A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

23 June 2004

Just Needed to Offer All You Wonderful People This.

I loaded Free Surfer some time ago, and it totally wiped out almost every popup I've encountered since.

Let's get it on.

When we last left our hero, we were examining all of the parties attempting to become the next Canadian Federal Governement. Der Tag is now only a wakey away. And I am becoming nervous.

Today's issue: Strategic Voting.

Many nations do things differently from Canada. The Australian system allows the back marker's votes to be redistributed according to the preference of the voter (and oh god do I wish we had such a system in place now). The New Zealand system of parliamentery democracy allows proportionate representation, and the US has the Electoral College to choose their president for them.

Canada's current voting system, known as "first past the post", is coming under a great deal of criticism. The major problem is that under FPTP, the winner is quite simply the party who gets the most votes. This sounds pretty democratic, and it is, really. Basically, each riding or seat elects a single representative from a slate, that person becomes that riding's voice in Ottawa. The party whose members win the most seats forms the next government.

The criticism is that under this system, a party without a democratic majority (say only 30% or so of the popular vote) can form a government, while a party which won a large number of votes but didn't actually win any seats is not represented at all.

In fact, it's conceivable that a party with greater support than the declared winner could be left out entirely:

Consider Silverland, a constitutional monarchy of some 100 souls (and almost twice that number of people, but only those with souls are permitted to vote). Silverland has four ridings. In #1 live 35 people. In #2 live 55. In #3 live 8 and in #4 live 2.

Riding one has five candidates for Prime Minister. the votes break down thus:
C1 (Party of the First Part) 8
C2 (Napoleon Bona Party) 7
C3 (Party Party Party) 7
C4 (Slightly Silly Party) 7
C5 (Sub Par T) 6

Riding two has 3 candidates:
C1 (Napoleon Bona Party) 30
C2 (Party of the First Part) 19
C3 (Party What Party) 6

Riding three has four candidates:
C1 (Party of the First Part) 5
C2 (Napoleon Bona Party) 2
C3 (Slightly Silly Party) 1
C4 (Silly Party) 0

Riding four has three again:
C1 (Party of the First Part) 1
C2 (Napoleon Bona Party) 1
C3 (Party Party Party) 0

The totals:
Party of the First Part: 33 Seats won: 3/4
Napoleon Bona Party: 40 1/4

Obviously there's much greater democratic support for the Nappys. Yet the Firsts will form the next government.

Recently, given that our last couple of governments arose from similar circumstances, there's been a great deal of questioning as to how to address this problem. Most people want "Proportionate representation". I don't think it'll solve anything. The real question is do we want a government that accurately reflects (translation: blows in the wind of) political opinion in Canada?

I greatly fear we might get one. People are making noises that this system should be "fixed". Why, especially? It seems to work as well as many other systems. Besides, there are lots of people I feel should resolutely be un-listened to. To allow such persons as these a free voice, democracy and proportionate representation were no virtue.

Canadians tend to switch governments whether we need to or not, especially after the last leader steps down. If this eliminates the Liberals, then we're in grave danger.

Of the remaining parties, the Greens are barely a force at all. The Marijuana party isn't going to be in government, and people perceive the NDP as willing to mis-spend their hard-earned tax dollars.

Let's look quickly at the Green Party.

The Green platform is pretty straightforward: They support environmental causes. This I could gibe with. But if we investigate their thinking, we find some cracks.

Kyoto: I agree. We signed it, we should implement it. But let's bear in mind that some flexibility will be required--the science surrounding global warming is more suceptible to trends than most.

"Global Inequality". No-one has yet convinced me that inequality per se is a problem. That part of the world stuffs itself while part of the world starves is unfair, but it is not automatically inherent in capitalism, and still less is it in any way related to free trade (about NAFTA and free trade the Greens are conspicuously silent).

"The Green Party has a plan to stop the concentration of wealth at the very tip of the economic pyramid, and restructure the economy on a more balanced and sustainable footing."

This is worrying to me. What exactly is this plan? How is our whole economy "unsustainable"? What exactly is wrong with it in the first place? Are Robert Mugabe's dearly-beloved citizens going to get a better shake because I pay more tax?

Doubt it.

They go on: They want the World Trade Organization brought under the UN. Well now, that's exactly why it's an independent body.

They want to agitate for "fair trade". I don't buy anything fair trade, and here's why.

All supposedly "fair trade" products are sold at artificially created prices. These prices are supposed to address global inequality by paying someone in a market where say, coffee, is dirt-cheap to grow a bigger price to grow it in a way that pleases North Americans. This may include "shade-grown" coffee, "certified organic" coffee, or some other variety.

But agriculturally, this is likely, in the long run, to be a threat to domestic markets in other consumables, especially food crops. Think about it: Why should I grow maize (the world's #1 staple) for $5 a tonne when I can grow coffee for $12?

This will have two effects: 1) The coffee market will become saturated--yet due to the artificially inflated "fair trade" pricing promise, farmers won't have any other incentive to diversify. 2) Locals will have to buy imported foods--probably from nations such as the US, with its massively unfair crop subsidies and trade barriers.

Those who can't afford expensive imported foodstuffs will suffer. Hurrah for fair trade. It's not fair to the producer in the long term, it's not fair to retailers who will have to pay inflated prices in a glutted market, and it's sure enough not fair to people like me who want a cheap cuppa joe.

If $3.00 coffees (lattés, cappucinos and the like) are part of your active lifestyle, then fine. But don't expect me to be sad for you when fair trade jacks the price to $5.

I don't object to the emotion that inspires the fair trade crusade, and I feel that those who pick and choose what they buy in such a fashion constitute an imporatant market segment--and in that role they far better influence international trade than were all buyers and sellers to be forced into their way of doing things.

Anyway--let's see what the Green party has to say on defence:

Uh. Nothing. Doesn't that seem a little weird to anyone? A search for "armed forces" brings up 0 pages. There's some blather about "security", but no defined statement to tell you whether they're for or against.

Health: Like most parties, the Greens take a "throwing money at it won't fix it" approach. Interesting idea. "Why not?"--to quote a friend in the health business. I mean, if giving more money to farmers in fair trade can solve that particular pickle, why not giving health professionals a little extra?

They would "reduce the long hours Canadians are working". Urrgh! I just got cold chills--how ya gonna make me?--And why? If I wanna put in overtime and make more money, why do you want to stop me?

Most Canadians earn something around the average, a bit over $30,000 for single people. The current poverty line is estimated at $33,000 for a family of four. But as this linked article proves, all that means is that a family at that income level is likely to spend more than 55% of its income on the basics (food, shelter, clothing).

So if an individual makes nearly enough to feed, house, and clothe a family by him-or-herself, then why do so many families report that both adults "have" to work.

This, I suspect, is due to our acquisitive drive to buy non-basics (cell phones, computers, stereos etc). And there's a lot to buy, y'know.

So if it's a choice, how are you going to slow people down?

There's a lot of other issues I take issue with as presented by the Green Party--though let's never say I don't respect their dedication and their stances on many things. But unlike Rafe Mair, I can't just fall in with them. I want practical measures that don't self-contradict; the Greens prattle childishly on about an "interconnected world" in their "Canadian Security" section. Yet their interconnected world doesn't include things like free trade.

Many people feel that proportional representation would solve the "inexplicable" problem of Canada having no Greens in its Parliament, while European governments contain scads of 'em. But the Euro-Greens have emerged from years on the fringe to become mainstream. They can talk trade and pronounce the word globalisation without foaming at the mouth.

The "economic justice" policy page at the GP HQ online features a picture of a person spraying the word "capitalism" onto a wall with a paint bomb (thus jettisonning chemicals into the air, onto the ground, into groundwater sources. . .).

That leaves the Conservatives.

These guys scare the hell out of me. Basically, they're the ultra-right wing Party Formerly Known as Reform and for a While After That the Alliance as Well as the United Alternative for a Bit. These are not the mid-range tories of yesteryear, but the mean and low of the nation.


To enforce the 2003 health accord, including a $1.3 bn raise for health-related transfer payments (ah--but throwing money at it won't solve anything. . .).

Pull out of Kyoto and introduce a "clean air act"--I would guess it'd work at least as well as George Bush's (Sr or Jr). But dammit--is our word as a nation good for nothing?

Drop taxes on "middle income earners" (If Canadians earn anywhere from $0 to $200,000, then isn't 'middle income' $100,000?), add a $2000-per-kid deduction, and increase the Goods and Services Tax credit. Okay--with what money? Harper has said he wants Canuck taxes down to US levels. That's going to cost--and based only on what I've looked at so far, he's got to find an extra couple of billion already--but there's more.

