Monday, January 31, 2005

London is Crumbling Down

The citizens speak out! Yet another submission to our London 150 Celebratory Song Contest! Have a listen to "London is Crumbling Down" by the Diplomats.

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Sunday, January 30, 2005

You're all fired

Political Staples, on a CBC hit piece on their future rival.

I hope a Fox News producer figures out that occasional on air segments exposing and fisking CBC News would make great TV for Fox's Canadian lineup.

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Saturday, January 29, 2005

If that's your opposition, what else can you expect

Hat tip: Raskolnikov:


The advertisements feature the faces of liberal Hollywood icons Michael Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Ben Affleck, Martin Sheen, Chevy Chase, Barbara Streisand, and Sean Penn, and offer thanks to Hollywood their help getting President Bush reelected.

Two versions of the billboard were created, both "thanking" Hollywood -- the first for "4 more years" and the second for "W. Still President."

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"...there's no right to indulge in tobacco"

The Witch Hunt Continues...truly this could have been an example from a Thomas Szasz book.

The elders have it all figured out - humans left to their own resources cannot be trusted to act in their own best interest, so let the same said ignorant populace decide who is to preside over their governance. The vassals cannot be trusted, but their 'free' vote on the ballot hypocritically justifies the tyrannical elect.

Drown the smokers, ....... yes, smoking lots of cigarettes is bad for your health, and we all know it and thus those that indulge do so at their own peril.

Or do they? Let us consider:

Perhaps smokers are addicted and not in control of themselves? Not quite: they are 'addicts' of a slightly different sort according to the looters - they are a danger not only to themselves, but especially a danger to society. Bring in collective health care and responsibility and soon enough all public employees will be forced to undergo testing. I hope you aren't listening right now Slitherman.

Weyco is within their rights to set the terms of employment as they please, although I trust a free market economy would rather quickly expose the errors of such Orwellian assertions and practices - reap what you sow non-producers.

Health Care Company That Fired Smokers Also Targeting Fat
Weyers Won't Fire Employees For Obesity

January 27, 2005

A Michigan health care company that fired four employees for smoking is also targeting fat.

Howard Weyers, the founder of Weyco Inc., said he wants to tell fat workers to lose weight or else, Reuters reported.

Weyers brought in weight experts to speak with employees, according to Reuters. The company also offers employees a $35 monthly incentive for joining a health club and $65 for meeting fitness goals.

But the company isn't planning to fire employees for unhealthy lifestyle choices, according to a Weyco news release.
Ummm, okay, but you just fired four people for "unhealthy lifestyle choices" - but smokers have 'special status' within your company it seems:
"Anyone concerned about limiting employers' rights to specify terms of employment should know that federal law protects people with conditions like obesity, alcoholism and AIDS. But there's no right to indulge in tobacco," the news release said.
Obesity and Alcoholism are a rather different 'condition' than AIDS. Please explain, on the basis of your premises, why obese employees are given incentives to improve their lifestyle choices, but smokers are just turfed. Discrimination perhaps?
Four Weyco employees were fired after the company enacted a new policy this month, allowing workers to be fired if they smoke, even if the smoking takes place after hours or at home.

The four employees were fired for refusing to take a test to determine whether they smoke. Weyers said the company doesn't want to pay the higher health care costs associated with smoking.
Why wouldn't the company just raise the insurance premiums for smokers. No wonder these employees refused to take the test - damned if you do, damned if you don't.
An official of the company -- which administers health benefits -- estimated that 18 to 20 of its 200 employees were smokers when the policy was first announced in 2003. As many as 14 of them quit smoking before the policy went into effect.

The company's Web site states:

Weyco Inc. is a non-smoking company that strongly supports its employees in living healthy lifestyles.
Nothing but pure, young and healthy Aryans for Weyco.

But they are only looking out for the best interests of society of course:
"Weyco is proud of its stance on smoking and wellness," says Weyers. "For every smoker who quits because of it, there will be many people -- family members, friends, co-workers -- who are very thankful the person won't be going to an early grave."
Don't you all appreciate such loving control?

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No value judgments here, just "loving control"

A while back I pointed out the rather biased definition and example used by hyperdictionary for the word 'effected'.

Since that post, I have discovered a few others. If you can ignore the spelling mistakes, and google ads, try typing in 'smoke screen', 'lies', 'cigarettes', 'nicotine' and 'health'. While at first it might seem comforting to see Al Franken come up for 'lies', we find that it is merely an ad for one of his books. My favourite definition today is the one for health:

Definition:

1. [n] the general condition of body and mind; "his delicate health"; "in poor health"
2. [n] a healthy state of wellbeing free from disease; "physicians should be held responsible for the health of their patients".
On that note, don't forget to have a look at Drug Test Your Teen, a website pointed out to me a while back by Basil and today found through a google ad posted on hyperdictionary.
The prospect that your child could be using drugs is one of the scariest things imaginable. None of us ever wants to believe that it could be "our child". I know because I have been there.

My teen daughters and I have found one way for parents to take loving control. We offer several inexpensive, accurate, FDA-cleared drug, alcohol, and tobacco tests that are easy to use in the privacy of your own home. Whether you are trying to prevent drug use, discover possible drug use, stop current use, or just be reassured that a teen is on the right road, home testing will help. Our hearts ache for the parents that discover drug use, but knowing the truth is the first step to a solution.

Let your teens know that you love them too much to let them be involved with drugs, and you will use any tool available to keep them away from drugs, including drug testing in your home. So many parents simply haven't thought to drug test their kids at home, even though testing is a very effective means of preventing teen drug use, especially by giving kids a great "excuse" to say,"NO THANKS, MY PARENTS TEST ME".
Next time you are tempted to smoke a cigarette, or eat a big mac, say no thanks: my employers test me.

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"It's annoying when people keep bringing this up,"

No conflict of interest here:

Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell says he'll vote, not abstain, when council decides how much taxpayers subsidize new shopping districts, even though one of his clients, a developer, could have as much as $613,000 hanging in the balance. Gosnell says he had no conflict of interest because all commercial developers, not just his client, could be hurt by a London city hall proposal to hike charges developers pay to cover more of the cost of roads, sewers and water lines.

His participation is no different than that of a councillor who owns a home voting to set property taxes, he said.

"I have a house but that doesn't mean I shouldn't talk about tax increases," he said.
On the basis of such reasoning, no councillor should vote on anything, as council would be involved in a conflict of interest on virtually every issue. If such arguments lead to the dissolution of council, then I will happily celebrate London's 150th.

As it stands though, Gosnell will be one of the only homeowners in London who can afford to go to a shopping center - the incomes of most Londoners will be eaten up funding developers and expensive city capital projects and programs.
This is the third time in nine months Gosnell had defended himself against those who criticized the relationship between his work at city hall and his consultant work for First London North.

Last year, before council approved the First London development over some reservations from city staff, Gosnell lobbied staff and set up meetings between the developer and council members.

"It's annoying when people keep bringing this up," Gosnell said this week.
I am happy to annoy you Tom and I will be sure to bring this up again and again.

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Hire your buddy

I submit the following question to Jeff Fielding: who will decide and on what basis will these contracts be awarded? Who is the judge of 'accomplished people'. I don't imagine Tom Gosnell would have anything to do with such decisions - perhaps he could lobby city staff and council.

A proposed radical shift in how the city buys goods and services is sparking both kudos and concerns. City manager Jeff Fielding this week asked council and senior staff for feedback on a proposal to "sole source" some work, as opposed to the conventional methods of tendering or asking for proposals, then awarding work.

"If you have concerns with this approach (as I know my purchasing folks will have) please say so now, so that I don't get too far down the road too quickly," Fielding says in an internal e-mail obtained by The Free Press.

"My approach is always to get accomplished people, as opposed to getting the cheapest price," the memo concludes.

The city has to walk "a fine line" when it comes to purchasing, warned Gloria McGinn-McTeer, who chairs the Urban League of London.

"To go to the same person all the time, or to a few people, means less competition in the city in general and sometimes that creates price issues," McGinn-McTeer said.
This mighty guru of the free press gets disproportionate press coverage. As usual, such champions of the public interest bring up the laws of economics only when it suits them; 'price issues' also occur when you meddle with heritage and lobby for public services that you people like. Free market priniciples are stifled by urban groups, council and city staff alike. My Saturday would not be complete without some vomit from Susan Eagle:
Coun. Susan Eagle said she wants to be assured the proposal won't involve staff cuts.

"I wanted to be assured this wasn't about cutting staff and outsourcing because studies show our public programs are run efficiently," she said.
City staff is too big as it is and if our public programs do run efficiently - which is a higly debatable assertion - it is through taxpayer theft that this is so.

