Wednesday, January 30, 2008

8th Warmest Year in Decade.

Ok, so if the global temperature is increasing, as we are told repeatedly, why is the trend moving flat or downward on average?

Does 8th warmest mean 3rd coldest? Stands to reason. It looks very much like 2007 was colder than 1988, 1992, and 1996, not to mention most of the last decade. Our detractors will still claim this as “climate change” but we have never claimed that climate is static.

I’m currently in Calgary, Alberta and we are just emerging from veru cold temperatures -39C, most of Alberta is in the deep freeze, much of the Canadian prairies have been hot by severely cold tempertures over the last several weeks. Calgary benefits from the Chinook, a warming wind that moderates winter cold. While we were in the freezer, Banff, just 100 kilometres to the west saw temperatures 30 degrees warmer, hovering at -8C.

This winter, my home location of Comox, BC on Vancouver Island or”Lotus Land” as some call it, has seen prolonged cold. Sure its only -5 or so, but we usually see temps above zero. We have also seen more snow than average. More climate change? Yes! But is it “Climate Change”? More like business as usual.

Also posted at http://bluemarbleclimate.wordpress.com/


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LEDC balloon sinking…

…as Council begins to deliberate next week on the London Economic Development Corp. (LEDC) request for a $355,000 increase to its $1.86 million budget, which was approved last week by Board of Control without even having seen a budget from the agency. Apparently, not having a budget is a strategic plan for receiving Board of Control's approval. Responding to questions about the agency's proposal to duplicate existing services as a downtown realtor, chief executive Peter White divulged only that "We have some ideas about what we can do with this program," and continued that the LEDC isn't certain how $200,000 for the program would be spent.

To date we count only four councillors expressing doubts about the budget increase, so the LEDC still has a better-than-even chance of meeting the same passive approval from Council as it did from Board of Control.

See also this comment from a previous post:

If anyone remembers when the LEDC was first created it was stated that the it would only be temporarily funded by the Taxpayers .... eventually the " Private Sector " would fully fund it. Back then the LEDC used to disclose it's employees in the $100,000 as legistlated provincially. Mysteriously they stopped reporting this because the City changed their status to a " Purchasing Contract ".

Being a " Purchasing Contract " the City is supposed to tender this according to the Municipal Act ...... How do they get away with this crime ? And how amny LEDC employees have exceeded the $100,000 mark ?

Someone should call the cops.

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Planning backwards

City Council met last night to consider a presentation by planner Seth Galloway on the city's Urban Design Program. The goal of the design framework being drawn up by the advisory Urban Design steering committee is to make London more "liveable," which Galloway promises in return will attract people and economic development. Galloway clearly has a bright future in City Hall by demonstrating a firm grasp on the buzzwords and conceits that motivate politicians to suppose that it is within not only their mandate but their capacity to manage the city's attractions and economic development, to say nothing of incontestably meaningless concepts like liveability. Like the improbable Creative Cities doctrine that preceded it, and which it certainly does nothing to dispel, the idea of liveability as suggested by Galloway completely reverses cause and effect — in reality, it is economic opportunities that attract people, who in return make a city liveable through the exercise of their choices and aspirations. As far as planning goes, liveability may mean nothing more at the moment than approving certain amiable housing designs but, just as with the idea of creativity, the term is abstract and intangible enough to rationalize whatever concrete and non-negotiable restrictions and taxes politicians would like to convey with it. In other words, sacrificing the first link in the chain of liveability cause and effect.

To take one example of what liveability as policy would attempt to eradicate, the prevalent "garage looming in the front yard" design is a feature of modern subdivisions that no one much appreciates. But it is not a natural accident, it is a product of municipal policies that place a premium on developable land and consequently create an incentive for developers to squeeze as much housing on parcels as they can. Without addressing those policies, adding new planning restrictions on developers will just as likely result in more unintended consequences, the most obvious of which would be inflating housing prices. As we mentioned, the first link in the chain of cause and effect…

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The joy of representation

So what will city council do about London's 2008 property tax rate? It's probably safe to say that the odds can be pegged as the exact inverse of what these London taxpayers say they want their representatives to do…

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Ignore it long enough, it'll go away

As former councillor Fred Tranquilli said once, "there's no sense having good roads if you have nowhere to go." But is there any sense have somewhere to go if you don't have good roads?

Two more downtown water main breaks early Sunday morning are not the result of provincial and federal government neglect in funding municipalities for which municipal politicians would have us absolve them. Funding deficiencies of $220 million for water services, $250 milliion for sewers, $275 million for roads, and $30 million for buildings and other facilities are the result of long-term neglect of infrastructure by municipal politicians who would rather fund massive capital projects and subsidize the non-essential interests of vocal constituencies. If London could have afforded a $45 million arena during the same period in which infrastructure deficits accumulated, it is awkward to argue that it could not afford to maintain basic essential services.

Out of sight, out of mind. Budgets at City Hall have soared over 40 per cent since 2000, which City Council has largely squandered on creating a benevolent profile. The profile is rapidly becoming unaffordable, but Council now finds itself politically beholden to subsidizing a significant part of London's economic and community activity, from which it doesn't have the stomach to extricate itself.

Extricate itself it must, however, by drastically slashing discretionary spending in the near future. Demands for welfare handouts from senior levels of government are meeting with decidedly lukewarm responses so far — and as those governments face political pressures of their own, any handouts will continue to be variable and undependable. Even where another level of government steps in to alleviate municipal budget constraints, however, Council still wastes the opportunity, as it did when Board of Control approved $2 million in new non-essential spending out of $3.9 million it saved when the Ontario government recently uploaded drug benefit and disability program costs.

Re-assigning the blame for deteriorating infrastructure prevents the City from acting on the problem when it matters, and creates a dicey, unpredictable political imbroglio that will never be solved satisfactorily, if at all. London is hardly alone among Canadian municipalities in this game. But as the city's executive, it must start acting now for the city.

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What's economic develoment got to do with an Economic Development Corporation?

When the Board of Control approved a request for a 19 per cent increase in the London Economic Development Corp. (LEDC) budget for this year, it as much as guaranteed that the hike would be approved by Council as a whole on February 21. After all, what councillor would want to take a stand against economic development? But one, Cont. Bud Polhill, is at least still asking questions about the budget increase — appropriately enough, as it turns out, since controllers who passed the request hadn't even seen the LEDC budget itself. What price oversight at City Hall? Apparently more than $355,000 at least.

In advance of dismantling or at least completely overhauling the LEDC after its audit in the spring, Council should make the first step in freezing its current budget of $1.86 million this year. After that, Council must begin to review the returns to economic development for the city from that investment, which would certainly appear questionable at best. While the LEDC would like to tout the creation of 150 jobs from the recent arrival of a luxury home countertop manufacturer, Hanwah L&C Canada, as evidence of success, it is telling that the announcement should be the single centrepiece of the Mayor’s State of the City address while other local manufacturers released workers in 2007 — 253 from Accuride, 253 from MCormick-Beta, and 120 from Mega Plas, to name but a few. Council must also ask, as does Polhill, why the LEDC appears to be trying to duplicate services that other agencies already provide, such as acting as a downtown realtor.