$1 bn a year to cities (is that 1 bn each or $2 million for fifty of 'em, or $200,000 for five hundred?). Of course if Paul Martin lived up to his promise on gas taxes, this'd be unnecessary.

Co-operate on US "missile defence". No, no, no. It doesn't work, it isn't sensible, it's expensive. . . God, how wrong and foolish can you get? Tighten the special relationship with the US. Like it could get much tighter: The FBI operates offices in our cities, their customs officers make up laws arbitrarily and we say nothing. . .No, Mister Harper, no.

$7 bn to the Canadian Forces. Finally something I'm up for. . . but again--how to pay for it?

Their platform is well-defined, and contains little gems on marriage, defence, and agriculture (spell that t-r-a-d-e p-r-o-t-e-c-t-i-o-n-i-s-m) that convince me that I'd rather just vote for the boring old Liberal party.

The Liberals? Well we've had 'em the last ten years, and they did at least as good a job as Mulroney--so perhaps we oughta just stick with them? I won't discuss their platform as I'm tired and want to go to bed.

Strategic voting: No-one has a platform that even resembles what I want in this country, so I have to consider where my vote's gonna go.

The NDP won't get in--but a Liberal/NDP coalition might be able to push a Conservative minority government around a bit.

The Christian Heritage and Greens are just too far out in left (and right) field(s) for me.

The NDP is as close to what I want as anything else, but not quite enough--plus their lack of accounting for the money for their plans bothers me.

The Conservatives? Yuck.

The Liberals? Hmmmmm.

Guess we'll all see how tomorrow turns out.

Good luck and smart voting (ie anyone but the Conservatives).

Aaaah! This explains a lot!

22 June 2004

It's Not Easy, Being Green

I went to an all-candidates meeting last night, something you should have done. It was interesting and informative, with a few little surprises. I won't bore you with a blow-by-blow reconstruction, just with the highlights.

(I was wrong by the way--they did invite ALL candidates, not just the big three. An easy mistake to make considering the Greens, with candidates in every single riding in Canada, were excluded from the televised debate. They aren't listed on the Globe and Mail's page of party platforms either--even though the Bloc Quebecois, who aren't running outside Quebec, are .)

The theatre is air-conditioned, thank god. Cos it's a stinking hot evening.

First: The people. From left to right (no you can't see them): Jack Hummelman of the Christian Heritage Party. Looking a bit put-upon, as though he knows he isn't going to be taken seriously. He wears a beige suit, brown shoes. The youngest male of four on the stage, he makes it through the entire evening without once using the word "Bible" and employing the word "Biblical" only once. One gets the feeling he's not telling it like it is, that he's keeping his main points carefully under wraps.

He makes a couple of references to abortion being a bad thing, mentions his own six children, and the fact that he purchased old Firehall #3. He has six kids AND owns a heritage building (which he wants to use as a constituancy office if elected)? The SO comments that he must be rich--pretty good for a window salesman.

But insufficiently transparent. The CHP Web site is scathing about gay rights and marriage, and proclaims loudly that Canada is going to hell (metaphorically--or maybe not) in a handcart (an as-yet-unproven assumption).

This man is urbane and mildly uncomfortable onstage to the point of being bland. He says very little about what his party believes, and nothing at all about what they will do if elected. Worrying, that.

This, plus his diffident manner cause me to believe (and hope) that he's not quitting his day job.

Online, Hummelman is a non-presence. Googling his name generated only five hits, two of which don't work (seeming to relate to a city bid of some sort--purchse of a fire hall?) and three of which are straight news about the election candidates.

Now here's a great nickname: "Firehall Jack"--oooh!

I note from the Burnaby Now that the meeting in Coquitlam drew over 200 people. Ours got approximately fifty. Possibly because my town is sliced into three ridings.

Next from left(onstage, not politically): Dave Haggard, Liberal Party.

Haggard's name resonates with IWA members. He was union president for quite some time. Nowhere is the division between the federal and provincial liberals more visible.

He is obviously unused to working small rooms--his opening and closing remarks, delivered waaay too close to the mike, are deafening. But he's big and burly--teddy-bearish and comfortable. I'd definitely buy a used car from him. Maybe it's the fact that his shirtsleeves are blue--he and the Conservative are the only males not wearing jackets--symbolic, maybe? He has a salt-and-pepper goatee and is of all the candidates the most polished. He's generally upbeat, just hangin' out.

Unlike most of his colleagues, he's more specific about what his government (the national incumbent) wants to do. But like most of them he seems vague on the specifics of how it's to get done. But he has a more polished delivery than the CHP and Green candidates, and a friendlier manner than:

Paul Forseth, Conservative Party of Canada.

Forseth sits glowering in his chair. The SO later says "I felt like he was saying 'It's not worth my time'".

Indeed, upon first meeting, all the other candidates sit comfortably posed, except the Green party rep, who has the air of a kid doing show-and-tell and who likely would have been more comfortable in slacks on the raised stage. Forseth's arms are aggressively crossed, and he seems to scowl out at the audience.

Forseth offers nothing positive. Every remark from his mouth is condmenation of the current government and he doesn't give an inch. At one point, responding to a statement from the NDP candidate he breaks his thin veneer of civility and sneers "Well you won't be forming the government"--implying that he will be.

He is unrelentingly unpleasant. I can't believe he's the incumbent and can only conclude that he's so confident of being re-elected that he figures he can say anything.

It's been a major flaw of the Conservative campaign this year that they speak little about their platform, except to offer Bushian/Campbellian tax cuts plus extra spending on Mum and apple pie, whilst excoriating their opponents. Personally I think that at the heart of this lies this problem.

The current Conservatives are primarily US-style neocons under the name of the more moderate Prograssive Conservatives of yore. They seem a sour, no-fun bunch. Their leader was an ex-preacher until the late merger, and since then the more moderate Tories have been jumping ship to get away from Harper.

But more on that later. My point is that Forseth looks and sounds as though he was force-fed a lemon--or possibly given a lye enema--shortly before coming onstage.

Again, he offers no promises--barely even refers to his party platform. And of all the people there, he's the one I most wanted to ask:

"Your party has promised $7 bn more defence spending, huge child tax credits, and a reduction in income taxes to US levels. How are you going to pay for all that?"

Personally, I think the Conservatives have come up with a terrific weapon that kills social programs but leaves MP pension plans standing. As I recall, the Canadian Reform/Alliance Party (sometimes known by the anachronym [yes, anachronym--a term of reference that's out of date] CRAP) once swore they'd eschew the MP pension plan, but decided upon election to parliament to keep it.

Next to Forseth sits the Green Party representative Carli Travers. She's clearly nervous. She's tall and thin, coiffed, and looks slightly unreal--reminds me vaguely of the movie "Clueless". She's a social work student at a local college, and looks as though she hasn't quite graduated high school.

When it's her turn to speak she reads from a piece of blue paper, reminding me of Speech Day at grade school. She's hesitant, and not as adept at ducking direct questions as the others are. The others are circuitous, but in a polished fashion that means they never quite answer the real question, mostly, but instead talk about something slightly related that they have a stock answer for--giving you nothing but sending you away feeling almost satisfied.

Carli's earnest and courageous, though, and manages to get a couple of good plugs in for her party platform. The thing I like most is her total lack of cynicism. Her eyes shine, and she's clearly excited to be here. I hope the corners never quite wear off. We need more like her in government.

The mostly-blue-haired crowd applauds perhaps a little more for her than anyone else--they clearly feel she's in for a crushing.

Last But Not Least,

No matter what Paul Forseth may think, is Jack--sorry--Steve McClurg {for some reason the morderator kept calling him "Jack" all the time, then apologising--there is definitely a real resemblance--could it be that JL is just a photoshop version of SM?}.

McClurg has real charm. He's relaxed, matter-of-fact, and has more presence than anyone save Haggard. In a brown suit he has the air of an elder statesman--and he is, on this stage. He seems to be the oldest one here. He greeted myself and the SO when we came in--the only one to do so.

He's pretty much as vague as the rest on specifics--he's another one I want to ask the money question of. The NDP seems to need about $80 bn to accomplish their promises. But I enjo his quiet style. The only time he seems to get heated is when the everyone-else-bashing Forseth states that Jack Layton has said he'll work with a Conservative minority government (which I can't help but feel might be a good thing, generally, for a few years). This seems unlikely to me, and McClurg strongly disputes this--Jack Layton himself has apparently denied it to him. I think Harper's been telling porky-pies lately to boost his image.