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Friday, January 28, 2005

"It's a feature of our country that works against our prosperity"

Words of wisdom from Publius at Gods of the Copybook Headings:

Now as good citizens of Trudeaupia we should all smile and nod, accepting that the wise policies of Pierre Le Grand have insured a poorer, but more "Just Society." Of course, that's not how it works. In a market economy, even one hamstrung by the state as ours is, the largest income earners are the most productive, unless they work for the state. Producitivity is good not because the evil right wing economists tell us so, but because people who can create more stuff, or services, allow for more stuff to be made. A market economy is not a fixed pie, and we are not more saintly in Canada because we split the pie up more evenly than the Americans. Socialism doesn't screw over the rich, it screws over the poor because it is the poor who desperately need more wealth. Whether someone makes $100,000 or $110,000 a year will impact their standard of living only slightly. That same 10% swing can have a much bigger impact on someone making $30,000. The presence of such high caliber people is what makes those 10% increases possible, growth rather than stagnation. It isn't just the direct ways in which Trudeaupia screws us over, its the indirect ones as well.

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DO THEY OWE US A LIVING?

Of course they do, of course they do.

Here's the latest entry in our song competition, a number called "Anne Marie Is Smiling" by Kajagoogoo-wannabes TURN OFF, who apparently don't even know how to spell "EQ".

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Leave your cellphone at home

Gives New Meaning to 'Phone Sex'

This is one cellphone you might not want to set to "High & Vibrate."

Porn star Jenna Jameson is now hawking her "moan tones."

For $2.50 fans of the ubiquitous porno queen can choose from a variety of moans, grunts and lurid sexual noises all recorded by the blond bombshell.

If that's not enough, Jameson will talk dirty to you when you phones rings, in English or Spanish.

. . .

Also available are color pictures of the porn star posing naked that can be displayed on your phone for $2.99.

"Rock stars make music tones, porn stars make moan tones," said Dennis Adamo, head of Wicked Wireless. "We thought it would be an interesting novel approach of introducing new content to the mobile users."

Jameson's charms are already being downloaded in Argentina, Ecuador, Venezuela, and in a couple of weeks will be available from Mexico to Uruguay.

Latin American users can download a moan or a picture for $1.00 each, while U.S. customers will pay $2.50 for a moan and $2.99 for a wallpaper once the service is launched.


OK, so is it legal to carry and answer this thing in public or must you keep it in your livingroom?


The Master of His Domain....

A Canadian who masturbated at a window in his house won his appeal against a conviction for indecency on Thursday after Canada's top court ruled there was no evidence of intent to commit an indecent act, and a home was not a public place.

. . .

Clark was convicted of an indecent act in a public place and given a four-month sentence after a prosecution that followed complaints from his neighbor, named in court documents only as Mrs. S.

The woman said she spotted Clark while she was watching television with her two young daughters in their family room.

She alerted her husband, and the couple observed Clark from their darkened bedroom for 10 or 15 minutes -- also using binoculars and a telescope -- before summoning the police, who said the upper part of Clark's body was visible from just below the navel.

Wait a minute! She called to her husband and they watched "using binoculars and a telescope" for 10 - 15 minutes? Just who are the perverts here? Why is this guy's name being published across Canada and the net associating him with perversion, while Mr. and Mrs. "S" get away with anonymity, yet they are the ones peering into his private home? Should not these self-righteous citizens be considered Peeping Toms?

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African Lion Scarfari

Stripper Wins Damages After Tiger Attack

I won't bother to question the morality of keeping tigers in Canada for the pleasure of rubber-neckers to cruise in their automobiles. I must admit though, I am left to question just how the hell an accordian player makes more money than a stripper in this day and age?

TORONTO (Reuters) - A stripper mauled by a tiger in an Ontario safari park has won C$800,000 ($650,000) in damages because her scars meant she could no longer work, Canadian media said on Friday.

Jennifer-Anne Cowles was driving through the park nearly nine years ago with her then boyfriend when a tiger jumped into their car and tried to drag them away. The two insisted their windows had been shut when the tiger charged, although the park had challenged that.

The judge accepted the couple's testimony that the power windows had been inadvertently lowered when one of the big cats bumped against the car, frightening them.

In a ruling delivered on Thursday and reported in a number of Canadian newspapers, Justice Jean MacFarland said she could only imagine the "stark terror experienced by these young people during this horrendous event."

She awarded Cowles over C$800,000 in damages, almost half of it to compensate for income she would have made as a stripper.

Her musician boyfriend, David Balac, won C$1.7 million, because his injuries left him unable to work as an accordion player.

African Lion Safari, near Hamilton, Ontario, west of Toronto, said it is reviewing the ruling, but it insisted the park was safe.

"Hundreds of millions of people drive through safari style parks worldwide every decade and there are very few incidents causing injury," it said in a statement. "It is one of the safest activities you can do with your family."

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It's getting warm in here!


Any connection between this image and previous story is completely coincidental. Posted by Hello

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Hot times at Sacramento Fire Hall

His eyes welling with tears, Sacramento Fire Chief Julius "Joe" Cherry vowed Tuesday to return his scandal-ridden department to respectability even as Mayor Heather Fargo and two City Council members said that four firefighters should be fired if sex allegations against them are true.

The political leaders warned that they would be closely watching Cherry and City Manager Bob Thomas to ensure that the proper discipline is meted out in this latest department scandal.

Cherry revealed Monday that he had launched an investigation into charges that the four firefighters - three men and a woman - had engaged in group sex in their Hollywood Park station house.

. . .

Cherry said he's required by law to fairly investigate the allegations and could not say what discipline would be forthcoming. His voice shaking with emotion during in an interview at The Bee, Cherry said that he loves the department, and although he cannot change the culture alone, he believes progress is being made.

. . .

In recent months, the Fire Department has been rocked by disclosures of firefighter misconduct, including drinking on duty, cruising bars, giving joy rides to women in fire vehicles and attending a Porn Star Costume Ball. In all, 24 firefighters received some level of discipline.

. . .

Cherry announced that the four firefighters - a male captain, two male firefighters and a female firefighter - have been suspended for allegedly participating in three instances of consensual sexual encounters with each other while on duty at Station 12 in Hollywood Park. Three of the firefighters are married.

One of the men would stand lookout while the others had sex in the station, Cherry said.

. . .

The department's rules don't specifically prohibit sexual activity on the job, but they do say firefighters are expected to "be governed by the ordinary and reasonable rules of behavior observed by law-abiding and self-respecting citizens. No member shall commit any act tending to bring discredit upon the Department or its members."

. . .

Hammond said the city needs to be ready to face legal challenges with this new round of firefighter cases. "Let's go to court this time," she said. "That's why we have city attorneys."

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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Here he comes to save the day/Slitherman is on his way

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Strings attached

For those of us in Ontario who thought that the Liberals here actually passed a sensible piece of legislation:

Restaurateurs don't appear to be popping their corks over Ontario's new bring-your-own wine legislation. New rules allowing customers to bring their own wine to restaurants took effect Monday. But don't rush to your favourite bistro with your bottle of vino in hand.

Restaurants that want to allow patrons to bring their own wine have to apply for an amendment to their liquor licences. Less than a dozen of Ontario's 17,400 licensed establishments have applied and none has been approved.

Mark Kitching of Waldo's on King was enthusiastic about the idea of his patrons bringing their own bottle of wine when the provincial Liberal government announced the change last summer.

But Kitching said he lost interest when he found out he would have to apply for a liquor licence amendment.

"If you already have a licence, it should cover this. But they have to make it more complicated. That's government for you," Kitching said yesterday.
This is an inconsequential and token bit of legislation which the Liberals no doubt hope acts as a smoke screen for their evil controls in other areas of our lives. It is going to cost us too, in terms of bureaucratic time to process the applications (that is, if anyone bothers to apply for amendments to their licences) and more shameless government self-promotion:
Ontario Consumer and Business Minister Jim Watson is scheduled to officially launch the BYOW campaign next week.

One other change in the Liquor Licence Act allows licensed establishments to recork a partially consumed bottle of wine so patrons can take it home.

A permit is not needed, but the restaurant must use a proper recorking tool, Campion said.
As most restaurants will also be charging corking fee, for most of us, it will be more economical to buy the wine from the restaurant. Note we still need nannying, as the bottle must be securely recorked so that we are not overly tempted to guzzle the rest of the bottle on the way home.

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Not much has changed since 1962

London 150 ~years~

JAN. 27, 1962: Time to tackle traffic

London council's traffic committee considers a study to reduce congestion on major roads. This includes development of a major street traffic plan, a possible ring road and restrictions of public vehicles to specific streets.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Let's sanction irresponsibility

Hillary is in the news:

Asked after her appearance if she felt President Bush's policies were directly responsible for increased abortion rates in some states, Clinton said she did not know if that was the case.

"We should try to figure out what the cause of that is, but personally I worry that we are not providing good information, comprehensive education and access to services, so there may be some relationship," the former first lady said.