For all its extravagant budget requests, the LEDC is conspicuously short on successes, or specific strategies for that matter, unless one counts a gaming conference. Instead, the LEDC's principal trade is in the buzzwords and the old game of picking winners and losers in the market that appeal so much to politicians but which have always and necessarily worked so poorly in actually creating economic development. But even well-intentioned powerpoints and conferences will only go so far when high taxes, regulatory hurdles and political wrangles are the prominent features on London's development landscape. If the City were serious about promoting economic development, it will only succeed by getting out its way.

Update, Jan. 29: More questions about the LEDC budget request are finally being raised by councillors. Not only did Board of Control approve the LEDC's request for a 19 per cent increase without having a budget to review or an up-to-date audit, it did so without having any account of the agency's surplus.

See also:
LED balloon
London high-tech plan to create phoney-baloney jobs and
Losing economic opportunities by Kim Ainslie

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The ticket business

I had been under the impression that flashing headlights to warn someone to slow down because of a speed trap was illegal for many years. But this article suggests something more cynical at work. Public safety, indeed.

Can you say "fishing hole," boys and girls?

Okay, so speeding is speeding, and speeding is against the law everywhere. But seriously.

As any concerned citizen would do if he knew someone was possibly going to break a law – especially if he knew the cops were lying in wait at the potential scene of the crime – Diamond flicked his headlights at oncoming traffic.

As you would. And as you would, most of the oncoming traffic did slow down.

Now, still assuming, perhaps naively, that slowing traffic down to make the roads safer is the objective of radar (it never works, but that's a story for another day), you'd think the cops would be happy that Diamond was assisting in their cause.

You'd think they'd want everybody flashing their headlights, all the time. Who'd take a chance at speeding then?

But no, stationed at the west end of the bridge were a couple more cruisers, pulling people like Diamond over for warning people about the radar trap.

$110 and no points.

I checked the Highway Traffic Act (HTA). I could find no reference to radar speed traps at all, let alone anything about it being illegal to warn other drivers about them. After all, traffic reporters and some websites even announce their locations.

And later on, in court:
The prosecutor called [him] to the bench, asked his name, read the charge, and asked how he pleaded.

"Not guilty, your worship,"' he responded.

Then the prosecutor said, "The police officer has no evidence in this case, your worship."'

"Case dismissed,"' said the justice of the peace.

WHAT? The police officer has "no evidence"? If he had no evidence, why the heck did he lay the charge in the first place?

The fact is, he had no law upon which to base the charge, because Diamond had not done anything illegal.

They assume that you will assume you had in fact done something illegal, fork over your cash, and they smile all the way to the bank.

Now, dad always said that in court, you take a win any way you can. But we were disappointed not to take it to trial so as to set a precedent against this little Buford T. Justice scam by the Toronto Police.

Someone more paranoid than me might suspect they did not want it to go to trial for that very reason, so as not to put their scurrilous behaviour on the trailer for all time.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

London's elected followers



The London Free Press headline neatly sums up the City's 2008 budget as it heads to Council on February 5 for review… and, it should be added, the City's budgets over the past decade. If the budget is passed as expected, property tax rates will have risen 35 per cent since 2000, not including assessment increases, while water and sewer charges will have soared by 86 per cent. Numerous constituencies, such as arts groups and municipal employees, have certainly benefited from City Hall's generosity, but the ordinary taxpayer who looks for and receives only basic property services from the City has nothing new in particular to show for his taxes over this time — apart from a $351.2 million debt that cost $51.4 million to service last year, and a potentially enormous infrastructure deficit, of course.

While Council might be applauded for not increasing spending as dramatically as it had during the earlier part of the decade when massive capital projects were the rage, it has still not shown any inclination to rein in program costs, and in fact continues to fund new liabilities or expand existing ones even if they are on a smaller scale than before. When the provincial government relieved the City of a $3.9 million cost for drug benefits and disability programs, Board of Control committed $2 million to new spending as outlined in the Free Press article rather applying the whole amount to reducing the tax levy increase. More than $2.7 million* of last year's $7 million in surplus revenue was committed to new discretionary spending as well.

Councillors have shown themselves over the past decade to be fairweather administrators, idly and without trouble distributing increasing taxes as long as revenues keep comfortably pouring in and taxpayers are able to bear the burden. It would obviously be too much to call them leaders… when they have not followed City staff's lead on almost every budget item, they have followed the earnest requests of almost every hopeful dependent that has come before them for municipal funding. They have even followed where they pretended to lead, acceding to almost every budget request from municipal boards, commissions, and departments that exceeded the generous targets that Council had set for them. They have even indulged the pretense that they must follow by refusing to exercise the express control allowed to them by provincial legislation over provincially regulated programs because it provides them with "57 per cent" innocence.

Council even follows its unions, whether or not taxpayers have an interest in the outcome. Despite an 80.7 per cent budget increase to the Dearness Home this year, and an astonishing one thousand per cent increase since 2000, Council overwhelmingly voted to prohibit outsourcing services to reduce costs at the long-term care facility as union members packed council chambers. Coun. Nancy Branscombe even chastised Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen for just discussing the idea on a local radio show, demonstrating that her commitment to political opportunities with select constituencies are more important than her commitment to the people whose money she's buying them with. Coun. Susan Eagle actually swooned before the union audience: "They have a lot of wisdom to give us." One hardly knows where to begin with a statement like that, except that the union's wisdom, such as it might be, is obviously dedicated to getting what the union and not the taxpayer wants. As for Coun. Eagle, we can assume whose wants have her sympathy.

We should also note that the Dearness Home is provided to comply Ontario's Homes for the Aged and Rest Homes Act, requiring that "every municipality […] shall establish and maintain a home for the aged." Nowhere does the legislation make any requirement for the size and number of beds that that home shall provide, however. If Council really wanted to be creative, it could keep four beds in one room and rent out the rest of the Dearness Home building.

*Correction: We originally reported the portion of surplus revenue committed to new spending as $6 million. We regret the error.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Creative Capitalism"

Why am I not surprised that two of the most famous hypocrites of our times are pals:

Sharing a stage with the former US vice president at the annual gathering of world movers and shakers in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, the U2 frontman joked that their friendship was a source of pressure on the domestic front.

"He's been round my house and it's like... here's the recycler Al, you know... I've got a posh car, but it runs on ethanol Al," Bono said.

Acknowledging that a career in rock music was not always conducive to a green lifestyle, Bono compared a conversation with Gore to an act of religious contrition.

"It's like being with an Irish priest. You start to confess your sins," he said. "Father Al, I am not just a noise polluter, I am a noise-polluting, diesel-soaking, gulfstream-flying rock star.
At least he admits he is a carbon spewing beast, unlike Al Gore, but Bono's not too proud to horde his money at the same time he demands governments around the world spend other people's money to fight poverty. Fresh from his trip to the Pentagon where he discussed global poverty with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Bono is now at an exclusive Swiss ski resort while he attends the annual Davos Economic Forum, along with roughly 2500 business and political "experts", including Father Gore.
New evidence shows "the climate crisis is significantly worse and unfolding more rapidly than those on the pessimistic side of the IPCC projections had warned us," the former US vice president and climate campaigner told delegates at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos.