This is the Liberal perspective. I am suspicious.
This is another view.
And here's what most people seem to think he actually said--which is essentially nothing unexpected.

The candidates meeting has done little to change my initial choices. While I had considered going Green, I have to say that Travers' wobbliness didn't leave me with a favourable impression. But I still won't vote CHP, and definitely want to vote against the Conservative candidate, just 'cos he's a prick.

Theoretically, that leaves me with Haggard or McClurg, both of whom seem like nice enough people. But if their federal policies don't hold up I may have to go green anyway.

It's miserable: Apart from the Cons, no-one seems willing to support the Canadian Forces, a party platform plank devoutly to be wished.

  • Damn. Here's me bustin' my hump to help you decide how to vote, and these clowns go and steal my thunder! Unfortunately, I'm apparently supposed to vote for the BQ.

  • Sigh.

    More later. . .

    21 June 2004

    So That's It

    for the fringe outifts--although the fact that they have candidates out there, I suppose, means they each have some degree of support.

    One of the disadvantages of a proportional representation system is the idea that such parties might get a legitimate voice. PR is often reccomended as better representation from a braoder spectrum, but under certain circumstances it could be a tyranny of the minority-multiplied.

    Just imagine a hundred-seat parliament in which the governing party holds 30 seats, the opposition 20, and a rump of assorted parties hold the rest. That agglomeration of minority parties could stymie absolutely ANY legislation that came its way. Unlikely, perhaps, but it's what the Bloc Quebecois is praying for.

    Now let's examine some of the real contenders:

    In the position of Least Likely, the New Democratic Party. Led by Jack Layton and represented in my riding by Steve McLurg (who already labours under the disadvantage of having a name that sounds like a noisily-draining bathtub).

    What do the NDP want for Canada?

    (Quoted portions from the Toronto Globe and Mail of June 14th, and from the NDP Web site where possible) Note: This is the only site I've seen from a Canadian party that offers itself in Mandarin or Cantonese.

    1) In the matter of health care, they want to add $28 bn in funding over the next four years. Can't argue with that--save by adding the reforms I really desire (see my post of June 17th).

    2) The NDP would fight crime by fighting poverty. But to appease the law-and-order crowd they'd add tougher sentences, as well as parole conditions. Sounds a bit like giving with the left and taking with the right to me. But I like the first half. But how exactly are they going to "fight poverty"?

    3) Retrofit buildings for Kyoto and pollution compliance (and I'm certain the companies and people in the buildings will be grateful to pay for it too). Assemble a Crown Corporation for green jobs. Greenpeace loves the NDP (which makes me suspicious, generally). Invest in wind power--Never mind the fact that no-one wants it in their back yard, that we have several cheaper ways, that Canada has a massive surplus of hydro power as it is, and that in terms of efficiency you'd get about the same effect by installing solar panels in your basement. Yeah--that's exaggerated. But no-one has yet convinced me that what we need is more power. We need people to turn off their lights at night, use their air conditioners less, etc.

    Of course, since we need to move off fossil fuels too. . .Maybe investment in other energy sources could be a good idea. But I want it to be cheaper than hydro or gas ($7.65 per Gigajoule = 950,000 BTU = 278 KWh, thus 3¢/KWh) before I put my nickel in.

    4) Drop tax on income under $15K, add tax to inheritances over $1M, increase child tax benefit, drop corporate tax screens and freeze UI rates.

    Um. Okay--now how do you intend to keep the companies here? You'll have to be ve-e-ry cagey about keeping them in the coutry if you suddenly start taxing them more than previously. What purpose does freezing UI rates serve? And as for raising the child benefit--I could probably wait another couple years for that, being currently rugratless.

    That consumer link--I don't warrant the accuracy of its info, by the way. And the lady whose second link that is: Don't ever call me for a date, woman. You creep me entirely out the door.

    5) Debt: debate the use of funds for paying down our debt. Debt will shrink as economy prospers (clearly they're not planning for a recession of any sort). Push the Bank of Canada to adopt lower interest rates.

    Why encourage borrowing? Is this not a party that was severely concerned about individual consumer debt at one time?

    6)Family matters: Dump Goods and Services tax from "family essentials" (do condoms count? I mean, they're really a means of avoiding a family, right? How about Moon Pies?). Add 200,000 daycare spots (5.2bn), 2 national holidays, and intrduce pay-equity laws. Guarantee access to safe abortions (that's a "family" issue? See "condoms").

    Again, not especially germane to me--but do I think it'd be good for the country? Aye, there's the rub.

    I notice that thus far they don't mention their stance on things like labour. In fact, the Web site is particularly uninformative. There is NO platform page.

    7) Give about 2bn per year to cities, build affordable housing, subsidise mortgages for the poor.

    8) Increase foreign aid to 0.7% GDP by 2015 (their first mandate will expire in 2009). Finally something I wholeheartedly agree with. But to whom should it go? I'd skip China (which seems to have enough money to put a man into space but takes huge amounts of aid) and many of the South American Nations, such as any having to do with Hugo Chavez. Instead, we should concentrate on the well-governed nations that exist in sub-Saharan Africa: Nigeria and Kenya to name two stable-but-poor states.

    Triple our contributions to the global AIDS fund. Okay.

    Cancel poor-nation debt--Fine, but which nations? Argentina, which has been playing brinkmanship games with the IMF for many years, is not incapable of paying--merely reluctant to do so. They don't deserve forgiving (but that cruel IMF does so every bloody year!). Myself, I would have cut the cord long since.

    9) Renegotiate NAFTA. The Web site says they want to "protect Canadian jobs". I'm all for that. In order to do that, the best thing to do is to fast-track all tariff disputes. But there's no mention of what the NDP wish to acheive by the renegotiations, and they're not very NAFTA-supportive. Do you negotiate when you want to scrap something?

    Ditch missile defence. Okay.
    Rescind the agreement allowing US soldiers to come into Canada in the event of an emergency here. Okay too.

    10) Defence: My private hobby-horse. "Support safe helicopters"--uh. Yeah. I do too. But being in favour of them is a far cry from actually buying some. No other defence committment, not to equipment, not to our troopies. Oh, wait: require parliamentary approval to send troops overseas. Yeah, why not get something nearly no other nation on earth has. While parliament debates it, the troops just have to get ready for a deployment, then spend the nerve-wrenching hours waiting to see if they get to go or not. Believe me, the waiting's bad for morale too.

    11) Education: Set up more grants. Cut tuition fees--And we've all seen how well that works out in the long run. The NDP governemnt in every province cut tuition during their last reigns. Last year most tuition fees went up by about 10% to catch up with their arrested development. Over the past few years, subsequent governments have had to jack tuition over 30% in many provinces.

    End privatisation of research--how? if companies aren't motivated to fund reasearch directly here, they'll do it elsewhere. Instead, why not rely on scientific integrity to create scrutiny from both one's peers and one's fellow citizens.

    Credit student loans interest against student income tax. I like it! Although, why not just create an interest-free loan structure? Better yet, how about this structure:

    First year of post-secondary education--paid in full by governent of Canada.

    Second year of PSE-- top fifty percent of all students get this year paid for. Remainder pay their own or by student loans with a reasonable rate of interest.

    Third year: Again, the top fifty percent don't pay, the bottom do.

    Fourth year: Now you're paying for 1/8th of the total number of students. Many have stayed in, some have dropped out.

    A system like this would stop people wasting that free first year and add incentive to focus and get a degree.

    But that's MY party platform.

    12) Farms: Subsidize "family farms" until US subsidies are cut (ie. until tomorrow--and we all know when that comes). Ban "animal-to-animal" feed.

    I'm actually not terribly opposed. I loathe the farm subsidies of this country (although unlike the US we don't actually pay people to grow weeds).

    Lessee--so humans wouldn't eat pigs, dog food would have to be vegetarian, and eagles' beaks would be wired shut to stop them snacking on fish? I approve, in principle. Besides, it might be fun.

    POLITICS, n.
    A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

    Ambrose Bierce: "The Devil's Dictionary"

    13) Businesses: Small businesses would get "fairer taxes" and better financing. Seeing as a small business goes under about every ten minutes, why not wait until such a business has been around awhile? The NDP wishes to create tax incentives to produce fuel efficient cars and add "mandatory emission controls for car manufacturers".

    So they want to give us things we have already? Hell, the main reason to produce fuel efficient cars is so that people can buy them--apart from the morons who drive H2's. But if even gas pigs like this are getting on the bandwagon, can the death of the 10-cylinder exhaust hog be far behind? Oh please, oh please, please!

