Monday, October 31, 2011

Dig Within

While looking around into the Chinese coin discovery that was logged in the Yukon I discovered the full report on archelogical digs in the Fort St. James area. It's an impressive read with some killer maps if you have the time, but if not, here are some concerns I found.

Along with an interesting look into the methods and processes that they use at the site, there were some concerns about the effectivness and the reliability of the method. It seems there was inconsistancy in labelling a location a 'high' likelihood for artifacts (both of archeolgical sites and something called culturally modified tree locations). This led to communication break down as it was unclear why some had been marked high probability, while equivalent ones elsewhere had been marked moderate or lower. I can support the need to allow for the personal discretion of the investigator, however, it should not be so severe as to call into doubt the efectiveness of the report. These reports are used to predict the impact of industry development; if companies think the information is useless, they will be more inclined to dismiss findings that may make development difficult, and valuable archelogical sites could be senselessly lost.

The company also contacted both relevant industries and First Nations bands to gain their feedback on the method. However, out of nine First Nations the company contacted a full four of them simply did not respond to the minimum email and letter (some were even phoned). Of the remaining five, three groups reported they did not know the method existed, one commented on its use, and one group said they would not use it because "went through Apollo", meaning Apollo forest products, a large company who works in the area. To compare, of the eleven companies the organization spoke to, all were familiar with the model, but a few said they did not prefer to use it. This is incredibly disheartening since the bands had helped to develop the method when it was first created in 2003. The report speculates that a high management turnover rate contributed to the process being lost, but again, in cases where archeological relevance is concerned we are missing a valuable ally in the bands. The report mentions later including "sensitive First Nations data", but if the company had not been so diligent about contacting the bands (indeed, we are still missing the information from four of the relevant bands) this information could have been lost.

If this company's experiences with First Nations bands is typical there needs to be a closer look into interactions between companies and bands. Without a proper channel for discussion there will be more animosity and difficulty, building resentment until no progress can be made for anyone.

The title is a quote from the venerable Marcus Aurelius: "Dig within. Within is the wellspring of Good; and it is always ready to bubble up, if you just dig."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

This Post has 22 Theories

Marg Delahunty! It's me, Pun'd it.

Although there are few things I would point to as decidedly Canadian, one of the few is the oddball political humor of This Hour has 22 Minutes. Years ago my family could be found watching the series together, laughing ourselves silly over even such simple things as the introductory warning that heralded in the show. (My favorite was in reference to a massive snow dump that left Toronto phoning the army for help, "Warning: Center of Universes should have better snow removal.") It was lighthearted but informative, and I have no doubt it is partially responsible for both the country and my own interest in politics.

One of the best skits the show would engage in was Marg Delahunty, warrior princess, who could be seen in her red uniform and plastic sword, charging up to politicians to lampoon them for anything they felt the public deserved to discuss. It helped show us that politicians are human and available, not some great head in a tower, passing down commandments from on high. Sometimes it even made us feel a little better about legislation that maybe didn't proceed as we had hoped, a great salve in the sometimes insensitive world of politics.

Recently, however, Ms. Delahunty approached Toronto mayor Rob Ford for a bit of light ribbing that backfired when he hid himself in his house and phoned 911. To be honest, it was perhaps imprudent to approach Mr Ford at home, although whether he was alone (the crew had resolved only to approach him if he was alone) or his daughter was present, who he claims fled "freaking out" into the house (One wonders what she will do when Halloween rolls around), is under debate. Has he never been approached by reporters at his home?

Although I hope the crew decides to avoid approaching people at their private residency, I sincerely hope that they do not discontinue their activities. Without this bit of fun I cannot imagine what would happen to the state of political interest in this country. Mr. Ford should learn to lighten up and take what comes his way. No one is free from political scrutiny, no matter what outfit it wears.

Monday, October 24, 2011

He Blinded me with Status

Is it not odd that a man who was once a strong contender for 'most powerful man in the world' is now under investigation for criminal activities? But this dialogue never happened, could not have begun to happen, while he was in power.