There are now forecasts that the North Pole ice cap may disappear entirely during summer months in as little as five years, Gore said.

"This is a planetary emergency. There has never been anything remotely like it in the entire history of human civilisation. We are putting at risk all of human civilisation," he added.
I suspect this new evidence is as reliable as the evidence presented in "An Inconvenient Truth."

One of the world's richest men, Bill Gates, is also making an appearance. If he were content to spend his own money to help the less fortunate, I'd praise his efforts, but like Bono and Gore, he's lobbying for government to mandate collected booty to meet economic need, whatever that term might mean:
Thirty years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, my focus was totally on how the magic of software could change the world. I saw that breakthroughs in technology could solve key problems. And they do, increasingly, for billions of people.

But breakthroughs change lives primarily where people can afford to buy them, only where there is economic demand, and economic demand is not the same as economic need.

[..] The world is getting better, but it's not getting better fast enough, and it's not getting better for everyone.

The great advances in the world have often aggravated the inequities in the world. The least needy see the most improvement, and the most needy get the least -- in particular the billion people who live on less than a dollar a day.

[..] The genius of capitalism lies in its ability to make self-interest serve the wider interest. The potential of a big financial return for innovation unleashes a broad set of talented people in pursuit of many different discoveries. This system, driven by self-interest, is responsible for the incredible innovations that have improved so many lives.

But to harness this power so it benefits everyone, we need to refine the system.
We need Creative Capitalism!

c/p: Dust My Broom

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Remember this when you file your income tax return

The Federal government is spending $10 million dollars of taxpayers' money to advertise Quebec's 400th anniversary.

The festival's budget, including the marketing and public relations dollars, are administered through the Societe de 400e anniversaire du Quebec, not through the federal government. Marketing efforts include advertising on Web sites and radio, and in magazines and newspapers. The $10-million is part of a total $40-million contribution by the Heritage department to the year-long celebrations, which mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City by Samuel de Champlain.

The Quebec provincial government also is contributing $40-million, while the city of Quebec is kicking in $5-million.

The total budget for the celebrations -- including $10-million in expected revenues -- is $95-million.
I'm certain I would gain more pleasure setting the portion of my income devoted to the government on fire.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Budget 2008: more pain, no gain

City Council as a whole does not typically rock Board of Control's boat, and Londoners will likely face an increase of just slightly more than four per cent in residential property taxes and utility charges this year as the Board recommended to Council yesterday in its review of spending in the 2008 budget. If, as administration has advised to Council, four-fifths of the City's 1.5 per cent increase in assessment growth and twelve per cent of the City's $7 million surplus revenues from last year are applied to the tax levy portion of the budget, the overall hike in tax and utility rates will be reduced to about 2.7 per cent — or the lowest rate of increase in at least five years. This may seem a respite after tax rates skyrocketed between 2004 and 2006, but it certainly does not represent a return to Londoners after those exorbitant hikes but an excuse for them. Nor is it much consolation to those property owners whose assessments have risen in concert with rate increases. Whatever the final advertised rate of increase, the Board's recommendation is for a 4 per cent increase in tax-supported spending — which is, put simply, a four per cent increase in taxes. And as Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell noted, "not many people are getting four-per-cent wage increases."

Despite the initial forecast of a 5.5 per cent tax hike for 2008, Controllers cannot be commended much for the reduction since it merely implemented most of administration's original spending recommendations (PDF), although the Board did finally and mercifully reject for the time being a proposed $2.7 million call centre and its annual $1.7 million in operating costs, and withdrew $2.14 million from a fund to subsidize hospitals and the downtown. Otherwise, the Board's review produced no program service cuts, and even found room for $3.4 million worth of new non-budgeted items through additional revenues that included a $3.9 million saving provided by the Ontario government's decision to relieve municipal funding of two social programs.

Assessment growth and windfalls from other levels of government may spare the City from the appearance of significant spending growth through tax rate hikes, but neither source of revenue can be counted upon to provide relief if economic factors outside the City's control — such as a recession — begin to exert negative pressures on property values or on provincial and federal governments. Despite the relatively innocuous rate increase, this year's budget has been a lost opportunity to reign in spending and begin to insulate London's economy from impending constraints, and in fact has only entrenched and expanded the City's program obligations. Following administration's recommendations almost without question, the Board continued as it has for the past several years to approve requests for municipal boards and departments that failed to meet budget targets, including granting the Library Board's request for a 5.5 per cent increase — its target had been 3.2 per cent — after it has already received an average annual increase of 4.8 per cent since 2003. Fire services, courts administration, and the London Middlesex Housing Corporation will all also receive requests over target. Targets, it would appear, are nothing really more than gestures by Council, and from experience are safely ignored by departmental administrators.

It is too late for this year, but Council would be advised next year to begin demanding of administration that board and department budgets be comprehensively reviewed, and not simply the over-target portions of those budgets, and that those budgets are not passed simply for the sake of expedience. Further, those boards and departments must be obliged to consider alternative revenue streams — we have already made suggestions in the case of the Library. Further consideration — and courage before isolated but powerful political pressures — should also be given to outsourcing services to reduce taxpayers' costs where legally permissible. Finally, selling London Hydro at an appropriate price — lately estimated at $246 million — and applying the proceeds to the City's $350 million debt would substantially reduce debt-servicing obligations to taxpayers, forecast at $59.8 million for 2008, or almost 6.5 per cent of the City's overall 2008 budget.

Although the prospects that Council will substantially revise Board of Control's recommendations, we will be providing some suggestions in the coming weeks before Council reviews the budget on February 5 to eliminate some of its more egregious and unnecessary spending items.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dare to be Eliminated

Tired of articles on the US primaries? Take out your frustrations by engaging in some virtual Presidential Paintball. Seemingly designed with kids in mind, I suspect this video game is more enjoyed by adults unwillingly caught up in the political game. Unfortunately, you must assume the role of a candidate, but if you play long enough, and change your identity after each successful mission, you'll get the chance to shoot each of the six hopefuls featured.

Ht: The Mighty Drudge Report

cross-plopped at The Broom.

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Every time Gord Hume cries, an angel gets his wings

According to the London Free Press, Controller Gord Hume has withdrawn his request to City Hall for $1,200 to spend a few days next summer in London's sister city in China, Nanjing with his characteristic grace:

"I'm not sure I've ever seen a suggestion blown so out of proportion," Hume told city council. "Obviously, the well has been poisoned — I'm calling the trip off."
Fortunately, Hume will still be overseas next summer to avoid anyone even presuming to question how he likes to spend tax dollars.

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A Mount out of a molehill

Local heritage activist Anne McKillop "used to say [that Locust Mount] was the only building in London I'd stand in front of a bulldozer for."

Is it too late to test her proposition? Or is her rectitude safe for posterity now that the famously decrepit building that no one in London had ever heard of before activists and politicians delayed its demolition to preserve their own regulatory investment is finally so decrepit that it can only be demolished? Whatever… such grandstanding gestures over such trifles are only redeemable to a small audience of like-minded trifling grandstanders, like Coun. Nancy Branscombe. For the rest of us, life with or without Locust Mount will continue without any bother over it. And for the property owner, it can perhaps finally build something useful on the site after over four years of arbitrary hurdles.