    14) At last! Something I devoutly desire: Abolish the friggin' senate! Hallelujah! Referendum on proportionate representation--NO! You absolutely never trust really important questions to referenda. To quote George Carlin: "Just think how stupid the average person is; then realise that half of 'em are stupider than that."

    Lower voting age to 16. Well why not? And by the same token, for God's sake WHY? At 16, I suspect most people aren't fit to vote. I'd rather see the driving age raised to 18, myself--and the drinking age dropped to 16.

    An independant ethics commissioner: Now here's a brave step--give the people something the LAST bunch promised. The current Ethics Commissioner, hired to bring closure to the Grand-Méré scandal, reports to the Prime Minister. Who was the subject of the Grand-Méré scandal.

    15) Increase accountability for expense accounts (I presume they mean parliamentary ones), tough conflict-of-interest guidelines.

    This speaks to the steamship scandal faced by our current PM. I mean come on--most members can see conflict-of-interest long before they decide to engage in it! As for expense accounts--have you not heard that ye should not bind the mouths of the kine who tread the grain?

    Oh--and they want to ban the sale of rifles and automatic weapons.
    While I'm all in favour of gun control, I don't see this as helpful. Most firearms deaths in Canada, I suspect, are by unregistered and unlawfully owned handguns, rather than hunting rifles. And assault weapons are only available to collectors anyway.

    The main problem is, Jack, you haven't yet told us where the money's coming from. At my estimate you need over $50bn to do all this. You'll never get even the $28,000,000,000 for health care.

    You want to add a tax to inheritances over $1 million--a mere 900,000 citizens. Aside from the possibillity and hope that I may one day have to pay such a tax, there's the fact that in affects only about 3% of all Canadians. That's not enough to offset the revenue you'll lose in the first year.

    I might vote for you strictly on your promise to wipe out the senate, though. . .

    Remember, you promised!

    Next: Swing Right, Sweet Chariot

    Big All-Candidates Meeting Tonight

    Which seems to include only three out of five candidates in my riding. Still, I suppose it sounds better than "2/3 majority of the candidates meeting".

    Today I'd like to get on with dismissing the Bloc Quebecois. They aren't running in my riding, and I wouldn't vote for them if they were, but they are a significant federal political force, and I feel it's only right to mock them democratically.

    The deepest irony of the BQ is that if they ever had a sufficient majority to form a federal government, they would immediately have to hand over the reins of power, as they would near-immediately become foreign citizens.

    The BQ wants:

    1) To get more money into the provinces via transfer payments--without inconvenient strings like a national government auditors actually telling you that it's taxpayer money and has to be spent the way they say.

    Personally, I think that allowing Quebec to separate is not neccesarily a bad idea--think of the money we'd save on transfer payments (for non-Canadians, this is how federalist republics ensure that squeaky wheels get greased).

    2) To "implement Kyoto (accords) so that it's fair to Quebec". As opposed to everywhere else.

    3) Ensure that federal Young Offenders laws no longer apply to Quebec.

    4) "Monitor use of public funds, denounce abuse and fraud". Like oversized no-strings-attached transfer payments, perhaps? or incredible numbers of federal contracts issued to a single province? Or wasting money on painting most signs in the country in two languages?

    Why, by the way, do we do this with such universal geometric signs as "stop/arrét", "cedez/yeild" etc? Surely most people can fathom what a red octangle means, and if they are either so foreign or so stupid that they can't, are extra instructions going to help or confuse?

    Quebec's hefty generosities to Quebecers, such as the Baby Bonus (now discontinued), were made possible by the province consuming an inordinate share of taxpayer money. Bombardier would (should) have gone under ages ago but for the immense number of federal contracts awarded in Quebec.

    Whoa. Gross!

    5)Sovereignty for Quebec.

    I don't object to Quebec, nor to bilingualism. Hell, I grew up there. But the notion of separatism is laughable, the ultimate expression of having one's cake and eating it too.

    The recent referendum notwithstanding, most people in the province are well aware of the political reality. The narrow gap between "Oui" and "Non" camps was less a serious desire for separation than a vote to punish Ottawa.

    Certainly it's hard to imagine how real separation could be acheived, short of incorporating oneself into a different federation of states. How would Canada be paid for its infrastructure and investments from 1800 or so until now?

    The province, its populace and leaders, know that they're better off as they are. The Bloc Quebecois will hopefully lose seats and fall from Official Opposition status this year. But in the meantime, they provide a good way to send otherwise un-useful idiots out of Quebec to Ottawa.

    6)Any extra money in Ottawa should be distributed to "the province(s)" for health and education, rather than say, addressing debt.

    7) Increase social housing funding to $2 bn per year, administered from oh I don't know--shall we say, Quebec?

    8)More money for families in a certain province which, safe to say, isn't Manitoba.

    9) More federal money for education in a province whose name escapes me at the moment.

    This party is its own raison d'etre, and I suppose that all parties are, really. But it's ludicrous to me that the "loyal" opposition has loyalty to nothing save itself. More realistic, perhaps, but saddening. Voting for these guys is wonderfully tantamount to relinquishing one's citizenship while demanding a bigger chunk of the benefits.

    It's tempting to wonder what the BQ would do if Canada separated from them (the party, that is).

    20 June 2004

    This Oughta Be A Short Post

    There is neither a Marijuana Party candidate nor a Bloc Quebecois one in my riding. I know that there's an MP MP-hopeful nearby. BQ, I doubt.

    Briefly, the federal MP in Canada has as its platform a single issue. Everything else is viewed from that particular POV.

    The platform:

    1) Legalise cannabis

    2) Legalise cannabis

    3) Fix the parliamentary "representation defecit".
    Here they might have a point--many MP's skip parliament sessions altogether; doing lunch with lobbyists, counting their pension benefits, trying to weasel their way to a senate appointment or a governor-generalship.

    If half the members skip out, 25% just space on the date, and the rest nod off or go out for brownies, people might be allowed to do all manner of things unimpeded. This might be a good thing.

    Have a look at this!

    4)Defend the victims of marijuana persecution.
    This is not the sound of a governing party. A governing party would have already achieved objectives 1 & 2. Then after a general amnesty for soldiers of the "war on drugs" they'd have no-one to defend. Or do they mean people persecuted for NOT smoking marijuana?

    5) "Pressure" the rest of the world into legalising pot.
    Yeah. Canada. "Pressure". An oxymoron if ever I heard one. Sort of like "comapssionate conservatism".

    I once read that the fundamental difference between an American (a US dweller) and a Canadian (a North American dwelling in Canada) is that if you kick him in the shins, the American will produce a gun from somewhere about his person and blow your head off. Under the same assault the Canadian will move off the side and wait for your leg to fall off.

    6) Offering immediate access to medical pot.
    We've pretty much already got access to all the pot we can handle--certainly enough to make me fall off my ass whenever I have the sniffles.

    So I can't say they aren't topical. I just wouldn't pick 'em myself.


    Off the Topic, Just for a Moment

    While researching the Christian Heritage Party I found references to Bill C-250, sometimes referred to as "the gag bill".

    The bill added the words "sexual orientation" to a piece of legislation that previously said you couldn't reccomend committing genocide against anyone based on race,creed, or colour.

    If you put "bill c-250" into Google, the five of the first seven sites are "Christian" sites basically expressing these sentiments.

    Are all Christians somehow compelled to be dour and bitter? What about that "Make a joyful noise" business? And why is this the third hit?

    This morning, the Archbishop of my occasional Church sent out a letter that essentially urged us to vote against the current government on the grounds that it had flouted morality by allowing stem-cell research, permitting Canadian women the choice of abortion, and promoting gay marriage.

    This is why I only attend about half the available Sundays. I'll never make a good Catholic again.

    1) Abortion is a lousy choice to have to make, and I'm sure most women would prefer not to choose it, much less use it as birth control. But better that a nine-week blob of parasitic tissue is excised than another kid grows up unwanted. I do have issues with abortion generally, but its availability isn't one of them.

    2) Embryonic stem cell research has the potential to extend lives, revolutionize the field of organ transplants, and alleviate huge measures of human suffering. Since the embryos used are usually no good for anything else and would be thrown out anyway, who's being harmed? Again--there are legitimate concerns about it--particularly the idea that someone might create an embryo specifically for this purpose. But the process itself isn't harming anyone.