George W. Bush, once the president of the United States, is currently the suspect in an investigation into allegations of torture by his order from when he was in power. It is apparent he is even aware of these allegations, when he cancelled a private speaking conference after learning of the Center for Constitutional Rights' plan to prosecute, and takes steps to avoid being arrested, which also indicates if not an admission of guilt, at least a lack of confidence in his innocence.

What is frustrating in this case is that nothing was done while Mr. Bush was in office. Nothing could be done. There is a case to be made for public security, but why are there no systems in place to account for this? Are we to just accept that the president enjoys immunity from prosecution while in office, excepting cases that may provide interesting fodder for trashy tabloid mags?

Alternately, what will we discover once our own officials leave power?

The least of which is likely to be a case involving deportation of a Canadian citizen. If nothing else can offend people, ignoring Government issued documents by simply waving their hands and insisting they 'made a mistake', should certainly do it. I can understand the desire to get rid of criminals, but ignoring their birth certificate and passport to facilitate dumping them in a foreign country is not a viable option.

It is possible this is a threat to scare the individual into behaving properly, but the important aspect of a threat is that it must be achievable. If steps have been taken that convince this man that the government could actually seize his passport and birth certificate, then 'deport' him, then we have a problem.

Friday, October 21, 2011

As the State, So the People

Earlier I have spoke of the institutional policy of Canadian exploitation indicative by Homeland Security's pedophile website, and the repercussions such a policy holds for Canada. But lately, we have discovered the worm goes deeper. As we should have suspected when an institutional policy of exploitation of Canada exists, it can be guaranteed that the belief will 'trickle down' to more casual exploitation.

The Scouts issue in the states is the most apparent issue of this. A quick reading reveals the cavalier attitude with which the scouting program treats sovereign Canadian soil. In 1976 Turley is released from a state hospital after kidnapping a child and being deemed a "mentally disordered sex offender". He is released after being ordered to return to Canada, and only report if he returned to the States. That is correct, they felt they could dump their trash up here with no repercussions.

Three years later he molested three boys while at a camp. When one of the victims reports the abuse, the problem is solved when Turley packs up and goes home to Canada. The magical land where children don't exist and can therefore not be abused. True to form, after this incident Turley packs up and moves to Victoria where he molests more children.

Perhaps you are unconvinced; This could all be circumspect, blown out of proportion, or incomplete information. When confronted about the 'perversion file' that Scouts maintained on people like Turley, Scouts executive Buford Hill said, "'I don’t remember what we decided, other than we didn’t want this person on our staff. Hopefully, he went back to Canada and that was their problem.'" I would like to press the point that this was not a guarded communication where their shady backroom policy is brought to the light of day, this is a boldfaced statement to the press. He is so confident that this view is mainstream that he offers this up to preserve the Scouts good name - to show they did something about this predator. Apparently the Scouts' 'youth protection efforts' only applies to American youths.

Just as a psychological aside the report mentions that this man lives in Alberta but is 'reformed' by a sex offender program and quotes him saying, 'Rick Turley today is a caring loving person who just wants to stay below the radar.' That's right - he refers to himself in the third person when speaking about how he is reformed. This typically indicates a disconnect from the statement. He doesn't believe he's reformed, and neither do I. A persistent, reckless offender like Turley is unlikely to be 'treated' without chemical castration, and even then, not completely.

Personally, after this incident, the finding that Scouts America occasionally traded information with Scouts Canada about violators is cold comfort. If such Anti-Canadian sentiments can be gleaned from one report, you can guarantee the issue goes further in private. 

The title is not meant to imply that all Americans believe these things, but that a state institutional system can influence the common person's beliefs. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

That's Free Enterprise, Friends

I think Albertans knew that Premier Redford would have a bit of an upward climb to defend herself in the beginning, not only because every politician does but also because her sudden second-place win means we didn't have the time to work around to the idea of her being in power, and society does not move quickly.
What we had not realized was that this climb might be fabricated by a false 'call to action' by an opposition leader.

Suncor's Firebag work site in Fort McMurray allegedly let go of approximately 200 workers and replaced them with cheaper temporary foreign workers, which had been approved by the government when Suncor claimed they could not find appropriate local workers.