See also:

Developers contributing to municipal candidates … so what? and
Heritage tyranny

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Death by a thousand regulations

The $219,000 cost of hiring and equipping two full-time "Property Standards Inspectors for the Implementation of Licensing Rental Properties" for London will be "cost-neutral," according to Orest Katolyk, a London bylaw enforcement manager. Cost-neutral to the municipal government, that is, but not to landlords who would be required to pay new licensing fees to cover the cost of mandatory property inspections, or to their tenants who will have the costs passed on to them as much as provincial laws governing rent increases will allow. Even where tenants are protected from having those costs reflected in their rent, regulatory burdens on landlords such as the proposed item in London's 2008 budget (PDF) constitute a net penalty to tenants by deterring landlords from providing discretionary upgrades when regulatory costs must be assumed instead. Under burdensome regimes, the availability of decent and mid-priced units tends to be sacrificed either for cheap units in which upgrades are kept to an absolute minimum or to luxury units where high prices can absorb the regulatory costs.

In defense of what would be Ontario's first municipal licensing system for landlords, and replacing complaint-driven inspections with mandatory ones, Katolyk offers only the highly anecdotal claim that "tenants won't complain because they fear retribution." Even if that were true in any more than a few cases, other courses of action could be made available to both tenants and the City without applying an indiscriminate punitive levy on all landlords.

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Denialism will inevitably lead to the new dark ages

While researching origins of the most recent nihilistic musical phenomenon, collectively know as denial, I stumbled upon an enormous carbon footprint from legendary Deep Purple guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore. The part about 3 1/2 minutes in, when he nearly blows himself up, is pure denialcore.



Blackmore, well known for his cantankerous personality, has most recently been promoting a return to medieval values, as he is now in complete denial of all of modern life's realities - not just Global Warming.



Tragically, Blackmore has become an example of how extended deniallistic behaviour will lead to acceptance of the New Dark Ages which, inevitably, will follow in the wake of Global Warming.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Taxes forecast to rise… and rise, and rise

A survey of property tax and utility charges in 24 major Canadian municipalities by the City of Edmonton (PDF) found that London homeowners paid the fourth-highest municipal property taxes as well as combined property taxes and utility charges in 2007, based on a sample of 25-30 year-old 1200 sq.ft. detached houses on 6000 sq.ft. lots (see chart below). Londoners also paid the sixth-highest total property taxes per capita in Canada when school levies are added — a disproportionate burden on residents whose median family income and property value are lower than the median for Ontario cities. While methodologies for calculating representative tax figures differ between studies to produce varying results, London property tax burdens consistently score near the top provincially as well as nationally in survey after survey (see here and here).

Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell is correct to point out that the Ontario provincial government downloads services to municipalities whose costs are not borne by property taxes elsewhere in Canada — given the taxes collected provincially in addition to municipal taxes, this is certainly an indictment of the Ontario government's financial management. But the inability of the municipal government to control these costs have been vastly exaggerated to defer anger over rising tax rates in London when discretionary spending constitutes the majority of spending in the City's budget. Gosnell also ignores the fact that London receives much higher-than-average funding from government grants… a fact that should not be lost on any of the 337 Ontario municipalities that, unlike London, do not receive any portion of the province's $314 million gas tax funding to cities.

Controller Gord Hume, on the other hand, dismissed the City of Edmonton's survey by citing a 2007 BMA Consulting report presented in the City's budget review (PDF showing that property taxes on a similar sample are lower in London than the provincial average. However, most Ontario cities with higher actual property taxes are located in the Greater Toronto Area where median incomes and property values are much higher than in London, and, especially in the case of Toronto, where municipalities bear or at least attempt to bear much higher service burdens, rightly or wrongly. Hume's defense deflects the question of government spending in London, which is entirely consistent with his position as Council's foremost apologist for spending.

Whatever the merits of various municipal surveys, it is clear that it is not just a prohibitive regulatory regime but London's taxes that are a deterrent to the kind of economic growth that could generate above-median incomes and property values in the absence of other natural competitive advantages. More to the point, they are an unnecessary burden to Londoners who do not enjoy the benefits of that potential economic growth. Avoiding the question of spending, per Hume, is aimed at creating the perception that taxes are a natural phenomenon, beyond nothing more than just a little tweaking by politicians. But the failure to exercise control over the costs of downloading as is allowed by provincial legislation for many of these programs is neither natural nor unremediable, as is the failure to demand accountability for spending in the City's own departments before they go over administration's generous extra-inflationary targets. Unfortunately, the City's approach to spending is exemplified not only by the attempt to create new services where existing services might already suffice as in the proposed $1.7 million per year call centre, but by the active refusal to even consider obvious methods for the cost-efficient delivery of service. In the meantime, property tax levies are predicted to rise over 4 per cent each year through until 2012.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Think Carbon Capture

Vote Stephane Dion for change; your preferred representatives at the round table of entitlement are at stake.

In a speech to the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Dion said his party wants to champion a "green industrial revolution."

"Canada should be the incubator for technologies that will make cars more fuel efficient, so when consumers are shopping for new models our manufacturers reap the benefits.

We should design the clean coal or carbon capture and storage technologies that offer hope to developing countries struggling to grow their technologies while keeping greenhouse gases under control," Mr. Dion said.

"In short, Canada and its highly skilled workers must seize the enormous global business opportunities available through the green technologies of tomorrow."

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Criminalize it, and I'll advertise it

Pundita has a lengthy post on steps towards treating the enforcement of Human Rights Act Section 13 as a criminal act.

The HRCs, in their administration of Section 13, have been getting away with their actions because no Canadian has ever treated them as criminal. It's time to expose the situation for what it really is. It's a police matter.

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Richard Warman and the Human Rights Commission's Homeopathy Of Hate

By now, everyone knows that our Human Rights Commissions are slot machines that run on tears. Bringing Canada and Canadians into growing international disrepute, these illiberal Commissions are nothing more than a way to rob one's enemies under colour of law and at no personal cost or risk.

But, by the ingenious Orwellian principle of their name, they can still arouse a certain sympathy among people who know nothing of their operation or their sleazy beneficiaries. That is changing as people start to pay attention to these illegitimate institutions, and start feeling towards them that unfamiliar, un-Canadian, illegal tingling sensation of hate.

Richard Warman, Human Rights Hatefinder General and former CHRC goon, is notorious for using these commissions in the same way other people use game shows. It turns out that he, and the CHRC, fight hate in the same way their Leftist compatriots have always "fought poverty" -- by adding to it, encouraging it, and using its continuing existence as a reason not to find a real job.

After all, if the bogeyman is truly defeated, or doesn't even exist in the first place, who's going to give an activi$t a pen$ion for fighting against him? Who among the economically illiterate will laud the Otherwise-Unemployable-Canadian taxspender community for making the world a better place, if it's already a pretty good place? It needs to be made worse. Vacations and second homes are at risk.