"I just think we ought to be asking ourselves some hard questions, particularly with an administration that has been very vocal in its opposition to abortion," she said. "Why would it have begun going up again under this administration? If I were in that administration, I'd be asking myself: `What are we doing wrong? This is one of our most publicly stated concerns. We must figure out what we're going to do to prevent this."'

For her part, Clinton said there should be more money for family planning services and contraception, and more emphasis on promoting teenage abstinence as a means of bringing about "a day when abortion is truly safe, legal and rare."

"Thirty-four percent of teenage girls become pregnant at least once before their 20th birthday," she said.

"Seven percent of American women who do not use contraception account for 53 percent of all unintended pregnancies," Clinton added.
Some comments by Raskolnikov regarding Hillary Clinton's latest accusation against the Bush administration:
If abortion rates have increased in eight states, doesn't that negate the idea that Bush and the Republicans are turning back the clock on abortion and are ready to make it illegal again?

Doesn't it also prove that a "backward" conservative value such as abstinence really doesn't have much impact on a populace who still has enough sex to prompt an increase in unwanted pregnancies?

Isn't this bacchanal of irresponsible sex and on-demand abortion exactly what most Dems and liberals aspire to?

Now suddenly, it's all Bush's fault that women are getting abortions.

Simply stunning hypocrisy.

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It's only 6.63% - and it's London's 150th besides

The verdict is in: only a 6.63% increase, compared to last years 5.9% tax hike. Wonder what's in store for Londoners next year, especially considering our reverend elders are dippin' into the sacred trough, euphemistically known as the reserve or surplus fund:

Londoners will face a 6.63 per cent property tax hike this year -- a reduction that came in an often stormy eight-hour session at city hall. Sunday swims at indoor pools, a funding hike for a program helping low-income families pay utility bills and the hiring of some new police officers were among the casualties yesterday as council eased a threatened 7.3 per cent tax hike.

The cuts mean taxpayers will see an increase of $128.75 on an average home assessed at $152,000, bringing the property tax bill to $2,070.75 plus $670 for sewer and water.

....

Council members cut $272,000 from the city manager's budget, the fire department and community services.
Wow - what a savings. They even worked a full eight hour day!
Gosnell defended council's efforts and praised staff for helping lead the cutting process.

"We have to remind Londoners that half of what we'll be asking on their tax bill is either uncontrollable costs or downloading (of service costs from the province.)"

"Would I like the budget (hike) to be three per cent? You're darn right I would, but that's not the world we live in right now."

Council's job was eased somewhat because administration had followed its directive and found $500,000 in savings from two city departments -- $250,000 from community services and $250,000 from engineering.

That meant the 7.3 per cent hike Londoners faced Monday had been cut to 7.1 per cent when yesterday's marathon deliberations began.

It also means there will be no Sunday swimming from the end of June to the end of August at the Canada Games Aquatic Centre and South London Community Pool -- a cut that will save $17,000.

As the debate wore on, Gosnell won support for a motion to take $650,000 from the city's surplus fund and apply it against the tax hike.

Even before the budget debate began, tempers flared when Coun. Ab Chahbar was told there were no plans to make a presentation on a controversial report released last weekend showing London's property taxes among the province's highest.

"I understood we were going to have a presentation on that report first," an exasperated Chahbar said, prompting city manager Jeff Fielding to oversee a 45-minute presentation and question period on the report by BMA Management Consulting Inc.

Fielding stressed the report didn't address such issues as service delivery. He noted in Kitchener, while taxes were lower, some services London provides don't exist. Sidewalk snow removal, for example, is left to homeowners, he said.

Fielding said a key concern in the report is that London's median household income is lower than in many competitive municipalities, so the message to council should be to add jobs and boost incomes.
That's just dandy - let us fund the JLC, but 'download' snow removal onto taxpayers. Sunday swimming is surely more important than snow removal. Mind you, the elderly might have a case here, perhaps having to pay someone to remove snow from the sidewalks, at the same time as they are forced to fund entertainment that they cannot necessarily enjoy or desire. As for London's lower median household income, well, the apathetic ones remain here, looking for handouts. London is not exactly business friendly, unless of course, you know someone on council.
When Van Meerbergen proposed slashing an additional $250,000 from corporate communications, Fielding said it would "eliminate that department."
Corporate communications? Eliminate please. While we are at it, let's stop the funding to Graham Pollett, London's version of George Slithermann, and also cut off the heritage lobbyists:
A major battle centred on funding for the Middlesex London Health Unit.

Some members of council wanted to cut $364,000 from the unit's $22.3 million budget, money they argued was saved when the province upped its share to 55 per cent.

But Graham Pollett, medical officer of health, backed by Coun. Susan Eagle, a member of the health board, argued the city should maintain its funding at 2004 levels to close the gap on underfunded programs.

.....

Fanshawe Pioneer Village -- which was subject of a motion by Van Meerbergen to cut all funding and close the historic site -- managed to remain in operation with a $215,000 operating grant this year. That's $50,000 less than council's original grant, but enough to keep the village open while it seeks funding from other sources.

- The city's THAW program, which helps low-income families pay utility bills, took a $35,000 cut, despite an impassioned plea from Eagle that it could leave 100 families out in the cold this winter. Still, THAW will receive $200,000 this year -- the same as last year -- despite heightened demand.

- The woodlot acquisition fund was cut from $500,000 to $250,000 over the objections of several councillors who said it flew in the face of London's reputation as the forest city. But $50,000 was earmarked this year to plant trees in recognition of London's 150th anniversary of becoming a city.
Good to see council has their priorities in place.

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Shame

This is pretty god-damned insane on its own (hat tip Econoclast). That it's a Burger King ad takes it well into the land of WTF on clouds of burning chicken fat.

Just don't get any ideas about telling it to kiss you, like I did. Do not allow that thing to perform its repulsive "seduction" dance for you over its filthy webcam.

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Austrian?

The Econoclast admits that his fears for the US dollar may imply he's a closet Austrian.

Now get a big cup of coffee, and sit down with this behemoth of a quiz to find out how deep in the Austrian closet you are.

The positions you can choose between are well stated and fair. For example, on the "What do taxes fund?" question, here's my (Austrian) answer:

Taxes raise money for transfers to special interests and public employees. In contrast to private businesses that supply the goods that consumers are willing to buy, public officials have no means to assess data as to what consumers truly demand, much less how to go about meeting those demands economically. Lacking the ability to act economically, public officials respond to interest groups, so tax money will necessarily end up with narrow interest groups rather than going to fund the provision of public goods. Taxes typically go to waste or to special interests that do not and should not own the funds.
Three other positions are given the same airtime and sympathetic treatment.

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It all made sense on paper

FtoS points out a ruling by a board that obviously missed its true call -- going into the tire business.

What are these geniuses of the marketplace doing living parasitical lives working for the (un-competed-with) "Competition Board", when they could be actually contributing something to society by operating a business? Obviously they're better businessmen than the kulaks who are nominally in charge right now.

After almost three years of official public harassment of Sears, millions spent on lawyers, bureaucrats and expert time, the Competition Tribunal has decided that Sears' tire promotion schemes, which appear to have delivered low prices to consumers, are illegal.
Read the whole thing, via Jay's post. I fully endorse his use of the fuckin' F word in this context.

Oh, and "landmark" is their word. The sharks apparently smell blood.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Commercial break

Via Western Standard, "Iraqi Pro-Unity And Elections" ads (number 8 is subtitled).

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I admit defeat

Publius from Gods of the Copybook Headings has kindly issued a 'challenge', via a comment from a few days back, to find some good aspects of London - I am afraid to say, after much thought and deliberation, that there is nothing positive about London. Potholes, ugly people and well, London City Council. It is cold and there is lots of snow, and property taxes and rents are on the rise as the black cloud descends. I cannot even afford to go to the JLC.....

No council members criticized staff for not bringing the report to council sooner.

Though council members did not have problems with the delay in seeing the report, Fielding did. The city manager learned of the report Jan. 14 from officials of another city.

The lack of disclosure damages efforts to regain public trust by making city hall transparent to council and the public, Fielding said.

"We still have a long way to go," said Fielding, who last May became the fifth person in two years to fill the trouble-plagued top job at city hall.

The lack of disclosure is also grating to Fielding because the study employs method of statistical comparison of the sort he's used for years.

"I'm probably the one who has the most interest in this," he said.

But while some angry Londoners are calling for heads to roll, Fielding said there wouldn't be discipline because he believes his managers overlooked the study's importance rather than concealed it.

"I'll give people the benefit of the doubt," he said.

For years, city hall officials have kept administrative and technical reports to themselves, a culture that must be changed, he said.

The responsibility to change that culture is his, he said.

"I'm ultimately accountable for this. I've got my neck on the line," he said.

The BMA study, which cost London taxpayers $4,000, shows homeowners and businesses here faring not as well last year as those in rival cities Kitchener, Windsor and Hamilton.

