Monday, December 30, 2013

Great line of the day

At The Galloping Beaver, Dave provides this excellent description of Harper:
I question Harper's intelligence at times but his competence is not up for debate. This is one of the least competent prime ministers Canada has ever endured.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Colorado high

In two days, marijuana in Colorado will be legal.  As Neil Steinberg writes:
... this Wednesday, Jan. 1, Colorado will become the first state in the nation, and one of the rare places in the world, where adults can freely purchase marijuana, no strings attached. You don't have to be sick. You don't need a prescription. You only need to be older than 21 and fork over the money....
"I have a feeling we'll be visiting a lot more often in the future," I deadpanned to my mother, who smiled, happy at the thought of more visits. Legalizing pot is the sort of shift that encourages humor. We went to see "Monty Python's Spamalot" at the Boulder Dinner Theatre Friday night — first rate singing, dancing and serving, by the way — and the obligatory insert-a-topical-local-reference-in-the-show segment of course referred to Colorado legalizing pot. "Not that anyone will notice a difference," said King Arthur, or words to that effect.
I suppose there are all sorts of somber, valid, good-public-policy reasons to be concerned, but at this point it just seems humorous, to see society open its arms to what is basically a low-level, self-indulgent method to disengage your brain from the world for a while. Compared to the huge swath of death and destruction, illness and heartbreak carved by alcohol, I just can't see getting worked up at this point about sweet old Mary Jane. Like gay marriage, the surprising thing will someday be that it was ever illegal.
Compared to alcohol, dope is nothing -- mild, benign, virtually harmless. Yes, its possible to get just as hooked on dope as on drink, but nobody ever got high and then started fights with their friends or threw up on their boss or stumbled home to beat up their wife and kids.
As long as you have enough cornflakes ...

Still thousands without power

Having our own furnace break down on the Sunday before Christmas, and anxiously awaiting the repairman at midnight as the temperature in the house dropped lower and lower, I could only imagine how much worse it would have been to be freezing in the dark for days on end.
So I have been very closely following the blackout story in Toronto over the last week.  What a terrible Christmas it has been for so many people.
And the state of Toronto politics didn't help.
Municipal leadership matters.  It will likely never be possible to precisely measure how badly the lack of municipal leadership in Toronto affected the planning and implementation of power restoration.  But both Toronto Hydro and the Province of Ontario would have had their own priorities during the crisis, and while they did their best, they could not focus only on Toronto, nor could they be responsible for deciding whose needs were most urgent.
Only municipal government can do that.  And in Toronto, the municipal leaders were instead jockeying around behind the scenes, avoiding each other, minimizing the problems and fighting about who should speak to whom.  As the Toronto Sun says,
...demands by various councillors that Ford declare an emergency were politically motivated, lest Ford get any credit for being front and centre during the emergency.
On the other hand, Ford’s claim that declaring an emergency would cause people to panic was silly. One reason Ford didn’t want to declare an emergency was that he would lose his remaining mayoral powers to Kelly.
It mattered -- without leadership, the Toronto citizens could not get a straight story. Instead, they got wishful thinking.
Toronto Hydro should have been more honest with the public from the start about the lengthy timelines it was facing for getting everyone who lost power back on the grid....
Stating at the outset that it might be more than a week until all power was restored would have given people the opportunity to make realistic plans from the start for staying or leaving their homes.
Without leadership, problems were minimized and people couldn't get the information they needed:
Berardinetti said the city hadn’t set up enough warming centres in hard-hit Scarborough, and urged people who had a generator to spare to contact her office so that it could be borrowed for another local home.
Gary Crawford, Southwest Scarborough’s other councillor, said Friday at least 12 streets in his ward still had significant outages, and many there felt forgotten.
“There’s a real sense of abandonment, that people just don’t care - which I don’t think is the case,” he said.
Some residents, isolated and elderly, stayed because they worried leaving would open their homes to thefts, said Crawford, while others hadn’t yet seen a Hydro truck nearby and just wanted information.
Paul Ainslie, a councillor for Scarborough East, counted three areas in his ward that were still dark.
“We’re not talking house by house, we’re talking streets,” he said, adding his distaste for an appearance Mayor Rob Ford had made at a local school.
The school had power and the mayor, Ainslie said, had for a “photo op” pulled a crew from Hydro Windsor away from their work reconnecting homes around it.
The only warming centre in his ward was at Toronto police’s 43 Division station, and its community room wasn’t big enough to sleep in, he said.
“I had a lot of low-income and elderly people who were freezing in their homes” because they couldn’t get to a centre where they could stay overnight, charged Ainslie.
And apparently nobody at City Hall even got around to ordering door-to-door checks -- it took the Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to get these underway.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Praying for peace