    {Peter Quinn is a friend--somewhat out of touch nowadays--who had a quadruple bypass at something approaching age 45. Ask him about transplants sometime--you can do that, because he's still alive.}

    3) Gay marriage. Perhaps we should return to the times when a Native Indian required permission to marry a White person? Or a "Chinaman" needed to pay head tax? How is that different?

    Anyway--to get back to Bill C-250. All it does is add a ban on the specific promotion of murdering people for the specific reason of their sexuality--to a piece of law which is already in force for ethnicity etc.

    And regrettably appears to continue to be needed.

    "I used to be a Catholic--until I reached the age of reason."
    --George Carlin

    More on the election in a bit. . .

    19 June 2004

    It's Amazing What Can Happen While Your Attention Is Diverted Elsewhere.

    In my particular case, I became an uncle.

    Y'know, aside from fatherhood, achieving unclehood really gets you to start thinking--especially when it's your sister who used to play "house" with you when you were kids having the baby.

    You really start to think about what your role is in life, and what you owe from your parents and to your posterity.

    In my case, I believe that it will be my role to educate the little tyke on how to play sick from school (both her parents are high-powered professionals so it'll be fun to see who gets to stay home), how best to appreciate a fine cigar--or a cheap stogie, and which stores will sell beer to teenagers (seeing as the rules in her home country are illogical and oppressive).

  • On the same subject. Boy--musta been a boring week.

  • My god! It just hit me that my Canadian sister (born right here--well actually about three thousand miles east of here) and her Kiwi husband have managed to give birth to an American!

    (Why d'you think that company bought Kiwi? Perhaps it was just the icing on the cake?)

    Like the various Misses America throughout history, I "shall carry out my duties, aware at all times of the dignity of my high calling".

    But only if the brat refers to me (as stipulated in my Contract of Unclehood Acceptance) as "Your Uncleness" and presents me with a bowl of warm lentil stew and a new hat each Beavermas (new Canadian holiday, date to be determined).

    But Enough of This Gay Bunting--On with the Politics!

    Okay, so I was trying to help you decide who to vote for or against. Let's look at the possible options:

    Forseth, Paul--Conservative Party of Canada
    Haggard, Dave--Liberal Party of Canada
    Hummelman, Jack--Christian Heritage Party
    McClurg, Steve--New Democratic Party
    Travers, Carli--Green Party of Canada

    In my riding there are, unfortunately, no Rhino party candidates--indeed, in Canada, Rhinos are extinct. There is also no Marijuana Party candidate, but I want to address them--they've campainged for so long at the provincial level on a Federal issue that they should be examined. It'll also be interesting to see whether they sound any better than the classic parties in this race.

    I won't pay any attention to the individuals involved. Regardless of who they are or what I might feel about them I'm actually trying to get stuff accomplished in this country over the next five years, so I'm voting the party rather than the personality.

    Let's start with the true lunatic fringe: Mr. Jack Hummelman of the Christian Heritage Party (leader Ron Gray). Somehow--before I actually investigate their platform, I'm guessing theirs won't be the sort of Christianity practised by Mother Theresa. Probably more like that of GWB, or Betty Bowers.


    "The CHP is Canada's only pro-Life, pro-family federal political party, and the only federal party that endorses the principles of the Preamble to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Canadian Constitution: 'Canada was founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.'"

    With this first paragraph I already have problems:
  • I'm not especially "pro-life" though I can't say I'm especially anti-. Neither am I pro-death (especially my own). Certainly I don't think (since I can't get pregnant anyway) that I should be the one deciding what should happen to a parasitic group of cells occupying someone else's body. Would you like me to decide whether you're allowed to seek cancer treatment, too?

  • The principles etc etc of the Canadian Constitution.
    Our constitution is a johnny-come-lately slap-together piece of poetry. When the British North America Act ceased to apply and we became a truly independant nation, some whiners insisted that we needed to have a constitution that would guarantee us the freedom we already have as British subjects (the British Constitution is as yet unwritten--hence the near-feudalism of England in 2004).
    So in 1980 or so we got one, will we or nill we. Like monster cookies it contained as much of what everyone thought was good that could fit.
    It's only organizations like the CHP that make it necessary to keep having one, in my 'umble.

  • {By the way--we're not choosing a head of state here--she was chosen for us some time ago, and I'm dead glad we have her. She reminds me of my Mum, who would no doubt be doing a fine job were she in that job.}

  • . . .founded on principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law. . .
    Did anyone notice that two-for-one sneak? By binding the two nonrelated phrases, the speaker hopes to convey to the listener that the ideas "supremacy of God" and "rule of law" are inextricably interwined. Not so. In many countries governments are famously atheistic in attitude, yet many of these nations are not foundering in anarchy. On the other hand, it seems as though states whose religion comes first are to say the least probelematic in application of the rule of law.
    By the way--when you say "God", which particular deity do you mean? Jehovah of the Jews, Allah of the Muslims, or the Catholic, Protestant, Baptist. . .which?

  • I was raised Catholic--a much kinder and gentler religion than some--even if you include the Inquisition (the Crusades weren't really wars of religion--they were political with a light frosting of Jesus). My question then is: what sort of theology do these people espouse? Could I, a lapsed Catholic, get along with them (provided I ignore their bigger flaws)?

    Let's looka the site: They have a "vision for Canada".

    The first item seems to be demanding that we do away with the socialized medical system that separates us from the apes. It also uses the word "unnatural".

    They seem to want small governement, and fewer "regulations, commissions, tribunals and their 'target goals' and ‘quotas’" which "always interfere with the right of the people to attain happiness when those bodies abuse their power and try to engineer social change"

    Like writing a constitution? Oh--I forgot, that defends my right to freedom of religion. Yeah, we oughta get rid of that particular bit of social engineering.

    "Canada must always be prepared to defend her citizens' freedom — at any time, against all comers, however mighty; domestic or foreign; and to provide emergency aid to our citizens and others in times of natural disaster."

    So since we couldn't defend our multi-million-kilometres of borders even if we drafted every adult, child, and grandmother in the country, I assume you're talking tech. What tech have you that'll stop everyone?

    They claim that "During Canada’s first century, by the application of proven Biblical principles — which our Constitution asserts are supreme — Canadians built a society that made this richly-endowed land one of the most desirable places on earth to live; and if governments refrain from hindering adherence to those proven principles, we can do it again."

    The Canadian Constitution included "God" as a sop to people like this. And he gets real short billing. In fact, we only keep him in there to piss off Svend Robinson.

    By the way--are the CHP insinuating that Canada is no longer a desireable place to live? Until a couple of years ago we had the #1 standard of living in the world. And how exactly does our governement stop people from living by Biblical principles should they choose to do so?

    Oh. I see--you want to make me live by them.
    Uh, no?

    But what's most important about this page is that the great vision is somewhat blurred, fuzzy, lacking in detail. Nowhere does it say:

    What changes will be made in our government and social structure?
    How will such changes be made?
    Given that this party seems to place such faith in our Constitution, how do they propose to make these changes without infringing on the rights and freedoms guaranteed therin?

    Oh--and how can they support "rule of law" when what they really want to do is realign the wheels of the judiciary? Next they'll be calling for elected judges. Another article.

    I have lots of other questions, but aside from the above it basically boils down to this: As an ex-trucker, I couldn't possibly vote for the CHP. Too many bad memories.

    By the way, I'm not sure, but it looks like these people want to take the current winner-takes-all system which elects one MP per voting district and replace it with something that could conceivably give us two or three per. At an annual cost of some $200,000 plus, are they nuts?

    First Lunatic Fringe, Next: The Fringe Lunatique.

    18 June 2004

    But First, This Message

    Cats, as Bill Cosby once said, are not cool at all.

    One of the most revolting things about this animal is the manner by which it eliminates its waste. Specifically it excretes into a small box of sand. A human must then search through the rubble and sort out the nuggets for disposal. The human then must take the disgusting mess to a suitable receptacle (surprisingly, this includes the garbage can) and dispose of the waste.

    This seems inefficient, and the process and its progenitor would doubtless have died out in the long process of evolution, were it not for one thing: The gullibility of the human female.

    A friend recently gushingly described how a former cat once evaded the household for a year or so, returning (presumably after suitably exhausting the local supply of silly women who feed stray cats) almost a year later.

    The cat was greeted with gushing affection, food, and drink.

    I got drunk at a party and stayed out overnight a little while ago. . . Results were not consistent with anecdotal data.

  • "I've never understood why women love cats. They don't listen, they don't come in when you call, they like to stay out all night, come home and expect to be fed and stroked, then want to be left alone and sleep. In other words, every quality that women hate in a man, they love in a cat."