So when you go to work tomorrow morning and in days to come, always remember that you are giving half of that time to pay the likes of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and their then-employee Richard Warman to allegedly go on the internet and post that "Not only is Canadian Senator Anne Cools is a Negro, she is also an immigrant! And she is also one helluva preachy c*nt... women n****r imports"

Is Richard Warman a racist bigot, or was he "just following orders" issued by his masters at the Canadian Human Rights Commission when he posted the headlined message above on a Freedomsite forum on September 5, 2003? Whatever the answer, the same CHRC that has ruled Bible verses to be hate speech doesn't seem to consider these words to be a problem.
Now let's really get Canadian, and have Robert Pickton consult for an Anti-Cannibalism Task Force. I bet we can bring incidents of cannibalism down from two or three a year into the low hundreds. Activist jobs all around! Mark Steyn:
Mr Warman posted these words on a website and then used them as part of his complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. That is Scandal #1.

Furthermore, when the defendant then made plain that he wished to subpoena the records of the ISP to uncover the author of the above post, the Canadian Human Rights Commission mysteriously dropped it from the case. This suggests an explicit collusion between the CHRC investigators and their former colleague, Mr Warman. That is Scandal #2.

For posting these words on the website and then taking said website to the Human Rights Commission, Mr Warman has been substantially enriched by the Canadian state. That is Scandal #3.

Section XIII is misbegotten in theory and a shakedown racket in practice. It's time to end it.

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I coulda had a Performing Arts Center


If it weren't for sewers and roads and all that kinda stuff, London could really be some where nice to live. This fact makes Frank le Fou very sad. So much so that he was so crushed when the City's idea for a Performing Arts Center was recently over shadowed by the sinkhole in London that he wrote a song for it. According to Frank, this song was inspired by the accompanying photograph in which Her Worship appeared to be weeping at the sight of the financial burden of London's infamous sinkhole.

PLAY LOUD

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Service or no service, but never competition for service

Controllers Tom Gosnell and Gina Barber are absolutely correct that a $2.7 million call centre for municipal services operating on a $1.7 annual budget — figures revised down from an earlier proposal to dampen criticism — does not reflect the priorities of Londoners already burdened by property taxes and worried about basic infrastructure. Despite Council's endorsement of the idea back in November, the influence of Gosnell and Barber may help oppose implementation of the centre, for this year at least, during upcoming budget talks.

If it were the merits of such a service at this time to Londoners that were the central consideration of politicians, we could perhaps understand a difficult debate. But it is the planning and methods of proposals like this that shine a light on the continuing inability of London's administration to deliver effective services at a reasonable cost. Chief Administrative Office Jeff Fielding, along with several councillors, refuse to even consider tendering bids to contract the proposed service to outside firms. The City's unions, naturally enough, share this position and "vow to fight" and such move. Fair enough… the unions are not expected to represent taxpayers, but only themselves. To taxpayers, however, there is absolutely no added value in having municipal employees delivering call centre service that can justify the enormous added expense of the pay and benefits of union contracts.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Natives setting up protection racket in Haldimand Tract

No doubt emboldened by their two year occupation of Caledonia, natives in Ontario are now offering deals to municipalities and developers via the four-month-old Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) - the implication being they will refrain from occupying sites and setting up road and railway blocks for the right price. The land in question is the disputed Haldimand tract, pictured to the right, which includes not only Caledonia, but significant sections of Kitchener-Waterloo, Brampton and Cambridge. The red bit within the tract designates a current native reserve.

"This is a first in Canada for a [First Nation] to say we are going to take this matter into our own hands, because historical evidence would suggest the governments of Canada and Ontario are either unwilling or incapable of finding creative solutions," said Aaron Detlor, the administrator of the HDI, which was created by the Six Nations Confederacy Council.
I would say occupying disputed lands, destroying property and initiating acts of violence are examples of the natives taking matters into their own hands, but then it's not like taxpayers are getting much protection from the McGuinty Liberals and their police force. As Jay Jardine points out, the government here is working on banning lightbulbs, setting up more RIDE programs, and fretting over expiry dates on gift cards. They are also looking to ban cosmetic use of pesticides in the province, ban smoking in cars carrying minors, cracking down on "speed-racers" by seizing their cars and levying fines, and shortly after re-election, declared a new and expensive statutory holiday in February dubbed Family Day.

Dalton McGuinty is advising people against paying the development fees, but he's certainly not offering residents of Ontario a choice when it comes to funding a police force that spends more time protecting you from yourself than it does protecting your person and property.
"What we're doing is not any different in terms of process to what municipalities do," said Mr. Detlor, a lawyer by training. "We have some different objectives in terms of the level of environmental protection that we're seeking, as well as ensuring that the land provides for the perpetual care and maintenance of the Haudenosaunee, as was originally intended."
c/p: Dust My Broom

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All in the family

"London will see no work accomplished" this year for $540,000 in holiday pay and another $500,000 in overtime pay and lost revenue to bear the costs of helping Dalton McGuinty get himself re-elected last fall as Ontario Premier. Whether London would see $1 million worth of work accomplished on February 18th even if McGuinty hadn't declared it a mandatory day of congratulation for voting Liberal, otherwise known for some reason as Family Day, it is worth noting that municipal employees in Middlesex County will be working that day as usual, without extra pay. This raises the question of whether contracts and collective agreements in London require the City to recognize new statutory holidays, or whether administration here is taking the easy way out.

Some unionized employers, who already grant more than the nine statutory holidays Ontario requires a year at a minimum, have opted against granting the day off. Among them are the Ford St. Thomas assembly plant, the Cami Automotive plant in Ingersoll and Middlesex County. […] Still others, such as those at General Dynamics and London Life, will get the holiday in exchange for another day they expected off during the year.
McGuinty, meanwhile, insists that forcing people to pay for nothing "will boost the economy."

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What do you give a sister who has everything?
Gord Hume, of course!

Controller Gord Hume has requested $1200 from City Hall to spend a few days next summer in London's sister city in China, Nanjing. The benefits to local taxpayers of paying for the trip must be left to the imagination… rather much more, one would have to say, than required to imagine the benefits to Mr. Hume. In the meantime, London might consider why it has a sister so far away. If it's a matter of picking municipal siblings, couldn't we pick one a little closer? Arva, perhaps?

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Hate to have to break it to you in a post title, but you have no human rights.

Steyn:

The HRC scandal is not primarily to do with me, Ezra, Muslims, Christians, gays, white supremacists or anybody else. It is about the corruption of justice. The genius of the English legal system is the balance it strikes between the components of any trial - judge, jury, prosecutor, etc. The CHRC system muddies all the distinctions to the point where an ex-investigator is the serial plaintiff and a current investigator is posing as a perpetrator to create "crimes" in which there is no presumption of innocence.

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You Can Smell The Stale Coffee, Donuts, And Failure

Internal note: Nice call, ages back, my fellow group bloggers, on having nothing to do with a blogroll originating with these jerks!

(HT Billy).

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tom Cruise goes Sci-Fi

The path to salvation and happiness comes with a price. Just ask Tom Cruise and his fellow Scientologists. If one of your concerns is organizations making money from your misfortunes, then Scientology is not for you.

See actor Tom Cruise sell L. Ron Hubbard's vision to the appropriately educated for free for a potentially limited time; beware the body Thetans unleashed by Xenu.