Pope Francis would have agreed with John Lennon (and Francis is likely the first pope since John XXIII who would have done so):
Pope Francis, celebrating his first Christmas as Roman Catholic leader, on Wednesday called on atheists to unite with believers of all religions and work for “a homemade peace” that can spread across the world.
Speaking to about 70,000 people from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, the same spot where he emerged to the world as pope when he was elected on March 13, Francis also made another appeal for the environment to be saved from “human greed and rapacity”.
The leader of the 1.2 billion-member Church wove his first “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and world) message around the theme of peace.
“Peace is a daily commitment. It is a homemade peace,” he said.
He said that people of other religions were also praying for peace, and – departing from his prepared text – he urged atheists to join forces with believers.
“I invite even non-believers to desire peace. (Join us) with your desire, a desire that widens the heart. Let us all unite, either with prayer or with desire, but everyone, for peace,” he said, drawing sustained applause from the crowd.

Merry Christmas


And one more:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Playing politics while Toronto freezes in the dark

Toronto mayor-in-name-only Rob Ford is refusing to call what is happening in Toronto "an emergency":
Officials played down questions about why Toronto hadn’t declared a state of emergency. Mr. Ford said the damage didn’t warrant it. He has had some of his powers stripped after recent revelations about drug use, and some councillors questioned whether politics played a role in refusing to declare a state of emergency.
Almost 200,000 people are freezing in the dark, and Rob Ford won't call it an emergency because if he did, then he couldn't host any more press conferences.

Happy Festivus

Friday, December 20, 2013

Great line of the day

Dan Savage on the War on Christmas pity party:
Sarah Palin and Bill O'Reilly and Fox News and the Family Research Council and the woman who allegedly punched another woman outside Walmart earlier this week for saying "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas" managed to break me of the "merry Christmas" habit. I suspect I'm not alone. This constant bitching from the right about "happy holidays"—a perfectly lovely expression that embraces Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Pancha Ganapati, New Year's Eve, New Year's Day, Hanukkah, the Epiphany, Saint Nicholas's Day, Hogmanay, Twelfth Night, and Kwanzaa—has made one thing clear. Not that there is now, or ever was, a war on Christmas. But that saying "merry Christmas" is an asshole move. Just as conservatives made patriotism toxic during the Vietnam War by conflating it with blind obedience to authority ("My country, right or wrong!"), modern conservatives have made "merry Christmas" toxic by associating it with Christian fundamentalism, religious intolerance, and the politics of imagined persecution.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Oh, so its for my own good, is it? How thoughtful of you!

Canada Post CEO Chopra thinks I'll be a happier, better person if I have to pick up my own mail.
“The seniors are telling me, ‘I want to be healthy. I want to be active in my life,’” Mr. Chopra told MPs. “They want to be living fuller lives.”
So that's what I've been missing to live a fuller, happier life -- a two block (at least) daily walk to pick up my mail.
Who knew?
And while we're at it, maybe the city can dig a community well at the mailboxes too, so it won't have to raise our taxes anymore to fix any deteriorating water lines.
Because after all, it's not a government's job to provide Canadians with actual services we need, like mail delivery. (Or to feed hungry children either.)  No, its the government's job to keep its services from becoming a burden on taxpayers.  And the easiest way to do that is to stop providing the services!
Simplicity itself.
And then I can get even healthier if I have to use my little red wagon to pick up our water every day while I'm getting the mail -- that's whole body exercise right there.
And firewood, don't forget firewood. Maybe we could pick that up, too.
Who needs natural gas heating at home when we can warm up by trudging through the rain or sleet or hail or snow to pick up everything we need, just like the pioneers did.
Maybe my husband and I can dig an outhouse in the back, and we could raise some chickens in the shed, too.
Thanks so much, Canada Post and Mr. Chopra, for giving Canadians the opportunity to experience the 18th century all over again.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Great line of the day

No More Mister Nice Blog is writing about the NSA scandal, and this is pretty much how I feel now too:
At first I was an Edward Snowden skeptic. But I learned to separate my feelings about Snowden and (especially) Glenn Greenwald from my feelings about what they've exposed -- NSA surveillance violates constitutional principles so blatantly that I've stopped caring about Snowden's motives or Greenwald's journalistic practices. There's too much here, as has been confirmed by journalists who've written about it and aren't named Greenwald.
Yes, exactly. The secret surveillance story has transcended its scribes. Which is why the right-wing attacks on Greenwald and the CBC over the G20 spy story fell so flat.