  • --Author unknown to me. Here are some other sentiments.

    Any single male who unabashedly admits to voluntarily living with a cat should be assumed to be a) Gay or b) Pathetic upon first encounter.

  • Whoa--this, unlike cats, is just cool!

  • But Back to Politics

    I listed a few things I want from my next government in the previous post. I didn't address these:

    Canada's relationship to the US. My take is simple. I want closer, better-honoured trade ties, continued but not expanded defence co-operation. This country has no business participating in a fictional, unworkable, and ominous "missle shield" (coming to a nation near us in 2002).

    Environment: We signed the damn Kyoto accord. Whether I support it per se or not, we must act in accordance with our promises. I think the science may be faulty, but I'll go along as long as one of the objectives is to reduce our dependance on oil.

    Parliamentary reform: I'd support Genghis Khan if he agreed to do away with the Senate. The sole useful thing this political vermiform appendix of a chamber has done was this report.

    Electoral reform: Personally I'd like mandatory voting, but it ain't gonna happen. So I'd settle for an (again Aussie-Style) approach: You choose candidates in accordance with your preference. This means that you pick someone you want to win, then order your second, third, etc. preferences. If no-one comes up with a simple majority, the candidate gets dumped and the votes get passed to the people who were #2 choices on all that candidate's ballots.

    What this means is that morons who lose sight of the main objective can't create the sort of split in the vote that leads to somebody who normally wouldn't win well, winning. Think of the split among right-wing US-ians that allowed Clinton to win (and pray President Kerry turns out to be more like him than like the current Barney Fife of a cheif exec.).

    Highly unlikely--but I think I'll post my choices that way.

    Agriculture and industry: I want the government to ditch subsidies and open the markets to competition. Why should I pay a premium for imported foodstuffs and goods if the local producers simply can't compete? There are reasons to promote food crops in Canada--but simple failure to survive on the open market isn't one of them.

    And before you say something like "farming's part of our heritage" please bear in mind: So's the fur trade, so's christianity, so are Tim Horton's Doughnuts (and only one of those do I want in my life, most of the time).

    Our place in the world: Canada, as a first-world nation, has a responsibility to show the halt, lame, and backward a better way to go. We occupy roughly the same space on the mental desktop of the world as Norway. We need to extend our hand to Africa and the Middle East, especially in the matter of cheap anti-AIDS drugs, treatments for disease, encouraging international and regional trade.

    And HONESTY! Damn, damn, DAMN am I sick and tired of people telling me they'll do one thing and then doing several others--or sying stuff like "I won't put that to a vote" (at first). Two successive Governments have yakked about eliminating the GST. Then voters act surprised when it doesn't happen. Basically I want a politician who doesn't speak like one. Like Doug Henning was, maybe.

    But WHERE, o lord, WHERE to find such a person and party?

    Watch closely. Or from Farley away. Bugger..

    17 June 2004

    The Mugs, the Lugs, and the Plugs

    When we last left our hero, you were trying to decide who to vote for on June 28th--a date you have doubtless circled in red on your calendar.

    First, as a motivational exercise, I invite you to consider the phrase t'as gaspillé ta vote. In my particularly bastardized French this means "you wasted your vote". It's a concept I find holds less water in Western Canada.

    The theory is that if you vote and your choice gets no voice in parliament, then why bother? For example consider the situation in BC, where three opposition representatives are shouted down by the over-one-hundred Liberals. Given that no measure can ever be voted down if God--sorry, I mean this yutz stands against, what was the point of having voted for anyone else? What is it, by the bye, about the West Coast that we never get the great and crazy, but are continually saddled with the mean, small, and petty.

    Damn it--he should have gone out in a 100-mph-plus flaming car wreck--And he could have taken Fred Latrimo and Kathy with him and made those of us living under their area of radio activity somewhat happier listeners.

    {On the other hand, if you lived in oh, say, Florida right now you'd be dealing with a situation in which not only was there reasonable cause to doubt the recount, but solid evidence that the real winner got screwed; along with 250 million other Americans--especially the eight hundred whose photos aren't shown, whose names aren't mentioned anywhere except the comics page, and whose funerals George Bush Jr. has never attended.}

    But the idea that you shouldn't vote for any reason simply holds no water. Let's examine the main couple of arguments:

    1) I'm not going to vote because they're all ₤µ€λin' crooks and just as bad as one another.

    --Did you not notice the bit about Florida up there? Do you think President Gore would be waving his Cheney to the world just to avenge his daddy and keep his oil-industry friends and donors happy?

    Believe it or not, most people in politics got in with good intentions, at least (with the current noteable exceptions of George Jr, Dick Cheney, Donnie Rumsfeld, Karl Rove. . . uh. Forget I said anything.

    Yeah there are crooks in politics--and they'll be getting all their good and well-bribed friends to vote for them. So for the lova pete get off your collective and go vote!

    2) Why bother--I don't like any of the poltroons who are running anyway.

    At the worst--using your vote in favour of someone you dislike may prevent someone you loathe from gaining control. In my riding, we have a gentleman from the Christian Heritage Party. Why is it that parties with "heritage" in the name always sound as though they're itching to throw on the old brown shoes?--sorry, I meant old brownshirts. In any case, I ain't votin' for 'im.

    3) I don't know enough about the issues--how can I vote if I'm not informed?

    Oh come on! Read for the love of mike! There are people like me slaving over a hot keyboard to bring you solid info on who to vote for--hell, I'll even offer you links to the pages of the respective parties. I bet you can narrow down your choices by reading the first page of each party in your riding and deciding what you want to have happen in this country for the next ten years--that being roughly how long we can expect the next elected party to govern.

    4) Oh--I forgot to register.

    Shaking head in bemusement, No prob. Just check in here to see how to overcome that particular hurdle.

    Okay. Have I overcome all your whiny-ass objections to actually removing your ass from the barcalounger and schlepping it all the way to the polling station?

    Okay. On with the show.

    Strategic Voting for Dummies

    So first you should have some idea of your own positions on various issues before going out to assess the positions of the various wonks and wonkettes.

    If you have slightly greater world-awareness than an oyster, you'll have gained the impression that a few things are pressing matters (known as "issues") are becoming important--in some cases despite the desperate wishes of the candidates, witness this. And this. And this.

    Uh--is it worrying that while I found lots of smear on Paul Martin at, I found nothing when I searched either "stephen harper AND gay (rights OR marriage)" nor again when I tried "stephen harper and abortion"--a procedure about which the man is known to have strong feelings?

    There are a few things I want to see in the Canada of 2004-2009:

    1) Quit the whining. Legalize gay marriage now! It's disgraceful that a minority that causes no harm to the population at large is deprived of a basic equality before the law simply because a self-selected group of "the elect" decided that they aren't equal in the sight of God.

    2) Quit the stalling--decriminalize marijuana! Why are we wasting precious resources fighting a drug that the majority of the population has sampled, and a significant proportion of adults use recreationally? Prohibition doesn't work, so let's, while we're about it, see a unified and progressive move on safe heroin programmes.

    3) I want free trade both expanded and enforced. Free trade is good for the parties who agree to it (otherwise why are nations all over the world scrambling for deals with one another?). What I want changed is the grindingly slow dispute mechanism.

    Canada's main gain from the old Free Trade Agreement was a recognized forum to which it could complain when the US went against agreed practices and agreements. Now we need to develop a fast-track dispute resolution. This came about too late for too many mills in BC. And this after some mills in Ontario had already closed.

    4) I want a committment to health care. I'd prefer the full "one-size fits all" "single-tier" system. But why not allow some private clinics? As it stands, people go cross-border shopping for hip replacements in order to dodge the wait list (although I have yet to encounter anyone who had essential surgery postponed, and Canada is at the forefront of the technology). So why not keep those hard-earned dollars in Canada and plough the taxes back into the public health system?

    Unfortunately, what I want to see is unlikely to happen:
  • I want a shift to a HEALTH system--not a sick-care system. I want doctors enabled to say "Well Bud, unless you quit smoking, get off your fat ass and run a mile a day, and knock off the ding-dongs, you may as well not book another appointment".

  • I'd like to see a public health triage clinic in every municipality. They'd be staffed by nurses, supervised by one or two doctors, and open twelve hours per day. A nurse and/or paramedic and/or doctor would sleep at the clinic in rotation for emergencies--sorta like a little hospital.

    {While we're at it, can we come up with a way of qualifying immigrants with degrees? That way we might alleviate some of the tremendous doctor shortage.}

    But they wouldn't treat emergencies--real emergencies would be forwarded to a true emergency department as fast as the gurney could roll--and there'd be no wait for a bed.