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"American Idol is like the Nazis marching through Poland"

I don't watch Fox news, but this latest bit of slander is especially disgusting. Seems to me that virtually everyone is calling his opponent a fascist these days, 'left' and 'right' alike. Frequent and ignorant usage of the term 'fascist' and 'Hitler' has led to a decreased understanding in society at large concerning the meaning and reality of fascism.

Dare I suggest that perhaps Ted Turner is the fascist here: it is fine if people have freely spent money to build up your empire, but as soon as successful competition is introduced, time to call what you don't like 'fascist'. Do I detect a double standard here Ted? If you are successful, then it is because people freely choose your network, but if some people dare choose something other than Turner's favourites, then they are fascist, and dumb besides. Popularity is okay, as long as it is in line with your views and preferences. Tolerance, to a point.

And what are we to say about the CBC - of course, people don't have to watch CBC any more than they have to watch Fox news, but unlike Fox, CBC's operating funds are extorted from the people.

Ted Turner called Fox a propaganda tool of the Bush administration and indirectly compared Fox News Channel's popularity to Adolf Hitler's popular election to run Germany before World War II.

Turner made those fiery comments in his first address at the National Association for Television Programming Executives' conference since he was ousted from Time Warner Inc. five years ago.
Ted Turner's not bitter or anything. You could say with equal justification, or lack thereof, that CNN has been a propaganda tool of the Democrats. Of course, it is the comparison to the Nazis that is insidiously meaningless.
Gilmore Girls Executive Producer Amy Sherman-Palladino had some choice words for Fox's American Idol at a WB panel at the critics tour in L.A. Saturday. (Both shows air Tuesday at 8 p.m.) American Idol is like the Nazis marching through Poland," she said. "You just got to let them go. Get out of the way. We're kind of France going, 'You know, just don't burn down Paris, that's all we're asking.'" Asked by one of her shows' co-stars, Lauren Graham, if that was really the analogy she wanted to go with, Sherman-Palladino said that's how she saw it.

Among the other Turner highlights from Tuesday:

* On Fox News: While Fox may be the largest news network [and has overtaken Turner's CNN], it's not the best, Turner said. He followed up by pointing out that Adolph Hitler got the most votes when he was elected to run Germany prior to WWII. He said the network is the propaganda tool for the Bush Administration. "There's nothing wrong with that. It's certainly legal. But it does pose problems for our democracy. Particularly when the news is dumbed down," leaving voters without critical information on politics and world events and overloaded with fluff," he said.
Perhaps democracy in the sense that you folks see it is the problem. The tyranny of the majority, and I wonder how you would rectify this problem Ted?
* On TV news in general: "We need to be very well informed. We need to know what's going on in the world. "a little less Hollywood news and a little more hard news would probably be good for our society."
* On media consolidation:"The consolidation has made it almost impossible for an independent. It's virtually impossible to start a cable network." Broadcasters and programmers "don't want more independent voices out there. They own everything. That's why I went into the restaurant business. Either that or I'd work for a salary for one of the big jerks.
* The war in Iraq: "We've spent 200 billion destroying Iraq. Now we've got to spend 200 billion to rebuild it, if they'll let us -- and all to find a nut in a fox hole -- one guy," Turner said. "He posed no threat to any of his neighbors, particularly with us there with overwhelming military superiority." --"it is obscene and stupid"
* Why selling his company to Time Warner turned out to be a huge mistake: At the time he agreed to sell his company, "it was from a business standpoint the right thing to do." He owned 9 percent of the merged company, which "which got me some real serious respect." But after the company acquired AOL, Turner's stake in the new company was diluted to 3 percent. "Then I got the pink slip"
* Why it wasn't that huge a mistake: "I have a responsibility not to be too critical of my old company. It is a good company and I had a lot of experiences there. A lot of time things that are painful at the time they occurred turn out to be for the best."
* Ted Turner for President? "I'm too old and too burned out to take on that responsibility. I thought about it when I was younger. I don't know if I could have gotten elected or not. It would have been a lot of fun to do when I had higher energy levels."
* What he'll put on his tombstone: "I have nothing more to say."
I think he has said enough already.

Tipped off by NealeNews.

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Dump that bathwater!

Evan Kirchhof is entertained by the gay marriage craze for reasons similar to my own:

(1) Pleasure in the discomfiting of fair-weather libertarians.
(2) Pleasure in the discomfiting of cultural relativists.
(3) Pleasure in the self-immolation of mediocre legal theorists.
Read the original posts for more wordflesh.

These all arise from raising the obvious next steps, polygamy and/or incest. All arguments I have heard against these practices also fall if one accepts SSM rights-are-important-all-of-a-sudden arguments and emoting as valid. Saying "well obviously that won't happen, the courts, public opinion" abandons the sudden concern for individual rights and announces one's hypocrisy and willingness to put bigotry and prejudice above equality. Hell YEAH it should happen, and you should be on the front lines. Don't be so quick to drop the fiery sword of liberty, while harems must yet hide underground, despised, out of the loving presence of government.

I am in sympathy with Publius' first paragraph. I'm all for freedom of contract and free association. But that's not where we are. We do not have an open market in marriage-like contracts. Instead we have a monopoly, insulated from market feedback. Whatever effects it has will not be mitigated by other available choices of institution.

If you trust these creeps, these vapid fools, to tinker with a fundamental and long-stabilized institution like marriage, in a country where freedom of contract is not respected, then have at it. I assure you that my libertarianism trumps my conservatism.

But please be consistent.

UPDATE: I got my Evans confused in the original post -- corrected above.

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Monday, January 24, 2005

Flowers are a public health hazard

From Nanny Knows Best:

Nanny’s jobsworth friends in Lincolnshire County Council seem to have a bit of a fixation about flowers.

They are labouring under the deranged impression that flowers are dangerous.

This strange belief has caused grief for two Spalding flower shop owners; Jane Fletcher, of Flowers 'N' Things, and Emma Peake of Daisies Floral Design.

They have received warning letters from the council, telling them to remove their floral displays from outside of their shops.

It seems that, in the eyes of the jobsworth council, these bright and colourful displays are a health and safety hazard for near sighted pedestrians.

In a fine example of British resistance to dictatorship, the ladies are refusing to remove their displays; arguing that they have been trading in this manner for years, without complaints from real people.

Paul Rusted, area highways manager for Boston and South Holland division, sent a letter threatening the ladies with the removal and destruction of their property if they do not comply.

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"Londoners can no longer afford their local government"

The city council and the London Free Press would like to have us believe that we will be fortunate if property taxes are increased by less than 7.3 per cent. Our expectations that we may keep some of our income are lowered both by the delegation of blame to provincial downloading and by the continuing inability of councillors to abandon any pet projects. Indeed, after an eleven hour budget session,

An exasperated [councillor Ab] Chahbar had argued at the meeting that council had accomplished "absolutely nothing" in that marathon session which saw a proposed 7.8-per-cent tax hike drop to 7.3 per cent.

"But that was only because we got $2 million from London Hydro (in the form of a dividend) and had nothing to do with any hard work by council," Chahbar said.
If we keep electing the same members of council, one could say that we have only ourselves to blame for a council that feels it has a justifiable mandate for the appropriation and disposal of taxpayer money as it wants. However, I think it more likely that Londoners are apathetic in the face of any credible alternatives to the current council, at least as receive mention in the local media. Therefore, special interest groups in London have a relatively free hand to vote in an unrepresentative council.

Londoners should be asking themselves if they are pleased at the prospect of yet another substantial increase in property taxes. Or, would they be pleased at the prospect of paying the same property taxes that they currently pay. I imagine most of us would breathe a sigh of relief at this time if the increase was only, say, 3 per cent … and turn to the entertainment pages. If, however, property taxes are used to fund expenses that have nothing at all to do with the service of property, would it not be reasonable for us to say "Stop!" and demand some of our money back? Or, in other words:
And why are Londoners facing this spiral of spending and taxation?

There is no pressing reason; no justifiable rationale. We are not in any emergency in this city; the country is not at war nor are we facing an apprehended insurrection – except perhaps by dedicated statists – and we are not facing an economic recession. We hear lots about provincial downloading, but these complaints are so much hot air: the province “downloads” 10 times more in revenue than in mandated expenditures. There is also, of course, the “debt hang-over” from council’s panic-driven millennium projects, but even the debt service on this borrowing is easily manageable given the city’s tax base and financial resources. No, we have massive increases in spending and taxation because city hall bureaucrats think they can get away with it, and because city councillors haven’t the backbone to fight demands for irrational state largess, with any kind of consistent discipline.

I have come the conclusion that raising this matter of uncontrolled spending and taxation is in part beside the point. Yes, we need to reduce our spending and taxation, but not by dribs and drabs. It is no longer good enough to think about incremental changes like 3 per cent budget caps or even our long-standing drive to sustain zero per cent budgets. Too many on council think that when we say zero per cent, this means no sustained, long-term cuts to services; it does not. But there is no longer a good reason to fight this small battle. We need to look at the big picture. And the big picture is the prosperity of Londoners.