Trending tonight on twitter

Twitter / Carolyn_Bennett: We love this photo ... Ditto ...:
Embedded image permalink

Monday, December 16, 2013

Another great dog rescue from Eldad Hagar

A homeless dog living in a trash pile gets rescued, and then does something amazing! :

I have such admiration for the Hope for Paws organization and for the Hagars.

The difference between Canada and the United States

So we were watching the "fall finale" of Almost Human tonight.
 Now, I like this new show. But I realized part-way through this episode that even though it is filmed in Vancouver, it is totally "American" at its core.
The gee whiz its-the-future part of tonight's show was about how a corporation has invented a perfect artificial heart that works beautifully for people who need heart transplants.
But the basis of the plot was about how people were forced to buy the new hearts as recycled black-market transplants (from dead people!) because their health insurance was too crappy to pay for a real transplant.  The admin assistant in the corporate department that denied their insurance was the dastardly villain who had set up the black-market heart scheme.
And nobody thinks anything of it!
Nowhere in the episode does a single person complain or criticize or even question why people who need these beautiful new hearts are being sentenced to death due to inadequate insurance.
For a Canadian, this doesn't make any sense at all.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Peter O'Toole

Peter O'Toole has died.  He should have won the oscar for Lawrence of Arabia, except for his competition -- in retrospect, how could the Oscar for 1962 not have gone to Gregory Peck for To Kill a Mockingbird.  At least Lawrence of Arabia won best picture.  Here's one of the best scenes:


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Great line of the day

Andrew Sullivan writes about The Pope And The American Right and provides the best summary I have read lately about what has gone wrong with capitalism, American-style:
... the way in which market capitalism has become a good in itself on the American right is, well, perniciously wrong. As soon as a system ceases to be a means to a human good, and becomes an end in itself, it has become a false idol. Perhaps the apotheosis of that idol worship was the belief – brandished on the degenerate right in the past decade or two – that markets are self-regulating. Of course they’re not, as Adam Smith would have been the first to inform you. Another assumption embedded on the American right is that more wealth is always a good thing. The Church must say no. This is a lie. Wealth is a neutral thing above a certain basic level of non-drudgery. Above that, it can be an absolutely evil, deceptive thing, distorting human souls, warping their dignity, vulgarizing their character. An American right that worships at the altar of both free markets and material wealth, and that takes these two idols as their primary goods, is not just non-Catholic. It is anathema to Catholicism and to the Gospels.
This is, I think, what Occupy Wall Street was also trying to say, though not so clearly and so well.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Quid quo pro

  (Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)
Even the Star Phoenix finds the timing of the Canada Post announcement more than a little suspicious:
The Conservatives, after all, are leaving Ottawa with their ears still burning from the daily interrogation over the involvement of the Prime Minister's Office in the Senate scandal, and the humiliating and inept defence put up by their champion, Paul Calandra, parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister.
In spite of the Conservatives' repeated efforts to change the channel, nothing seemed to stick. Having the armslength Canada Post using its busiest season to announce a massive cut in service at least takes the heat off the government during the holidays when Canadians gather, and MPs don't have to field questions in Parliament.
Maybe they worked out a deal -- if Canada Post succeeds in distracting Canadians and parliament from the Senate scandal, then Treasury Board will let everybody keep their pensions.  Win-win.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Solidarity forever

My reaction to the news that Conrad Black says he might endorse Rob Ford for mayor is:
It takes one to know one.
Honestly, Toronto, haven't you reached your gag reflex with both of them?

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The creature that would not die!

The Senate expenses scandal is the Energizer bunny -- it keeps going and going.  Its Parliament Hill rock 'n roll -- it will never die.  Its a Canadian T-Bird -- we'll have fun, fun, fun until, well, until whenever.  And for the Harper Cons, its the Creature from the Black Lagoon -- it just won't go away!
Today, we find out that the Senate's pledge to give RCMP e-mails widens paper trail in expenses probe and that Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen apparently lied to the RCMP last June
Its all basically meaningless in the larger scheme of things, of course, but its very meaninglessness seems to be the reason why this story just won't quit.
When we've got a scandalous news story that isn't about anything that affects our daily lives -- like the economy, health care, or real estate -- then its just so much fun for the reporters to cover and for the people to read about, that nothing will stop it.