The NDP's leader Brian Mason is now calling on Premier Redford to step in and resolve this situation but it seems like he is setting her up for a fool's errand. If she steps in to have the worker's passes revoked she will be seen as anti-immigration and anti-business, if she fails to, leaving the situation alone, she loses the base of public support that put her in the office.

Now, while I am not particularly fond of unions, in this case it is clear they have egg on their face. They tried to demand wages that were obviously too high, and they were outmaneuvered by the company. This is not any different from the usual squabbles of hiring union or non. What would the union have done if the company had hired non-union Albertans? There is no point to belonging to a union if they cannot negotiate these situations without resorting to crying for the government.

On the other hand, the company has screwed themselves over in this situation. Should they ever attempt to return to the unionized employee this has seriously damaged relations to the point that any sensible union would rake them over the coals on the next contract negotiation. The company can't count on the government rubber-stamping these workers again, after this outcry, and the temporary workers are just that, temporary. This was clearly just a power-maneuver to give the business extra clout in further negotiations, but by escalating to sway public opinion the union has already gotten the upper hand.

In essence all that Premier Redford needs to do is wait. Further applications for workers won't  be approved and the union and business will be forced back into their playpen to learn how to play nice. She should not have to micro-manage business interactions, but they should re-examine the application process to hire temporary workers. But that should be it. She's got a province worth of bigger things to deal with.

The title is from a quote by Barbara Ehrenreich: "That's free enterprise, friends: freedom to gamble, freedom to lose. And the great thing -- the truly democratic thing about it -- is that you don't even have to be a player to lose."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Protesting 101

With the Occupy movement likely reaching the peak of its trajectory, the time has come to take a serious look at the effectiveness of 'large gesture' protesting.

Especially in Canada, lately, we have seen some large 'statements' but their effectiveness is in question.
The Occupy movement boasted around 2 to 3 thousand in Toronto, 1 thousand in Edmonton and Montreal, 4 thousand in Vancouver, and even Charlottetown boasted 125 people. But with the object of protesting (businessmen) actively coming by to give verbal support and kudos, does it lose its sting? As I have mentioned previously, the disparity of wealth is much less severe than in the States, and so the aim of the movement is fractured between supporting the 99%, supporting the protesters in the states and protesting to have former president Bush arrested when he comes to visit. As is usually the case, the Onion has said it best regarding these cases. The largest sign that the protests are not being taken seriously is the fact that they are being allowed to stay. If the government perceived these protests to be a threat, and therefore effective, they would be taking steps to eliminate them, even as little as forcing them to pack up their tents. This protest has a set end date: the first snow-fall.

Remember the House page who stood in the middle of Parliament holding a sign that said "STOP Harper"? Despite the loss of her job, and subsequent job offer by American film-maker Michael Moore, it is arguable whether or not she achieved any sort of progress. Sometimes the goal of a protest is to draw attention, as we shall examine in a moment, but the bulk of her message was simply an opinion; that Harper is bad. Without an added fact to back it up, or draw attention to, such a stand will not sway anyone's heart or mind. This is reflected in the fact that she has since dropped off the radar, without so much as a tremor in the shield of the Conservatives.  

A better example of a large 'impact' protest is the recent Trojan horse that graced Parliament hall's front doors. It was built to draw attention to Canada's interest in the European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which they believe could erode Canada's sovereignty and put us at a disadvantage in negotiations. I must confess this whole thing has flown under my radar for eight talks, amazingly, and it is now in its ninth and final round of talks. I find it unlikely that Canada could benefit from tying itself to the European market right now, given that everyone is so anxious to be tied to us, but the horse's point was effective - I'm curious now. That's the way to do it.