— Paul Van Meerbergen, Councillor, Ward 7
The words expressed in this proposal constitute more economic sense in one article than the London Free Press has published in the past decade. The London Fog does not typically endorse politicians of any stripe, but if, by the process of having special interests dominate and determine our own interests in municipal elections, an individual like Paul Van Meerbergen occasionally turns up, I think we should express our support. If we had more councillors like Mr. Van Meerbergen, we should have a more competitive and functional city.

Mr. Van Meerbergen proposes not a reduction in the property tax increase, but a reduction of $1000 per household in property tax from current levels by 2006 via
a $104.6 million spending, taxation and borrowing cut to our $834 million 2005 budget. This will mean a 24% property tax reduction in the 2005 budget – assuming a net average property tax load of $2700.00 (without education taxes). These savings come from a reduction of $39.2 million from the current operating budget, $32.3 million dollars from the capital budget, and another $33.1 million from non-obligatory operating and capital reserve funds.

A 24% reduction in property taxes amounts to an average $650.00 in direct household savings in 2005. The remaining $350 in household tax reductions is planned for the 2006 budget.
Paul Van Meerbergen's proposed amendments to the city's capital budget and operating budget can be found here at The London Fog:

Capital Budget Amendments in PDF format

Operating Budget Amendments in PDF format

Paul Van Meerbergen is Councillor for Ward 7. Please email or call him to let him know what you think -- details of how he can be reached can be found here. The people of Ward 7 are fortunate to have this man as a representative, although it must be said that Susan Eagle is also their representative, so I guess no good deed goes unpunished.

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"It's moist, succulent. I like it. I'll be back."

A vegetarians nightmare - I shudder:

It's a sign of the times: A sandwich that jumps right off reality TV and into your belly - no plate required.

The Western Angus Steak Burger, a barbecue sauce-slathered creation introduced on Thursday's episode of "The Apprentice," made its real-life debut yesterday in 7,800 Burger Kings.

Sales of the concoction invented by "Apprentice" contestants were reportedly brisk at the Fifth Ave. Burger King where the "Apprentice" winners originally created their masterpiece.

Larry Bolling, 47, an ad man from Baldwin, L.I., isn't a fan of "The Apprentice," but turned out to be a major fan of the Western Angus, which, perhaps in the name of efficiency, includes onion rings right on the burger.

"I can honestly say the fish sandwich has some competition right now," he said solemnly, wiping some errant sauce from his cheek. "It's moist, succulent. I like it. I'll be back."



But graphic designer Oscar Molina of the Bronx eyeballed the wall-to-wall ads, which feature Trump's head hovering behind a monster sandwich, and wasn't moved to slap down $5.19 for the limited-time offer.

"I don't have a strong emotional response to it," sniffed Molina, 24. "It could be a little jazzier."

It also could be a lot healthier, one doctor told The News.

"It's unconscionable to foist this on the American public," raged Dr. Harvey Hecht, director of preventive cardiology at Beth Israel Medical Center.

"For a role model like Donald Trump to promote a burger where there's no redeeming features - I can't quite understand why he would do that," said Hecht. "I would recommend eating a burger like that as much as I would recommend a pack of cigarettes."
Donald Trump as role model? I thought all good socialists hated businessmen. As for Trump's motivations: he wants to make money. If you don't like it, then don't go to Burger King.

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If you can't find the money to buy groceries, blame the Liberals

Yet another costly public awareness campaign. This bit of nannying isn't getting much publicity, which I suppose we should come to expect in Ontario - cast your ballot and live with the oppression. The Ontario Liberals continue to treat the people with contempt.

Hat tip: Jay Jardine:

Ottawa bars and restaurants will begin warning patrons against drinking while pregnant on February 1st.

The new Ontario regulation, nicknamed Sandy's Law, requires establishments to prominently display a sign stating: "Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause birth defects and brain damage to your baby."

Liquor stores, beer stores, wine stores and brew-your-own facilities are also required to put up the signs.
Jay sums it up:
A good rule of thumb in reviewing contemporary legislation is that if the bill in question is named after a child it is bound to be a bad one. It will be based on pure emotion, rather than reason and any principled opposition to the bill will be stifled at the risk of appearing callous or insensitive to the personal suffering of the bill's proponents.

....

Look, I understand that the member in question, Ernie Parsons, lost his adopted son as result of FAS. A horrible thing to have to go through, for sure. But enacting legislation on a whim as some sort of a memoriam seems rather obscene. Of course, you will argue: "it's only a sign, what's the big deal?". To me, this is a relatively benign example of the broader flaws of the Nanny State's approach to dealing with any problem, no matter how rare. Whereas the Welfare State redistributes wealth and resources from society at large to concentrated beneficiaries, the Nanny State takes concentrated instances of stupidity and irresponsibility and redistributes the shame and consequences to society at large.

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Hey, get your own words!

Individualism has a bad name today, and the term has come to be connected with egotism and selfishness. But the individualism of which we speak in contrast to socialism and all other forms of collectivism has no necessary connection with these... [T]he essential features of that individualism... are the respect for the individual man qua man, that is, the recognition of his own views and tastes as supreme in his own sphere, however narrowly that may be circumscribed, and the belief that it is desirable that men should develop their own individual gifts and bents. "Freedom" and "liberty" are now words so worn with use and abuse that one must hesitate to employ them to express the ideals for which they stood... "Tolerance" is, perhaps, the only word which still preserves the full meaning of the principle which [since the Renaissance] was in the ascendant and which only in recent times has again been in decline, to disappear completely with the rise of the totalitarian state.

F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, 1944, p.14, emphasis mine
A bitter find! This makes me wonder when "tolerance" started taking on its present taboo-system meanings. Does anybody have an idea when the "totalitolerance" aspect arose?

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4GW propz 2 tha East Side NGOs

Super neat grand strategic presentation by Thomas P.M. Barnett of the Naval War College, on "how globalization affects U.S. national security. It outlines a strategy for the way the U.S. and its military should operate in the post-September 11th world."

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Lady in Red

Israeli Women Lawmakers See Red Over Rabbi's Ruling

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Female legislators in Israel have seen red after a leading rabbi compared women who wear the color to prostitutes.

Protesting against a ritual ruling by Rabbi Eliyahu Abergil, head of the rabbinical court in the southern city of Beersheba, banning Jewish women from dressing in red, several woman lawmakers wore the color in parliament Monday.

"It's not up to a rabbi to tell us to whether to wear black or red or any other color," said Erela Golan, a legislator from the Shinui party who organized the protest. "Just because we wear red doesn't mean we are prostitutes."





And in legislative news on this side of the globe . . .

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Go ahead, call state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles a scurvy wench, a wanton strumpet, a shameless hussy. She probably won't like it, but she doesn't want you to be prosecuted for it.

The Seattle Democrat is sponsoring a bill to repeal a 1909 Washington state law that makes "slander of a woman" a crime.

. . .

The statute prohibits "false or defamatory words or language which shall injure or impair" the virtuous and chaste reputation of any female over 12. The law does say it is OK to slander a "common prostitute."



And in legislative news on this side of the globe . . .

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Go ahead, call state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles a scurvy wench, a wanton strumpet, a shameless hussy. She probably won't like it, but she doesn't want you to be prosecuted for it.

The Seattle Democrat is sponsoring a bill to repeal a 1909 Washington state law that makes "slander of a woman" a crime.

. . .

The statute prohibits "false or defamatory words or language which shall injure or impair" the virtuous and chaste reputation of any female over 12. The law does say it is OK to slander a "common prostitute."


. . . and some more ladies of distinction for the gallery. Thanks for reminding me Anonymous - how could I forget Judy?


And here's London's own Sue Barnes (I don't mean to suggest anyone has seen her at the peeler bar recently).


And who is this hipster strumpet? One need not be a card carrying Liberal to dress in red leather.

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Yo homies, Tom Gosnell's in the house!

Support for high rise slammed

North Londoners are fuming over city hall support for a planned 12-storey apartment building that will tower over their neighbourhoods. And they're also angry the city is planning to designate land adjacent to the Richmond Street site for more high-rise buildings.

. . .

Calling it a "breach of the public's trust" and a violation of the city's planning process, residents near the site will be at city council tonight to show their opposition.

"I'm just sick about it," said Kelly Mancari, whose house faces the proposed high-rise.

"The real obscenity of this whole thing is that we pursued that (community) plan at great expense and time and it's only lasted eight years and now they're already trying to reverse it."
Well, you didn't have all those conveniently located superstores on those former farmfields at that time, making the now contested land far more valuable in it's present state. But I wouldn't suggest anyone at city hall has anything to gain in holding off investment until the most opportune moment.
The Tricar Group wants to build the 150-unit apartment complex at 1985 Richmond St., land now zoned for medium- density, low-rise housing.

