

December 31, 2010 a pipe bomb with intact trip-wire is discovered in Merritt,  B.C.

January 1st, 2011, an explosion near Swan Hills, Alta of the Pengrowth pipeline.Interestingly, the RCMP delivered a Peace bond to the home of Weibo Ludwig on Dec30th, 2010, two days before the most recent explosion.

The most frustrating thing is that few of these, other than the aforementioned arrest and discharge of Mr. Ludwig (He appears to be on the "catch and release" program. Maybe they will keep him when he gets bigger, but for now they have to tag him.) have any arrests or mentions of persons of interest at all. One report briefly hinted at the third Dawson Creek bombing (An innocuous shed was destroyed) being staged to plant an RCMP informant, but the information is vague and sketchy as to who was planted where. I can imagine that briefing being fantastic, however.
"Officer Smith, we need you to blow up a privy."
"Right-o, Sir! Permission to wear a raincoat for the short shower?"
"Permission granted! God save the Queen!"
(I am not sure when my Mounted Police became British, but this may be a sign I have been watching too much Fry and Laurie.)

The current news reports covering the New Years explosion mention that police are looking for the cause (they also mention the phrase "lit up the sky" so many times I had to take a puke break), and no one has linked this explosion to any others or any other anything, but we are not stupid. There are only so many "accidents" to go around, and the number of explosions has been increasing steadily since 1998. The climate in Alberta, which has been described as the "Texas of Canada" can easily breed the kind of contempt and seething rage that is necessary for such an aggressive but non-confrontational attack. The bomber obviously feels that he has limited other options to combat the problem, but I would be willing to guarantee he (or she) would have tried political options in the past and been stymied. So blocked, they turn their attention to more direct actions. The letters that were sent to EnCana specified that "we" would bomb them to hell. It is likely that this endeavor is planned or executed by several people. With the increased public inspection and disapproval surrounding the Oil-sands, I think it is likely we will see these types of incidents increase.

The sad fact is, however, they will likely be buried under other articles, or made to seem innocuous, so that the public does not panic. They need us terrorized in small, manageable doses. It is annoying that we are coddled in this fashion by the major media, but at least we can stick together.
I am craving blueberries quite bad.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

From Stealth Fighters to Stealth Evangelism

Apparently Stephen Harper is an evangelical Protestant.After reading the article about it, including his main church, his spiritual leader, his supposed beliefs and his hair products, I filed the whole mess under, "Things I do not care about".
But what if he is using his position to further his beliefs?
Thanks for the tip, Dear Reader! I had almost forgotten that people in power are able to push personal agendas without fear of any consequence more severe than being ousted from office (For more reasons why I hate Democracy as a system, see Democrapy)
Let us break this down in the fashion I enjoy so much.
One of two things will hold: one, he will accurately represent his beliefs or two, he will not.
If he does accurately represent his beliefs, two further things will hold (I love doing this. It is just like unpacking Christmas presents except at the bottom of the wrapping paper is a solid understanding of a concept) either we will support and agree with his belief or we will not. If it is the case that we do not support his beliefs, well, it is unlikely he is going to come to your house and sermonize at you until you elect him, so try not to vote for people that you do not support. On the happy chance that you do support his beliefs, you could do worse things than supporting his agenda and electing him. I  am not entirely sure that simply disagreeing with where the beliefs came from is enough reason to discount someone from office.
On the other hand, of course, if he does not accurately reflect his beliefs, we have a much larger problem on our hands than his religion being the "wrong" type. In every election there is an air of trust; we put our whole country in the hands of one individual, and it could turn out quite bad. That is a risk we have to take, same as that time you ordered a Russian bride off that website you thought was "totally legit" and then those weird charges showed up on your credit card.

The only thing we have genuine reason to be concerned about is that in most religions, as in most academic circumstances, we defer to a higher authority ( I mean like a priest or such, not God). The notion that the country's main leader is deferring to a religious authority that none of us have any say in the nominating of is pretty unsettling. Then again, neither do we elect leader's spouses, no one objects to having a married Prime Minister, but few marriages practice complete decision-making autonomy. If we Canadians should pay attention to any aspect of a leader's life, it should be who they are pillow-talking to. 

Also, how did I miss this article back from May that says the federal government is going to start paying its employees to troll online to "correct" any "misinformation" they find? From now on, anyone who does not say they seriously are not a federal agent will be assumed to be one. No lying, promise?