Update: The video I linked to here is no longer available, but you can still see it by following this link.

cp: Dust My Broom

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Decline in assessment growth may expose London's lack of fiscal discipline

As reported in the London Free Press today, property assessment growth of 1.51 per cent in London last year is the lowest rate of increase since 2004. This is bad news for taxpayers because expansion of the tax base is used to mitigate the effects of growth in City spending on property tax rate hikes — although this has been, of course, cold comfort to taxpayers who have seen their assessments rise in concert with tax rates. Without assessment growth, however, taxpayers will see almost the full brunt of annual spending increases well above the rate of inflation passed on directly in the form of rate hikes. There will at least be the mixed blessing that the City will find it harder to continue to pretend that those rate hikes have ever been close to the rate of inflation.

Dependence on assessment growth to insulate the City from the appearance of significant spending growth is a perilous "strategy," for lack of a better word, when property values are subject to a host of external economic factors outside the City's control: demand created by interest rates, dollar values, and regional, provincial and national competitive or anti-competitive policies. As economic outlooks deteriorate south of the border, and eventually in Canada, the prospects for continued property development and assessment growth appear headed for further decline; property valuations may even decrease. At the same time, however, London's administration shows only small — shall we say token? — signs of limiting its tax-funded obligations and liabilities — including, to take just one example, continuing to fund the Guy Lombardo Museum ghost attraction.

Without spending reductions at City Hall, Londoners appear to be headed for tax rate increases in the next few years at least in the 4 to 5 per cent range — about the rate of growth in spending over the past two years — at a time when many of them will be least able to afford it.

Of course, if politicians and administration continue to find themselves reluctant to address the spending that drives tax increases, they might at least be reminded that prohibitive and "arbitrary and ill-advised" restrictions on property use hinder development and assessment growth as much as do prohibitive taxes.

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A Checkmark For Diogenes' Freeps Tour

Thank you Herman Goodden.

The stifling menace that has been unleashed on Canadian civic life over the last couple decades by those federal and provincial tribunals known as human rights commissions is finally being dragged into the full glare of public scrutiny with the highest profile cases of their kind yet to be heard.

HRC hearings are notoriously unbalanced. Ottawa Citizen columnist David Warren characterizes them as "kangaroo courts, in which the defendant's right to due process is withdrawn." Because these are only "hearings" and not full trials, hearsay evidence is permitted, the accused does not get an opportunity to cross-examine his accusers and the lack of intent to offend someone is not considered a defence.
Of course, the most obnoxious and gratuitous presence of intent to offend is a perfectly good defence, too, among free men. If you don't agree with me there, then your opinion is worthless. I say that to hurt your feelings and lower your self-esteem.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Marc Emery to Serve 5 years for selling seeds to voluntary consumers

Acting on the advice of his lawyers under hire for two years, Marc Emery has agreed to serve 5 years in a Canadian prison, with no chance of parole, to avoid extradition to the US for selling marijuana seeds to voluntary recipients. Violent criminals who rape and/or rob unsuspecting citizens are likely to serve less time in Canada.

Disgusting. Thanks for contributing roughly $578,000 in income taxes to government coffers Marc; you will now cash in on our respective contributions to pay for your up-keep, whether you agree or not.

"I'm going to do more time than many violent, repeat offenders," [says Marc Emery] "There isn't a single victim in my case, no one who can stand up and say, 'I was hurt by Marc Emery.' No one."
See also here and here.

Update:

A letter written to the National Post by Marc Emery's wife Jodie clarifies the potential plea bargain that is currently being negotiated. The deal has not yet been finalized and will not be accepted unless co-accused Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams are spared jail time.

The sentence would be for 10 years, and Emery would have to serve at least 5 years of that sentence in Canada. In addition, if this deal is accepted, Emery would serve 6 - 9 months of his sentence in a US jail.

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Closing Arguments

Just beautiful.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Reversal Of Authority

Reversal is actually not what happens in this clip. No tables were turned in reality. Ezra Levant entered his Human Rights investigation with all the real authority, and refused to concede any of it to this human rights apparatchik. As a result, the inmates no longer run this asylum.

Watch her try to get a little smidgen of approval from the real authority here by alluding to alleged past concessions she`s made to civilized notions of individual rights in her role as Thoughtcrime Investigator.



"Please Mr. Levant... my employer, my career, and I are not really as despicable as your righteous words prove even to me... please like me a little... I can help you... I`m one of the good ones... can`t we just end this here, I`ll dismiss the case in my report..."

From comments at LGF:

There is something amazing about the continuity of those videos, something that makes me feel happy sunshine bursting out of my gut...

If you watch from the start, and note the tone and body language of Shirley McGovern, there is an amazing evolution: At first she is condescending and feels like she owns him, though of course she is banally soft-spoken about it. Then Ezra hammers her and demolishes the moral authority she thinks she has, he makes too much sense. She is upset, crosses her arms and leans back. Doesn't want to hear it.

But is so persistent and so insolent, his eloquence is so radiant as he speaks truth to power, that she realizes she lost all power the moment he started questioning her authority. She realizes she has got none, and is apathetic on the surface but screaming inside in anger. But then by the end of it, she internally concedes.... She gives in. Check out how docile and sheepish she is in the last video. It's her way of saving face, by agreeing with him. So she can pretend it was not he who TNT'd her self-generated smug cloud and now she has nothing to stand on, but that it is HER decision, her understanding, to side with him. She wants to avoid confrontation, because Ezra says it clearly: I will rot in hell before I obey you. So she doesn't want that confrontation...

Oh my God, can it be this easy? The thug state can win only be default. Its might and prestige evaporates as soon as a ferocious bright citizen talks back.

/Shudders with inspiration

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

"Me today; you tomorrow."

The Belmont Club weighs in on the Alberta Human Rights Commission's sharia-based proceedings:

They said inquisitions couldn't happen in North American. Certainly not in the 21st century. But they have. Whether or not Ezra Levant is declared "innocent" or "guilty" by the Canadian Human Rights Commission of publishing the "Mohammed Cartoons" is beside the point. What is at issue is whether or not a Canadian government agency has the competence to punish someone for what in saner times would be considered a routine exercise in free speech. It is the legitimacy of the Canadian Human Rights Commission that is on trial here.

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Crack in a little YouTube box

The glorious international shaming of the Alberta Human Rights Commission by the righteous Ezra Levant continues. With Levant and Mark Steyn on their plates, and hordes of YouTube/blog fans finding out about these thuggish, third-world-worthy Commissions for the first time, Canada's Human Rights goon squads might finally have found prey that will choke them. Do Not Resuscitate.



"Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, the most heinous criminals in this country -- the state cannot order them to apologize. It's cruel and unusual punishment. A convicted murderer cannot be ordered to apologize, but a convicted publisher can be ordered by the state to apologize. I'll rot in hell before I use my mouth to say that fascist's (Soharwardy's) words with you as his instrument to compel me to do so."

Lots more at Ezra Levant's website and YouTube page.

It makes me dream of a Canada where Ezra Levant would represent the Right, and Marc Emery the Left. We need more Canadians like them raising these kinds of delightfully rude, over-the-top, articulate and uncompromising publicity campaigns against illegitimate organs like the Human Rights bureaucracies.