City staff support the re-zoning bid, saying the site qualifies for high-density development, including its location on an arterial road close to Fanshawe Park Road's shopping centres.

. . .

The issue surfaced at council's planning committee last week, with the committee split on the issue.

Committee chairperson Coun. Cheryl Miller, Coun. Roger Caranci and Controller Bud Polhill supported the rezoning. Opposed were councillors Rob Alder, Judy Bryant and David Winninger.

It's up to council to decide.

. . .
Well, no mention so far of them providing cash and/or city service incentives to the developers of this plan. Maybe it's actually a good place for it instead of bribing them to build highrises in an artificially sustained downtown?

Residents in the area, including tony Chancery Place and the 50-year-old Uplands neighbourhood directly across Richmond, say the rezoning is unnecessary. They also say its unfair since residents, the city and developers spent three years developing a 20-year community plan that shouldn't be ignored.

"It's not 'Let's make a deal' planning in the City of London," said McTeer.

. . .
Oh no - since when? Somebody better tell city hall.

Baechler said if the city allows the rezoning, it will set a precedent that would threaten all community development plans. "Why bother consulting the public in the first place if you're not going to live by the plan? It's a breach of the public's trust and the entire planning process."
Not to mention it's a complete waste of time and money. But hey, if having such commitees keeps the folks on Dufferin St. busy and from getting into real mischief . . .

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And here I thought violent organized drug running was a new thing in London

London 150 - years

JAN. 24, 1921 Rum runners ambush police, escape to Detroit

Five London police officers, chasing rum runners carrying several thousand dollars' worth of cargo in their car, are ambushed on Hamilton Road. Police are left behind as the runners escape and head for Detroit.

Let's hope they didn't get away with any tobacco products.

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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Londonism

Send in the clowns, and the cows. It's time to promote London as Canada's country-western capital. That suggestion, from UWO distinguished music professor Donald McKellar, was one of many ideas floated yesterday at a city hall meeting of London's most creative minds.

"I'd like London to host the biggest country-western fair in Canada," he told London's creative cities task force at the forum, aimed at getting debate going about making London more livable.
Yep, there just ain't enough pickup trucks in London. We should have a nascar race at the Western Fair Grounds too - non stop.
London already has a popular country music station, BX93, and such an event would draw artists and businesses like never before, said the professor emeritus, named to the mayor's honour list this year.

"Image. Image. Image," he said. "What London misses, lacks and needs is an image."



Got any sponsors in mind? Hope you aren't planning on enjoying a cigarette while in London.

McKellar was among about 25 people who endured yesterday's blizzard to get to the meeting.
Guess London's image didn't concern too many Londoners. Those hooters though - I love country girls.

"Cougar women are beautiful, confident, sexy and have a lot to offer any man."

Formed last fall and chaired by Controller Gord Hume, the creative cities task force operates on the concept that a city's cultural assets will attract business and workers in knowledge-intensive industries.

But first there's the issue of attracting art students to London and arts and culture workers, who often live below poverty levels, some said.

One girl, who identified herself as a high school student, told the task force she didn't apply to UWO because other schools promise more opportunity to arts students.

"Other (universities) are saying, 'We have co-op programs for you' . . . then Western comes in and says, 'We've got science,' " she said.
Maybe you should be looking at community colleges. Barbie says, "I hate math."
The task force also heard about affordable housing problems for art.

The Old East Village BIA is looking at a pilot project that could provide a solution, said manager Sarah Merrit. The group would like to see cultural workers, who often make less than $20,000 a year, access affordable mortgages.
And then I can thumb my nose up at those well meaning friends who laughed at me for wasting my time in art school.
"We want to have the arts and culture communities right downtown," said Merrit.
That's right - we need more people downtown asking for spare change.
The city has already passed one bylaw to accommodate cultural workers, noted Coun. Cheryl Miller.

The bylaw allows Old East residents to use part of their homes as studios.

"You have to create the environment and milieu that afford these types of opportunities to allow artists to live," she said.
"That damn artist across the road is hanging her tampons in the window again . . . haven't we heard enough about feminism . . ."

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Garbage collectors offer art criticism courses

If this were Ontario, art lessons would be mandatory....

A German museum is offering art appreciation lessons to Frankfurt's sanitation workers, after garbage collectors lugged away a public art sculpture recently and sent it to the incinerator.

Peter Postleb, head of the city's Clean Frankfurt initiative, claimed responsibility Monday for the case of mistaken identity, after garbage collectors picked up and disposed of what they thought to be construction rubbish.

Though indeed made from yellow plastic sheeting used to encase cement, the item was actually a sculpture by Berlin artist Michael Beutler. It was part of a series of 10 sculptures commissioned by the municipal art society and exhibited around the city.

Postleb pointed out that in the past, his quick-moving, garbage-collection teams have avoided trashing outdoor sculptures made from everyday objects, including a car filled with sand and a bathtub tied to a tree with a leash.

Starting Sunday, the Städel Museum, at which Beutler studied, will begin monthly Check Your Art Sense! classes, at which the city's garbage collectors can learn about understanding and appreciating art.

Beutler has taken the situation in stride, saying that the trashed piece was a temporary work only to be displayed until Sunday and that the series was to be recycled after that anyway.

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No wonder that report was kindly kept away from council: they don't care and it makes them look bad.

Yet another scandal at city hall:

Some city councillors are questioning whether to delay passing a nearly seven-per- cent tax hike next week after learning of a study, obtained by The Free Press, that shows London property taxes are among Ontario's highest. Five council members said yesterday they might ask to extend budget talks by days or weeks, depending on the contents of a two-month-old study that staff failed to give them.

.....

The 250-page study, by BMA Management Consulting Inc., has been done annually for several years and is regarded by civic officials as the most comprehensive comparison of taxes in Ontario.

Staff at city hall received a draft of the study in November and should have received the final version in December.

But neither was given to city council nor city manager Jeff Fielding.
Remember Londoners, our taxes are among the highest in Ontario due to provincial downloading - incompetence is not a factor at all:
Asked why the BMA study had not yet been given to council, city treasurer Mike St. Amant said staff preferred to first analyze it themselves.

That process had barely begun, he said, because staff were already knee-deep in numbers and reports needed to complete the budget.

St. Amant said he received the draft study in November, but wasn't aware a final version was distributed last month.
Some assorted reactions from our wise elders:
Ward 3 Coun. Bernie MacDonald came out solidly against any budget delay, blaming some colleagues for drawing out the process.

"They have done every other thing but do their job and get it through and get it over with," he said yesterday.

.....

... supporting a delay, Ward 6 Coun. David Winninger said he's concerned the city spends $4,000 a year for the report he'd never heard of before.

"While no one wants to unduly delay the budget, if there are some things we can learn from it, a week or two longer won't make that much difference," he said.

The BMA report has been done each year for several years and is regarded by civic officials as the most comprehensive comparison of taxes in Ontario.

Ward 5 Coun. Sandy White said she'd support a delay.

But MacDonald was incensed at the idea.

"I have been on council for 25 years and what I've seen of the performance of the councillors during this budget process that has taken place -- it has been the worst, the worst in 25 years. It is a real disgrace," MacDonald said.

MacDonald was especially angry that when the city manager froze spending for three departments, as council demanded, he was then asked to cut even more.

"These councillors should go out and start with a paper route and learn how to count before they start getting into hundreds of thousands of dollars and trying to run a city," MacDonald fumed.

Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco said the BMA report is just statistics that won't tell council how to cut the budget.

She said there "may be some interesting information" in the report to help set future goals, "but the budget is the budget and if people haven't found areas to cut in two months, this report doesn't tell you where to cut. There is nothing in here that tells you what to do at all," she said.

Ward 7 Coun. Susan Eagle said council must avoid wasting time and set the tax rate.

Controller Gord Hume said he hasn't seen any compelling reason for a delay. "Some of us are fighting to make the taxes the lowest and at the right level regardless of comparative rates."
No compelling reason for a delay you say? Council attempts to blame their budget woes on provincal downloading, and yet generally ignore the fact that Londoners are among the highest taxed in the province. If downloading is the main issue, as many members of council would have us believe, then how come other cities manage with less theft from its citizens? No wonder that report was kindly kept away from council: they don't care and it makes them look bad. Of course, now council members look even more ridiculous than usual, as it is now known that city staff hides some information from council and that council was apparently ignorant of a report that they should have expected. Makes you wonder what they base their budget decisions on.
Keep up the good work Anne Marie! We appreciate good examples of greed, ignorance and incompetence.

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Saturday, January 22, 2005

How much is your property worth to us?


My London Heritage Property — Now Pony Up!