    On the other hand, when Momma dragged little Jimmy in with the sniffles again, the doctor would be empowered to say "No, Mrs. Smith. There is no cure for his condition. He has a cold. It will not repsond to antibiotics, it will not respond to echinacea. It will go away after time and rest. Go home, feed him chicken soup."

  • 5) I want my government to be dedicated to education--but not committed to holding fees artificially low. As a college student recently graduated, this will surely earn me some brickbats from the "education-is-a-right" sector. Yes, it is. So's food. The government does not provide food. It provides money if necessary, so that you can participate in the food economy, but you are expected to get the food yourself.

    I took student loans, even though I was under a hefty loan from the Bank of Mum and Dad. My parents believe in education in a big way. Part of the loans were forgiven as grants--saving me about six thousand dollars on my two year program. And yes, I'm aware not everyone's parents can afford to extend such a loan. But I believe that anyone who wants an education in Canada can afford one, and will make the neccessary sacrifices and effort to obtain one.

    In fact, I'd rather that the student loans became more generous, but the tuition increased to a fair market value. If public limits on charging for education are so great, why are Oxford and Cambridge crumbling while Stanford, Harvard and Yale (despite the emergence of one of its alumni as a typical frat-rat moron) are rolling in loot?

    I also want a 365-day school year for elementary and high schools, such as they have in Australia, with a break of three to six weeks over both summer and winter. There also needs to be a recommittment in this country to the belief that the three R's are too limiting. Students, it is rapidly becoming evident, need art and music, and phys ed, especially phys ed (see above).

    6) And oh my god do I want to see increased military spending; on both the equipment and the people. I have watched successive governments pile on the UN and overseas duty taskings in the name of public image while stripping the guts out of the Forces' budget. I am tired of living in a first-rate nation with a 115th-rate military.

    We can do better for the people who put their asses on the line for our image overseas. I'm thinking of my buddy Sean, at Possum Lodge in Haiti. My ex-roomie and co-worker John in Gagetown. Gooch--who died in hospital in Ottawa when no-one would listen to him anymore, CJ Singh, who died of an aneurysm, Marc from Bosnia, and all the others; the ones who gave their lives, happiness, and health in the service of their countries--("and as I am an honest Puck" sometimes in stupidity too).

    And as I am Canadian--I want to know where all the money's going to come from to do all this shit--and I'll take any three of the above over a tax cut ('specially at my current income level).

    That's about it for my wish list. Soon: But who will do all this for me?

  • A man to read about.

  • The Middleman

  • I'm fascinated by Canada's flexibly bilingual culture of debate.

  • 16 June 2004

    It's Silly Season Again

    I just bought a new car, so I'm inured against schills, hucksters, hugger-muggers and matchstick men.

    In the late sixties, people were asked: "Would you buy a used car from this man?" And many did.

    The question facing Canadians at the moment is:

    "Would you buy the same old partially-recycled load of turnips from:

  • This man?

  • This man?

  • This man?

  • Çe gar-çi?

  • This man?

  • or this, man?

  • It's intersting to note that while the Green Party leader is complaining he's been squeezed out of the leader debates (a nasty and prejudicial oversight on behalf of the organizers), he also doesn't seem to be getting the word out. Jim Harris' picture was not found by Google's image search.

    The question really, is A) Who do I want to vote for? and B) Failing anyone persuading me that they're any bloody good, who do I want to vote against?

    My riding has candidates from the Conservative, Liberal, Green, New Democratic, and Christian Heritage parties. Interestingly, the electoral district next door has one of the few Communist Party candidates. He's from Hungary--you think he'd know better. . .

    We've had fifteen years of the liberals. In Canada, we usually switch governments after that long whether we need to or not. But I want, need to be fully informed.

    Why? Well so that I can actually vote for someone I think might do the country good! As opposed to the guy who promises me a lot of good stuff. I mean, one of those groups said they'd cut taxes to US levels (which actually means an increase for the top and bottom percentage of income earners, I suspect). They have yet to say what'll take the place of that money in our social programs such as welfare and medicare.

    Worse yet, this year has brought a shift on the political landscape. Canada, trailing the US by some eight years as we always do--witness the elections that put Reagan, then Mulroney, in charge, followed by the comparatively liberal Clinton and Chretien--is seeing the rush away from the middle again.

    Nowhere is this more evident than the union of the Alliance Party (formerly the Reform Party--but say it softly) with the broken remnants of the Conservative Party (once the Tories of Upper Canada). This has resulted in a party with a fairly benign name, trusted by millions of Canadians, but whose members include a significant concentration of fruitbats.

    So this year, more than ever, we need to know who it is we intend to put into power.

    Over the next couple of days, I am going to try to put together synopses of each party's major platform planks and give reasons to vote for them or against them. Hopefully this will make my own choice a little easier.

    I intend to address only the parties in my riding plus the Marijuana party. This is because my main complaint against the MarPar in BC has been that they're a Provincial party campaigning on a federal issue.

    Spoiling my ballot will not be an option. Although it's sometimes a legitimate choice, this isn't Zimbabwe, and someone's gotta take the leadership baton.

    Likewise, not voting at all is less than unacceptable; it's a goddamn shame, and if you're one of the 40% plus of Canadians who won't bother to pry your ass out of the la-z-boy this time, then kindly move to somewhere like oh,here, here or here, where your style of participation is valued.

    So I present to you this analysis of the major running parties as a public service, in order that you can take your shapely ass out the door fully armed with the knowledge that you can't be suckered into buying a used car from just anybody.

    Of course that's assuming that we are allowed a free vote--which is something even the free-est democracy on earth needs to be watchful for. For this sort of reason.

    Related reading: In light of the fantasy of free and fair elecions in the Protectorate of Iraq, this.

    In a couple of days: The mugs and the plugs.

    11 June 2004

    What is the Sound of One Hand Blogging and Other Filosophical Topics

    So what sort of a week have you been having?

    Oh fine. Be that way.

    This morning at whatever godawful hour I fell out of bed at, I decided to have a look around the Web for freelance writing jobs. Here's one of the pages I dug up. It's mostly US, which makes a lot of it fairly safe--isn't there some law against non-U.S.ians making U.S. dollars?

    Of course there are similar rules in most developed nations. The point that I was about to make, however, is that if you examine the jobs listed at that page, you'll mostly find that they fall into one of three categories:

  • Calls for punditry--particularly "conservative"

  • By which I think they mean something like this.

    (Mike Savage escapes charges of fascism by being too extreme, however his brother Dan is making up for it. Check out this selection from his book.)

  • Calls for un(der)paid work or "spec" work--witness the ad for film scripts.

  • This sounds seriously suspicious: "We'll pay $2000 for your film script if you like it." No other promises. You have to hand it over, let them read it (see also mining others' work for ideas), and then they'll get back to you?

    The rates I have observed at this page are pathetic. One outfit is asking for book review essays at $7 a page. Excuse me? for what I churn out darling, I might consider 6¢ US a word. At 250 words per page--a not unreasonable figure, double-spaced--that's $15.00 per sheet. On the subject, by-the-by, read this.

    The lowest rate from the find-a-writer section is 10¢ Canadian per word. Referring to the 250 words above, we're now talking $25 a page--or $15.00 US at today's exchange rate.

    So obviously this is a rather dodgy job board in the first place. Then we get to the third category of available employment.

  • "Academic writing" and "student writing" services.

  • There is a legitimate need for both writers and editors in the academic fields. Some Master's thesis writers, no matter how brilliant they may be in the field, simply can't write well, and they need help.

    But there's a distinction between that and the student who is advertising online for someone to write his papers for him. That's just ducking eveolution and promoting the stupid. I mean, if money were the sole deciding factor, we could end up with a moron as president of the US!


    What, twice?
    (Of this more later)

    Plagiarism, as we all know, is a mortal sin if you want, for example, to aspire to high public office in later life. Oh--except for provinces where the literacy level varies with the number of out-of-towners visiting relatives. Such as this one.

    Oh--You may not know what I'm talking about. Click here. If you're from that province get a passing foreigner to read it to you.

    {To those whose responses to that last were less than friendly. Kindly look up the definition of the word satire in your dictionary.


    Well forget it then. But you could stop in here for a hint or two.}

    Came across this while I was searching for plagiarism links. It's enough to make "a happy man slit his wrists on a fine spring morning" (Terry Pratchett). Could all these deranged people ask for a better forum for disturbing, self-absorbed, navel-gazing, masturbatory, flaggelistic self-and-other abuse than the 'net?