"Do not confuse appeasement with tactfulness or generosity. Appeasement is not consideration for the feelings of others, it is consideration for and compliance with the unjust, irrational, and evil feelings of others. It is a policy of exempting the emotions of others from moral judgment, and of willingness to sacrifice innocent, virtuous victims to the malice of such emotions."

-- Ayn Rand, "The Age Of Envy"

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Levant Faces The Commission

What is needed, it seems to me, is a seriously rude, arrogant, and well-educated class of journalists, who would lend each other support in ridiculing the pretensions of the censors. — Roger Scruton via the Politic



Ezra Levant faces the Alberta Human Rights Commission with bravery and sweet, sweet contempt for its illegitimacy.

For a government bureaucrat to call any publisher or anyone else to an interrogation to be quizzed about his political or religious expression is a violation of 800 years of common law, a Universal Declaration of Rights, a Bill of Rights and a Charter of Rights. This commission is applying Saudi values, not Canadian values...

It is procedurally unfair. Unlike real courts, there is no way to apply for a dismissal of nuisance lawsuits. Common law rules of evidence don’t apply. Rules of court don’t apply. It is a system that is part Kafka, and part Stalin. Even this interrogation today – at which I appear under duress – saw the commission tell me who I could or could not bring with me as my counsel and advisors.

I have no faith in this farcical commission. But I do have faith in the justice and good sense of my fellow Albertans and Canadians. I believe that the better they understand this case, the more shocked they will be. I am here under your compulsion to answer the commission’s questions. But it is not I who am on trial: it is the freedom of all Canadians.

You may start your interrogation.
Inspiring defiance. A rare inside view of the Human Rights process.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Human Rights fascism got you down? We'll always have Panama

"Within the limits of a free and democratic society", it turns out there's little room for the rude and offensive sorts of discussion that establish truth and common sense over and above backwards tribal supersitions.

Considering the political climate in Canada today, Conn Esq Web Design Ltd. has made the corporate decision to sell Free Dominion to Liberty News Service Inc. of Panama City, Panama.

Liberty News Service’s corporate mission is to buy websites from individuals and corporations living in countries where free speech is under attack, and protect those websites from being shut down or seized by oppressive governments. LNS is now the legal owner of the Free Dominion database and software, all logs and information about FD members, and the domains freedominion.com, freedominion.org and freedominion.net. Because it is not permissible to transfer a dot ca domain to a foreign corporation, we will retain freedominion.ca, which will continue to point to freedominion.com.
HT FF-OfF.
This is the future of "multiculturalism": a society in which, in the interests of protecting the "collective rights" of various identity groups, individual rights are circumscribed and public discourse is ever more regulated by the state. Good luck making that work, Canada.

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"Everyone, please -- we must know what it is we're supposed to be afraid of!"

We all like to think of the ground as being solid beneath our feet. We like to believe that the timeless crashing of waves on the shore is something that will continue forever. But did you know that the continents are now moving, and that unless Uncle Sam is stopped, the Atlantic Ocean will grow to gigantic proportions, and the Pacific Ocean will one day disappear altogether?

The People's Cube alerts us to the newest way the world will end unless the economies of America and its allies are destroyed -- Anthropogenic Continental Drift.

The continents rest on massive tectonic plates. Until the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the mid 18th century, these plates were fixed in place and immobile. However, drilling for oil and mining for minerals has cut these plates loose from their primordial moorings and left them to drift aimlessly. "The potential for damage is truly catastrophic," said Hans Brinker, a spokesman for the International Panel on Continental Drift (IPCD). "The continents are adrift due to the ruthless capitalist exploitation of the environment for profit. Unless immediate steps are taken to halt all oil and mineral extraction, we can expect a massive surge in earthquakes and volcanos by next Tuesday." The representative seemed close to tears during his announcement, a clear indicator of the severity of the threat.
Read the whole thing. You, too, will find yourself close to tears, and asking yourself what principalities and powers will lend a hand to help Mankind fight the evils of continental drift.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

We need more legal arguement like this

Mr. Mattson raised another point. It didn't make sense, he said, for the CRA to come after Mr. Anjaria for tax on money the government had already seized. "If I was a guy sitting at home and the government took my $33,000, and they've got it, why am I paying them income tax on that same $33,000 they took away from me?" he said in an interview. "They've already got it."
It's simple and makes perfect sense.

Link

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LED balloon

It must be a good thing that the London Economic Development Corp. (LEDC) restructured itself to avoid duplication of services with other local business agencies… otherwise there would be no telling just how much larger its request for a 32 per cent budget increase from the City would have been this year. Councillors pondering the request will have to consider whether the LEDC's starvation budget of $1.86 million has been responsible for London's 17th place ranking in a 2006 survey of economic activity in 25 Canadian cities, and its "C" grade for economic indicators in the Conference Board of Canada's recent survey of 27 Canadian cities.

Or perhaps they might feel that raising taxes to invest even more in a chummy club of local techno-bureaucratic dependants who produce feel-good economic plans long on buzzwords, subsidy economic dogma and appealing targets but short on any specific strategies except their own budget requirements, will magically attract economic development. Hey, as long as we're paying them to say what we want to hear…

See also:

London high-tech plan to create phoney-baloney jobs

and

Losing economic opportunities by Kim Ainslie

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When it comes to taxes, some faces are more "real" than others

London Free Press columnist Ian Gillespie asks "How do you turn down that one?" about a $50,000 grant request to the City during budget hearings from a charitable institute facing a shortfall in its funding campaign to expand its horse-riding program for disabled youngsters.

It was hard not to be moved by the video screened at city hall yesterday, with its images of disabled youngsters exulting over their accomplishments atop their four-legged friends.
Emotional pleas for worthwhile causes are always difficult to reject at the scale of personal resources of time and money. But, as Gillespie demonstrates, there's nothing simpler in the world than accepting them at the collective scale of other people's resources. And by constantly acceding to them year after year, City Council has taught local community groups to be dependent on that fact, and on the tax-funded grants that accrue from it.

In answer to Gillespie's question, then, it is only politically difficult for council to respond: "Sorry, but it is neither our money to distribute, nor within our role or jurisdiction as promised to the people whose money is entrusted to us." Of course, the fact that the particular institute cited in his article is located outside the city's boundaries really ought to be the clincher anyway.

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Start saving

For at least the fourth year in a row, council will have to contend with the strategic fortune of a multi-million dollar "surplus." The repeated discovery over the past decade of extra revenues at every level of government, together with the enormous political benefits that they confer upon politicians, should indicate to even the casual observer that under-reporting of anticipated revenue at budget time has become a calculated standard operating procedure of financial departments everywhere.

As noted before, the benefits to politicians include, of course, the "good news" to taxpayers that their government is managing its finances well, as though revenue from taxes and monopolistic services were a direct function of economic well-being. Politicians realize two other important benefits as well: first, fans of fiscal prudence are placated by the fact that much of the surpluses are earmarked for paying down debt without the government having to go to the trouble of making debt repayment a significant line item in the budget — meaning that surplus budgeting is a method of stealth taxation for deficit financing; and, second and perhaps more importantly, the government finds itself with plenty of extra money to throw around to coddle protected constituents.