There's nothing like budget time to bring out the wailing and gnashing of teeth by people you've never heard of before but seem to have a pretty clear idea of how to dispose of your property! In the case of the heritage industry, the histrionics get plenty of coverage in the local media. The heritage advocates are so badly underfunded they can barely afford any real accomplishments to justify their non-productive salaries, after these salaries are paid of course. And with a 150th anniversary too! These people must be the resurrected ghosts of the derelict past, as shabby as their little protectorate.

From a recent article in The Londoner:
[This] raises the question as the city celebrates its 150th anniversary: What is the London doing to preserve its heritage? Diana Player, one of 200 volunteers at Pioneer Village, says not very much.

“The very roots of London are here,” she explains. “I liken it to a tree. The past is the roots, the trunk of the tree is the present and the top of the tree is the future growth. If you don’t have the roots, it will fall down. It will rot and somebody will come and chop it down.”
The organismic analogy is common with people who can offer no rationality in defense of their cause. The analogy defined: the city is not an aggregate of individuals after all — it is a living entity itself with its own dodgy motivations, meaning that we citizens are only cells, non-self-directing and only serving the necessary bodily function of the muncipality's consciousness and desires. Of course, it requires a few "super-smart" cells to communicate its needs...
Gayle Allen has been contracted to run the Black Bird Cafe for the past two years in [the publicly-funded Fanshawe Pioneer] village. She says London is not doing a good job of preserving its history.

“London does not value its heritage. It does not take care of it well,” she says.
"It" is the city organism of course, and it is angry at its appendages for not scratching its hemorrhoids. Gayle Allen speaks for the organism:
“They discredit historical sites and historical buildings on a regular basis. If we don’t maintain our history so people can see and remember our heritage. It boils down to this: soon council is going to be history and what will we remember them for? Because they chopped historical sites and they didn’t look after their heritage.”
Maybe corrupt and ineffective city councils are part of our heritage — you never know!
[Genet Hodder, chairperson of Heritage London] agrees. A drive by the rectory at St. Paul’s Cathedral [sic — the reporter means St. Peter's] will show you what she is talking about. She can’t understand “why anyone would want to tear down a beautiful building like that, right in the heart of the city”.

In her opinion, the city could – and should – do more.
I know why the the Cathedral wanted to tear down the rectory — because it was going to cost them their own money to make it structurally sound, and they determined that it was better value for them to build a new structure with their own money. In fact, they bent over backwards to appease the heritage dogs by promising to build it so that it looked just like the original, but that's not good enough I guess. Only original "scurrying rodents, a cranky sewer system, peeling paint, leaky pipes, electrical malfunction and a precarious staircase" will do, apparently. From a Free Press story:
Renovating the old building and constructing a new one would cost the same -- between $2.5 million and $3.5 million, to be paid by the diocese -- but the decrepit walls wouldn't necessarily last, [architect Allan] Avis says.

"We concluded that what makes most sense is to disassemble the building, salvaging as much original material as possible and re-incorporating that material into a reconstructed rectory."
Ms. Hodder continues:
“It is expensive to fix heritage buildings. But it is a mindset that I think we have got to get into. Tearing them down is not good enough. It is really destroying our social fabric,” Ms. Hodder says. “I think the first thing you have to have is political will about it. Before you get daunted about it, you have to decide you are going to do something. We have let so much of our heritage go. And there are financial problems with the city, but they aren’t going to last forever.”
It is kind of Ms. Hopper, as non-disinterested observer as I imagine the reporter could find, to note the city's financial difficulties, but I beg to differ with her — they are going to last forever if we keep throwing taxes down the special interest hole in London. Heritage, social fabric — these are vague meaningless popular terms — although that is just fine if you are a professional heritage consultant, egad. However, it is quite an affront to taxpayers to employ these terms as though they were discrete objects to justify concrete material expenditures. These subjective terms belong in art and poetry — not in fiscal policy. How can these terms and the evaluation of the funding that goes to support them be anything but arbitrary, based solely on politics. When, on the other hand, the owner of a building is able to state in absolute and objective terms what he or she is willing to spend on the upkeep, sale or demolition of his or her own property.

Here's what the city says in its patronizing tone that it uses with its cells:
“I think heritage is important. I think the preservation of these buildings, whether we do it house by house or by conserving districts, I think this enables the city to retain its essential heritage characteristics,” [acting heritage planner for the city] Don Menard says.

Whether a building is marked a heritage item, is up to its owner. Based on research done about the building (who might have lived there, events that took place there and architectural style of it), they can attempt to have it deemed a heritage site.

[…]

Once a building is designated a heritage site, it doesn’t mean it can’t ever be replaced. Mr. Menard says buildings taken over by new owners maybe won’t see the value of a heritage building. When they apply for demolition permits, they may not get them right away. If the LACH [London Advisory Committee on Heritage] committee thinks it should stay the way it is, the property owner has to wait 180 days before they are able to do what they want with the building.
The owner of a building can apply to have his or her structure designated as a heritage property, which is a very convenient way of getting taxpayers to pay for its upkeep. So it's a scam basically. But once that owner changes his or her mind and wants to alter the structure, or decides to sell it to somebody else, they face the decision of the London Heritage Advisory Committe, based on who knows what principles, and bureaucratic red tape before they do something they want to do with their own property. Plus the bad press that these kind of people can give them through the local obliging media.

And that's precisely
why in the case of the rectory, the owner — the diocese — doesn't want to designate it.

Because, says [Rev. Tony] Daniels [rector of St. Peter's], that would restrict what the diocese can do with its property.
(From the same Free Press article cited above — I recommend this article as an example of the evils of heritage designation and its proponents.)

And it should be noted that:
(f) in instances where reports of the London Advisory Committee on Heritage include recommendations to give notice of Council's intention to designate properties without the owners' consents, the City Clerk be instructed to advise the owners, either by telephone or in writing, of the Advisory Committee's recommendations and the date on which such recommendations will be submitted to the Planning Committee
— from Chapter 11 of the City of London's Policy Manual; italics added.

More on restrictions from the city's planning department:
Any residential building within the following designations of the Official Plan or areas listed below requires Council approval before the demolition permit is issued:
  • low density residential
  • multi-family medium density residential
  • multi-family high density residential
  • office residential
  • Urban Reserve - Community Growth
  • Woodfield Heritage Conservation Area
  • Hellmuth-Bishop Conservation Area
Note: Any residential building in an area of demolition control on the Inventory of Heritage Resources requires a public meeting.

Non-residential buildings in these areas or outside the designated area(s) do not require Council approval for the demolition permit to be issued. However, if a non-residential building is on the Inventory of Heritage Resources, the City is required to notify the London Advisory Committee on Heritage (LACH) for review.
For more on how the heritage designation process works, go to these planning documents here. And for more on heritage zone restrictions, go here.

Pity the poor property owner who finds that his or her property is suddenly in a heritage zone. And pity yet more the taxpayers of London who fund this nonsense. Collectivism does indeed lead to stagnation, but rarely so intentionally.

[Source of quotes, unless otherwise noted:
How much is our heritage worth? By Mardy Bacigalupo.
Published in The Londoner, Volume 4 Issue #2, January 13th., 2005
Note: Unfortunately there is no permalink to the article, nor does the Londoner archive its stories. Back issues of the Londoner can be found at local public libraries and blue boxes.]

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Friday, January 21, 2005

I vote for jumping the queue

More madness from Britain.
From the Spectator, via Gods of the Copybook Headings:

"The now ineradicable managerialism so insouciantly introduced into the public service by the Conservatives, and that serves so well the megalomaniac centralising ambitions of the current government, for whom increasing bureaucratic clientelism is the key to eternal power, has created a Kafkaesque atmosphere in the health service, in which it is impossible to point one’s finger at precisely who is responsible for what latest idiocy. The very expansion of management — 17.6 per cent in one year alone — dilutes responsibility to the point when it can no longer be said to exist with anybody. A miasma of intellectual and moral corruption hangs over every hospital and, though itself intangible, its effects are tangible, such as the decision of a very famous hospital to keep patients brought to casualty waiting in ambulances rather than allowing them inside, so that the waiting time in the casualty department could be brought into line with a target. "

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"If we're ever going to realize Father Trudeau's dream of free love and free drugs…"

Laurent of Le Blog de Polyscopique rebuts "the naive assumption that religious affiliation plays no role in Canadian politics:"

[… T]he cultural habits of thought and action shaped by centuries of religious belief and practices simply don't go away overnight. Being a Catholic means believing that a single source of authority, namely the Catholic Church led by the Pope, holds the key to the correct interpretation to God's word: Catholicism uses a transcendant moral order to legitimize centralized authority, the authority of the Catholic Church. When a Catholic society becomes secularized, the Catholics in that society may lose their obedience to the authority of the Church, but they often keep their longing for a strong -- and even spiritually fulfilling -- central authority, and more often than not the new authority that replaces the Church in their hearts and minds is the State. Thus, the liberalism of the post-1960 Canada's Catholic prime ministers has been closer to left-liberalism than classical liberalism and they have been, much to the chagrin of conservatives and libertarians, defenders and promoters of the Welfare State. Of course, since the phrase 'Canadian values' came to be more and more associated with the Welfare State, these Catholics found themselves right in the zeitgeist.
He should know, he's been touted as the Conservative blogger most likely to become Prime Minister. Laurent makes many other interesting and worthwhile observations in this post. I will be checking out this blog more often.