The mark of effective protesting is walking the tricky line of not telling people what they should think, but perhaps what they should be thinking about. That way people are not being led or strong armed into an opinion, something that can provoke the opposite reaction so strongly that sometimes I suspect that page had been hired by the right to make all opposition look like nutcases (Not to imply she looked like a nutcase, but certainly that someone who opposes her message would feel she did).Given the limited time and attention people reserve for processing activism, we should really aim to maximize the air time available to present the most effective message.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupy Bush

The Occupy Canada movement is starting to build momentum, but the issue of the 99% seems less compelling on our soil, our GINI coefficient (that measures the equal dispersal of wealth) is much lower here (0 indicates perfect equality, 1 indicates complete inequality)
Canada is in a position, however, to strike a decisive blow for solidarity and justice. It takes place on October 20th. Occupy Wall Street is meant to send a message to the 1%, and we have the chance to send a message to our politicians. They cannot do as they like. They are there because we allow them to be.

On to the logistics of the protest, however, a recent video has been making the rounds showing a police tactic that is changing the nature of protests from the inside.

I have to say, it seems Gandhi was right. The police are embedding officers into protests that escalate typically peaceful protests into riots, which the police can use force to shut down. This tactic is completely undone if the protests stay nonviolent. Realizing how difficult this can be in a protest situation (we are a mob creature) but the answer is to stay seated. No matter what. It cannot be subverted if it cannot be incited. Protesters should shun anyone who stands within a protest.

Society's fascination with zombies and post-apocalyptic situations makes sense now. We have become aware that we don't have a consciousness and we are working to change that. We are restless.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Bush in Hand

When I read Amnesty International's recommendation that Canada should arrest George W. Bush and have him tried for war crimes including torture, I giggled. It sounds a bit like an Onion article, similar to the one where Canada invaded the States (because they had reason to believe they were harboring weapons of mass destruction). But after reading it I realized they were serious. They want us to risk a major international incident just to bring George to heel.

Maybe we should though.
Perhaps it will force them to start taking us seriously. Recently the Department of Homeland Security came under fire for posting a website depicting Ontario as a safe haven for pedophiles, and offering to set up a 'vacation'. When pressed on the ethics of this move, the department shrugged and said that they had 'informed Windsor police about it'. The ruse resulted in four arrests but there is no known number to how many people read the site, then chose an alternate means to travel to Canada for this purpose. To use us as bait clearly demonstrates how little they care for our safety and sovereignty.

Perhaps it will force them to start seeing us differently. The Federal Heritage minister has a goal in mind - to educate all Canadians about the war of 1812. Personally, I think the best way to do this would be to give Kate Beaton an unlimited budget and unrestricted access to all forms of advertising within Canada, not to mention the good it would do for morale, but I digress. The States is apparently honoring the war in their own fashion; by claiming they won. SPOILER ALERT: They didn't. As George Orwell pointed out, "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past." It's time Canada control its present. History is an integral part of our growing identity and we cannot allow it to be altered by someone else with an agenda. 

But enough daydreaming. After the Good Fences issue, there is certainly no way we would arrest Mr. Bush and run the risk of an international incident. But I like that there is a hint, even a wiff that we might do it. I like that we're talking about it. Because that means, somewhere, in America, on some agenda, there is a bullet point that deals with 'how to negotiate with Canada'. It might just be an emergency back-up plan, they might not even believe we'd do it, but it's there. I feel warmer just knowing it.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Don't Need a Receipt for the Doughnut

I have applied some brain power over the last little while to figuring out some product that I could sell to make a living as an entrepreneur. Inspired by the story of Terracycle's CEO (affectionately called "Worm Boy"), I tried thinking of a surplus material  that was being wasted available for me to use in some other fashion, much like Terracycle used old coffee grinds to feed the worms that produce their fertilizer. The answer came to me while I was at work one day, changing a receipt roll from an ABM: The roll.

The rolls must be changed out when they come too close to the end, however, this typically leaves a generous amount of paper still back on the roll that can't be used by the machine. These rolls are conventionally thrown out, since we lack any other disposal option.  Imagine how many times we do this a night, and you can imagine the kind of resource I was thinking of - I just needed to find a way to capitalize on this; perhaps break it down to make into more conventionally sized paper. Needless to say, I hit google for the answer, but what I found was a huge surprise.