    Not that this crap means anything--I don't see any of these whiners saying: "From here on in I'm gonna change. I'm gonna be nice to small children, I'm gonna help old ladies across the street, I'm gonna volunteer two hours a week at a homeless shelter."

    This is shriving by public, anonymous confession,for those who can't afford to meaningfully out themselves on Oprah.

    I suppose I ought to be grateful that they've found an outlet and they're not killing puppies and kittens. But that might actually be a useful activity.

    By the way, with the current mood in the White house (and I mean white), there's a move on to have Reagan canonized. I agree. . .oh, sorry. I thought that meant to shoot him from a cannon.

    Reagan was not only no saint, he was a poltroon and a fraud. Hell, he made his living acting. There's little use in speaking ill of the dead, (Headline from The Onion: "Reagan's Body Dies") but for the love of pete why make a saint out of a man who was only loosely connected to the real world at his peak?

    Let me explain my loathing. Reagan looks good to neocons because he presided over the fall of the "evil empire"--the Soviet Union. Since most neocons (indeed, many actual people as well) would agree that the disintegration of the USSR was inevitable, why ascribe personal responsibility to RR? He just happened to be there when it happened. One might as well blame him for eclipses.

    His hard-ass attitude (relic of several cowboy B-movies too many) might have helped, might have hindered. But it was entirely irrelevant in comparison to socioeconomic factors within the USSR.

    (I had to link to this. I read it half-way before giving up. Fascinating, studious, historical discourse in ESL)

    He presided over a defecit that became a historic figure in its own right: He was the first world leader anywhere to claim that a trillion-US-dollar defecit was somehow legitimate. The US is apparently considering putting his face on the $10 bill--wouldn't an I.O.U. be more appropriate?

    He accomplished nothing, undermined civil rights and the EPA, and demonstrated his unfitness for the job he held by making statements that, among others, claimed he had personally liberated Nazi prison camps (he was in a movie about it once).

    Ronald Reagan was without a doubt charming. I wanted to find more positive qualities and I'm sure he had some. If nothing else it was impossible to fault his depth of blind faith in America, country of the right, and of the Right.

    But let's not pretend he's some kind of hero just because he died. okay?

    The main reason people are nostalgic for Ronald Reagan is that he makes the current US administration look good.

    On other matters: The SO has a nasty cold this week. She claims it's partly a legacy of shopping for a car.

    It's like this: Upon graduation, my mater and pater decided I'd saved them a great deal of money by taking a 2-year $30,000 (living expenses et al)college diploma at 30+, vice taking, in the case of sibling now known as 2-of-3, ten years to an MBA (at a cost of $125,000 US--which is about what she earns per year I think, so it certainly pays off). So they offered me a car.

    Initially, we were looking at used vehicles. But then my OM noticed an ad in the paper.

    You can buy (until June 30, 2004 at least) an '04 Pontiac Sunfire or Chevrolet Cavalier sedan for $11,998. As a recent graduate, I qualify for $1000 off. So we're at $11,000, roughly. The MSRP on this vehicle is $16,000 or so.

    Here in the land of the not-so-much-free-as-negotiable we pay 14.5% in sales taxes. That's another $1500 or so, so we're at $12,500. Add to that "documentation" (the price of having the dealer fill out the paperwork to permit you to buy a car from them) at $200+, the environmental levy of $20, and PDI ("Pre-dealer Inspection"--the alleged cost of putting $5 of gas in it and making sure there's a wheel on each corner) at around $100.

    In the used department, the $5000 I'd been contemplating would get me a domestic car around ten years old (the Malibu likely has something intriguingly wrong with it). Imports? Don't even think about it--you're talking a 1988 Hondaor so, at best.

    In used cars, I have found the best approach is to guesstimate upcoming repairs on all vehicles over a decade old as half the cost of the vehicle. This percentage (it's possible to work it out in numbers, but this is easy) is on a sliding scale.

    A $5000 car ten to fifteen years old will require $2500 or so in repairs to become like new mechanically (it'll still look like a gob of . . .). But a 5-year-old $100 car will require about twenty times its value, and a 20-year old $5000 car is probably in good shape, so there are exceptions.

    But assuming I did my homework, read recall notices, and subjected two or three cars-of-my-choice to mechanical inspection, there was a good chance I could get into a solid deal 1990 Honda for about $6000 plus fees taxes etc.

    So why? Why spend $6000 on an older car with a lifespan limited by how the four previous owners have treated it? When for just over twice that (cash price--no financing allowed) I can get a car which'll have a warranty on it for 3 to 5 years, roadside assistance, and all sorts of other goodies.

    To try and justify buying used (I can do my own maintenance on older vehicles) I tried to check the price of a tune-up on a hypothetical Ford Focus.

    I called a local garage and asked: :What do you charge on for a tune-up on a Focus?"

    The garagiste replied, sounding nonplussed: "Uh. What year?"

    Grabbing a figure out of the air I said "2000".

    "Oh" he replied "it shouldn't need a tune-up yet".

    So I started searching.

    Let me save you some time: Here's my ranking of vehicles based on the following principles.

    1) I don't need an SUV. I have no penis size issues.
    2) I don't need a sports car, see above.
    3) I want a car that will leave bank accounts standing.

    This quickly boils down to "econo/small/midsized car".

    I started with a list of approximately a dozen cars. Most were dimissed for price, and that's where I lost all the imports but two. After dropping the Dodge SX 2.0 for price and the Neon for quality (see Lemon-aid--and while you're there note the "best buys", which include the Cavalier/Sunfire and Focus both)I was left with:

    5) Toyota Echo: A bit pricey for me, but compact, handled well, and is a gas miser. Hatchback or sedan okay.

    4) Chevy Aveo: Basically the bowtie competition to the Echo, see above.

    3) Chevy Cavalier/Pontiac Sunfire: Plain-jane sedan, solid, with a good reputation now that the imploding head gasket thing's been sorted out. 2004 is the last production year, so they're selling cheap and will only get cheaper. Note: Crash impact safety ratings are so-so, if you're more concerned about surviving accidents than staying out of them in the first place.

    2) Hyundai Accent: Good repute again, cheap cheap cheap, and the best warranty in the car business. Now reccomended by Click and Clack since Subaru decided to sell out and screw EPA standards.

    1) Ford Focus: Seriously solid car with great ratings all around--unfortunately the only single-cam vehicle in the bunch, and fuel economy a bit worse than that of the other cars in this selection. But a great performer, high on consumer satisfaction ratings, and it's neither the first nor last model year.

    The Echo fell out early, mostly on price and interior room. The tinyosity of the hatchback is simply silly. The Aveo lost us almost from the time the salesman claimed that "the drive train is identical" to the Echo while simultaneously telling me it was dual-overhead-cam and the Echo was single overhead. In the end, price and seating room kept us away.

    By the way: A big selling point for the Aveo has been the claim of "more leg room than the Echo". The difference is 4 millimetres (less than 1/5 of an inch). But you have to admire the chutzpah.

    The SO simply claims to hate the Cavalier/Sunfire for its--and I quote: "extruded-out-of-a-cat's-ass" good looks. SO also claims that the driver can't see the rear of the vehicle while backing (a feature I thought was common to most cars). She has a point though--the front end curves downward and "peaks" over the driver's horizon, making distances tough to judge for newcomers. Personally I think the SO's issue is more to do with confidence, but I like her, so I listened (after repeated inquiries and bagdering).

    The Hyundai came in at #2. We didn't test-drive the 4-door sedan, as I'd hoped, but an "ice-blue" 3-door hatchback. The price though, was a bit high, and personally I dislike 2-door vehicles. In the end, it came down to:

    The Ford Focus: a nice ride, plain and comfortable, and they matched the Chev dealer. My total came to just under $13,000. On a unit with a supposed MSRP of $16K plus before fees and taxes I feel it's a decent deal.

    Certainly better than this. Click the "Build Your Own" link to see the MSRP.

    Gotta go. Nice seeing you again, though.

    Damn! I love this link. The Trabant is a 2-cylinder pollution-belcher that helped colour the skies of East Germany black during the Cold War era. But they're cute cars, much like the Metropolitan (see "Hoosier Mets" at right).

    Here's a scary piece of nostalgia. Why is it that when a compact car designed to be affordable in the forties-to-sixties resurfaces as a nostalgia piece it always carries a ludicrous price tag? Witness the "Mini" (actually a "hell of a lot bigger"--but that wouldn't fit on the fender) and Beetle (see "pricing").