But what really makes the article in Le Blog de Polyscopique worth the price of admission is the comment from Liberal Larry … I'm glad he "visits" Canada from time to time. The comment is worth a post in its own right:
[ … ] The time has come for all Canadians to unite under a common cause: getting rid of the Christians. Not all Christians, mind you - just the ones whose religious beliefs interefere with our political agenda - i.e. Christian Fundamentalists. Their backwards, outdated belief system is based on unwavering moral absolutes, which only alienate those enlightened Canadians who have no morals at all. Ironically, these so-called "morals" Christians claim to possess aren't even true morals, as they stem not from a Noam Chomsky pamphlet or a Michael Moore film - but from some silly old book they found in a motel room dresser …
Be sure to read the whole thing …


What Liberal Larry is reading these days …

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The continuing saga of London's financial crisis

The city councillor who won support during a marathon budget session Wednesday for city staff to find $1.7 million in budget cuts came under more fire yesterday. But Coun. Rob Alder didn't back down, saying staff have a more intimate knowledge of the proposed $659-million draft budget than politicians who have struggled for weeks to trim a proposed tax increase that stands at 7.3 per cent.

[. . . .]

Coun. Ab Chahbar, who supported Alder's motion, yesterday said the problem Wednesday was the length of an 11-hour debate that stretched close to midnight.

An exasperated Chahbar had argued at the meeting that council had accomplished "absolutely nothing" in that marathon session which saw a proposed 7.8-per-cent tax hike drop to 7.3 per cent.

"But that was only because we got $2 million from London Hydro (in the form of a dividend) and had nothing to do with any hard work by council," Chahbar said.

[. . . .]

Other developments

- Dr. Graham Pollett, medical officer of heath for the Middlesex-London Health Unit, saw his $6-million city share of a $22-million budget deferred for a report on why the city's share of the budget didn't drop in accordance with an increased provincial share. Pollett tried unsuccessfully to convince council the extra funds are needed to cover 30 new positions required to meet provincial health standards. That debate will resume Tuesday at council's budget meeting.

- Council also called for a report back from staff on the possibility of building a needed north-end firehall this year instead of 2006. Staff will determine if it's possible to swap some approved capital funds for a police station expansion that won't actually be built till 2008 and direct those funds to fast-track the firehall.

The numbers below illustrate the mixed up priorities of those in charge of the budget. Note the library receives only slightly less than garbage collection and winter maintenance combined. Also of interest is the significant increase in the childcare budget in terms of percentage:

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I hope he enjoyed himself at least

Most certaintly, this guy was educated in the public school system - sure this wasn't a citizen of London, Ontario?

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC -- It will be the most expensive keg of beer he's ever had. A 32-year-old Czech man got himself locked up in a pizzeria in the town of Brno late Wednesday to have free access to beer overnight. When the restaurant's staff left, he broke into a cooling box containing a keg, disconnected the pipes leading to the tap, put them in his mouth and drank as much as he could.

The man, drunk and fast asleep, was found by cleaners in the early hours of the morning.

Vit Cvrcek, a police spokesperson, said he will now have to pay for the beer he drank and faces up to one year in prison or a fine of about $425 Cdn for the damage he caused to the cooling box.

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Bitch slappin' and name calling

Ian Gillespie highlights the combative nature of Wednesday's marathon budget meeting:

City manager Jeff Fielding set the sporting tone with a "win one for the Gipper"-type speech, exhorting councillors to tackle "tough decisions."

Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco encouraged councillors to "really dig deep." Coun. Ab Chahbar said, "I'm certainly onside with the problem." And intergovernmental liaison director Grant Hopcroft said other cities "have tilted the playing field."

And that was all during the game's -- er, session's -- opening minutes, long before it lapsed into extra-overtime.

- Most confusing moments: At one point, Chahbar raised his pencil to make a dramatic point, then asked for a few minutes because, "I can't even read my own writing."

Later, during one of those I'd-like-to-propose-a-motion-to-amend-the-motion-to-amend-the-amendment sequences so beloved by politicians, Coun. Susan Eagle raised her hand to vote against her own amendment.

- Best yuks: While discussing health care, Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen protested, "We're trying to create a Cadillac system out of a Chevrolet body." To which Coun. Cheryl Miller quipped, "I do that every day."

While dissecting the problems surrounding public housing, Miller said she was fed up with the province: "It's like they've given us a dog, but they still hold the leash."

- Best did-he-really-say-that? moment: While discussing the mayor's plea to hire someone to recruit family doctors, Coun. Rob Alder said the lack of local family doctors isn't that big a problem because old people are much healthier these days.

"There's some kind of healthy aging process going on," he said, adding, "People demand physicians, but that doesn't necessarily mean they need physicians."

Ah, yes. And maybe that whole "death" thing is just an attitude problem.

- Best unsubstantiated boast: While discussing a proposed cut to the library's budget, Coun. Fred Tranquilli praised London's library system as not only the best in Canada, but "maybe even the best on the continent."

- Best tell-it-like-it-is statement: Ninety minutes after the session's scheduled 1 p.m. start time and after DeCicco's extended plea for a recruiter, Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell leaned toward the mayor and said, "So much for your half-hour presentation."

- Best mangled metaphors: While discussing possible cuts to Orchestra London and the Grand Theatre, Coun. David Winninger protested that, "I think you're cutting here with a broadsword instead of a paring knife."

Controller Bud Polhill seemed to agree, then upped the kitchen metaphor to a more manly construction analogy: "I think we can make more progress with a jackhammer than a sledgehammer."

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Public Vomit

This is what happens when the state deems the vassals unfit to make their own decisions and effectively educate their children. Although this story comes from the Nanny State we call Britian, this sort of 'logic' should sound familiar to us Canadians. It brings to mind the proposed ban on tobacco advertising and displays and also Ralph Klein's mandatory brainwash sessions planned for kindergarten children in Alberta. When there is no incentive and resources left for intelligent people to breed, 'cause a good portion of their income is routed into the trough before it reaches them and given to those who have done nothing to deserve it, a general apathy and dumbing down can be observed in society.

The public health minister Melanie Johnson last night began tightening the screws on fast food companies to end two-for-one burger promotions and incentives aimed at children.

She accused them of sending "contradictory messages" in the battle against rising obesity levels. The government has already put the food industry on notice that manufacturers will be banned from advertising products that are high in fat, sugar and salt unless they put their own house in order.

Ms Johnson has successfully forced some companies to drastically reduce salt in foods but her remarks over two-for-one promotions, such as those offered by McDonald's and competitors, and toy offers with meals for children represent a significant ratcheting up of rhetoric.

They follow warnings from the European Union's health and consumer affairs minister, Markos Kyprianou, of a clamp-down on food advertising to children.

Ms Johnson, responding to an interview with Mr Kyprianou in the Financial Times, said: "We are pleased to see he has signed up so clearly to our agenda on this issue.

"We have already made clear we are determined to see fast progress in this whole area. There is a strong case for action to limit the advertising and promotion to children of foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar.

"We will monitor progress through Ofcom [the official regulator] and if by early 2007 sufficient progress has not been made we will introduce a compulsory framework for regulating the promotion of food to children."
As usual, the merchants play into the scam helping to reinforce the agenda, rather than resisting and sticking up for our rights to eat as many big macs as we choose.
The government, in a recent white paper, said it wanted far clearer labelling on food so that consumers could make healthy choices.

Mr Kyprianou, while recognising that signs from the industry on advertising were encouraging and positive, said: "But if this doesn't produce satisfactory results we will proceed to legislation. I would like to see the industry not advertising directly to children any more."

He added that food labelling must be "more easily understood by a consumer who doesn't have a PhD in chemistry".

A spokeswoman for McDonald's UK pointed out that Ms Johnson had not specifically mentioned the company. "Buy one get one free" offers such as that recently made by the company were common in January, as consumers watched their spending after Christmas. The McDonald's 10-day campaign had been adult-oriented and responsibly advertised as intended for two people, she added.

The industry body, the Food and Drink Federation, said it was already committed to more informative labelling and was working with the government to review the existing code on advertising.

It had also promised to participate in a government-led campaign to educate the public on healthy eating and lifestyles.
People like things that are 'bad' for them, often simply because the thing is 'bad'. If ya haven't figured out by now that smoking and eating fast food are not going to lead to good health, then you're just plain stupid. Perhaps the increase in public stupidity is directly correlated with the increased number of public awareness campaigns?

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