Most ABM receipts, in fact most point of sale receipts, contain bisphenol A or BPA for short. The stuff they made a huge push to eliminate from water bottles is present in doses from 10 to 30 mg every time you purchase a scooby-doo slip 'n slide. That dose doesn't mean much, by itself, but further research is being done with the lowest observed effect level at 50 mg/kg/day. From a retail perspective, that means a salesperson who handles around 100 to 300 receipts a day is ingesting a statistically significant amount of BPA. Someone like myself, who is exposed to old receipt paper that has begun to degrade, thus speeding up the expulsion of the BPA, can be exposed to even more, especially under the conditions of excessive sweating (and sweating is what we do best). Add in the fact that "Mechanical handling of bisphenol A can cause formation of dust", i.e exactly what occurs in the ABM that we are breathing around, and we have the potential for a lot of exposure. BPA dust has been shown to cause upper respiratory irritation. (I am far too mature to point out that aerosol exposure to BPA caused rats to experience "decreased body weight, perineal soiling from urine and porphyrin-like material around the nose and eyes".)

Some of the effects of BPA exposure, as documented in lab rats in quantities around 50 mg/kg/day, include: lower body weight; liver, kidney, and bladder effects; and increased uterine glycogen levels at as little as 5 mg/kg/day. On the positive side it is most emphatically NOT a carcinogen, which means it might be the only thing that won't give you cancer. It is also readily excreted from the body however, it is excreted in the form of straight BPA, which raises the problem of build-up in the water supply, much the same issue as estrogen from birth control excretions.

Although there has been much discussion about BPA in the mainstream media, there has been almost no discussion about BPA's presence in receipt paper, and the hazards presented to those who deal with it, despite the fact that Japan voluntarily replaced all their paper receipts with non-BPA paper (true, they replaced it with BPS, a cousin of BPA, but we'll deal with that later.)
Finally, If this sounds dire, please bear in mind this information came from the people selling BPA, and draw whatever conclusions you like.


The title is from Mitch Hedburg: “I bought a doughnut and they gave me a receipt for the doughtnut... I don't need a receipt for the doughnut. I give you money and you give me the doughnut, end of transaction. We don't need to bring ink and paper into this. I can't imagine a scenario that I would have to prove that I bought a doughnut. To some skeptical friend, 'Don't even act like I didn't get that doughnut, I've got the documentation right here... It's in my file at home. ...Under "D".'”

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

A "Very Significant Discussion"

Hey Victor? I think we should buy a new car.
A new car? But you don't have a license, we only need one car.

I know, but I just think it'd be really cool, you know? We'd have somewhere to put that Oilers bumper sticker.
Is that the only reason you want it? Because we could use that money to fix the flooring. 
No, I don't want that, it's boring. Besides my friend said she'd give us half.
Half is good, I guess. Where will we get the rest from? 
I don't know - We could ask mom and dad?
Didn't their basement just flood?
Honey! Come on! I want one!
If you're so set on this, why not a truck? We could buy a heavy duty truck?
No I want a car, just like the one we have, but blue ... with gold rims!
What does your friend want for the half she's going to give us anyway?
Well, she gets to keep it at her place, but we can totally have it for four weeks!
A month?
A year.
This is ridiculous! Why do you want this all of a sudden?
Look, the salesman said we had to do this by the end of the month or it'll be too late!
Have you ever heard that and not been swindled? It's just a pressure tactic. Besides we don't even want it - this month or next. We can't afford it and that's that.
You can't stop me! I'm buying it whether you like it or not!      
We just renewed our vows; aren't we supposed to decide these things together? 
Look, I have to go; It might already be too late. We'll talk about this when I get back with the new car! 

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Wildcard Weekend: Summer Months

Congratulations to Ms. Allison Redford, Premier-designate for Alberta! I am so happy I just want to kiss every Albertan I see today! To celebrate, I offer Dear Reader the most beautiful wrap-up of summer ever. I suspect in years to come when I am sad I will watch this and be happy again. It reminds me of every wonderful moment I've ever had, even those completely unrelated to summer.

Summer feelings from sebastien montaz-rosset on Vimeo.