After years of extra-inflationary tax and spending increases in London, with token remittances to taxpayers of less than ten per cent of their surplus payments to mitigate property tax increases, council this year made the welcome if still rudimentary gesture of earmarking at least 12.5 per cent of this year's surplus for the purpose. Even the London Chamber of Commerce is adopting an apparently populist stance this year, proposing to council that it set aside 20 per cent of the surplus for tax reduction.

"Let's remember who put this money there," said Gerry Macartney, the chamber's general manager. "A fairy didn't drop it down on city hall. It came from you and I, the taxpayers."
This might be a reasonable suggestion had the Chamber had also recommended using the rest for reduction of the city's almost $400 million debt, but instead it suggests using only a modest 40 per cent for that purpose, leaving still another 40 per cent for the typical spending splurges at budget time that have fostered dependence on tax increases by London's community groups. But this is, of course, the same Chamber of Commerce that reported it would be content with a three per cent property tax increase, following 2.5, 3.9, 5.9 and 6.6 per cent hikes in the preceding years. Who needs politicians when business spokesmen are acceding to such moderation?

In the local grapevine is a rumour that veteran NDPer Controller Gina Barber will be coming out shortly for taxpayers against tax increases in London. This would be a welcome acknowledgement by a socialist of the punitive burdens of property tax hikes on the city's lowest-income earners, against the meagre benefits of council's various wealth redistribution programs. But one must wonder which of the city's massive social spending programs she is willing to cut to achieve that goal — this is, after all, the same woman who approved the Library's request for a 6.4 per cent budget increase.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Plastic, man

Paul Berton doesn't like moulded plastic. From yesterday's editorial in the London Free Press;

Moulded plastic that comes wrapped around most 21st century products is not recyclable, and won't break down in the landfill site for thousands of years....

[G]arbage collectors everywhere should refuse to pick up any of this extra post-holiday trash.

This would not simply encourage, but economically force consumers to leave that kind of packaging at the store.
This goes to show that socialists should base their arguments on concepts such as hope, change, and the delicious taste of rationed chocolate, rather than attempting to think economically. "The store" is hardly the only place one could leave plastic garbage, and it's far from the most convenient.

A moment's thought suggests that the economic thing to do under such a breach of contract by the city would be to leave the forbidden plastic garbage somewhere, anywhere, convenient. Since nobody would be able to cancel their fraudulent garbage service and use the money to hire people who are willing to do the job the sanitation department are supposedly being paid for, why not?

Far more economic places for plastic garbage disposal that immediately occur to me include:
  • roads and gutters
  • bodies of water such as rivers and lakes
  • boulevards
  • neighbour's blue bin, let them figure out where to dump it
  • school yards
  • parks and recreation areas
  • local business' dumpster
  • beside highways
  • community services waiting rooms
Smarter generations past established sanitation departments to prevent these from being rational solutions to the question of what to do with garbage in the city. Let's not make it in people's interest to dump their trash on the neighbour's lawn.

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Frank le Fou farts in a jar


Forgetting the sound which endeared him to all five or six of his fans, Frank le Fou has gone electric. To excuse this venture into aural sadism (otherwise know as rock music) Frank had this to say:

"Ever since I found out that more than six people might be listening, I decided I had to turn it up a notch and, you know, really get the message out there."
Sounding like a train wreck in slow motion, Frank's latest offering is a discordant rant about the train system which runs through London. No doubt, if he's tried to cross town at rush hour, he's had plenty of time to come up with the lyrics to this one. Here is "Waiting for a Train".

PLAY LOUD


Waiting for a Train

I’m, I'm waiting for a train.
Caught in traffic, each and every day.
Richmond Street to Adelaide: First thing you learn is you always got to wait.
I'm, I’m waiting for a train.

Here in London, it’s always the same.
Trying to get to work, the traffic is lame.
Coming down Richmond street; it’s 8:15. I think I’ll make it, or just so it seemed.
But now I’m, I’m waiting for a train

Hey there boy, you think you’re going to cross town?
Hey there boy, you know you can’t go around.
Pardon me sir, that’s furthest from my mind. I saw the bars come down and I can read the signs.
I’m, I'm waiting for a train.

Here it comes; it's all puffin’ black.
It’s a long one; I see it way back.
I’ve tried Richmond Street . . . I’ll try Pall Mall. Oh shit, that's where the tracks run diagonal!
I’m, I'm waiting for a train.


Head to Talbot Street, up to the underpass.
Now traffic's moving and I can’t merge.
Everybody’s moving in; it’s like one big herd. Turn on the radio and haven’t you heard?
I, I burned all my gas.

Walk me home.

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Monday, January 7, 2008

Follow the money

As an example of the fiscal prudence practised under London's recent administration, Ontario Ministry of Finance figures compiled by Jim Horne and reproduced here with his kind permission (PDF) reveal that the number of city staff earning $100,000 or more has undergone a "rapid expansion" from just 12 to 71 between 2000 and 2006. The "rapid expansion" in highly-paid employees is hardly just the result of inflationary pay increases for existing positions during this time; the number of top-level bureaucratic positions itself has been escalated, at the same time that many bureaucrats are receiving salary hikes far above the rate of inflation, as much as 40 per cent in one year in at least one case.

The charts shown below, created by Mr. Horne, show the direct costs to taxpayers of the city's $100K club in salaries and benefits between 1996 and 2006, with projections to 2010 based on 6-year and 3-year trends. As Mr. Horne notes, these costs do not reflect the concomitant demand for office space, support staff, office supplies, and expense allowances issued by high-ranking bureaucrats. It must be up to the taxpayer to determine whether he has been receiving a commensurate increase in service from the city during this time.

It is hardly surprising that city administration would push for expansion of the size and influence of their administrative territory, which in turn serves as a justification for extravagant salary increases. But it is a disappointment that the city's politicians have not during this time exercised any scrutiny or restraint over its administration's expectations for itself.

Fun fact: London's chief administrative officer Jeff Fielding was the 7th-highest paid municipal employee in Ontario last year. He has also recommended to council for at least two years running that it grant requests to departments that exceed budget targets.



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Freedom To Read: Weak

Don't ever let any censorious heteronormative bluenose try to take away your "Huckleberry Finn" or "Lady Chatterley's Lover" -- 'cause the Canada Council for the Arts and "Freedom To Read Week" are here with a week of pageantry and self-satisfaction, all done to help you believe you still live in those long-ago glory days of centuries past when it was liberals who respected freedom of expression. You know, if you don't bravely stand up for your right to read literature that was once considered mildly risque or controversial by the long-dead, then you're no Canadian, sir.

How about that atrocious case of border guard power tripping gone mad, the infamous"Little Sisters" case from 1894 or '95? I think it was Wilfred Laurier who had the choicest bon mot about that one, but it was so long ago that I can't remember. Good thing Freedom to Read Week is there to remind us.

So yes, please, official Arts establishment -- let us raise awareness and celebrate the Freedom to Read! Our arms and voices are raised together as we fight the dark, massing forces of Christian fundamentalism and social conservatism. They will not take away our lesbian erotica.



The freedom to read is strong in Canada. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Not one citizen has yet been prosecuted for owning or thinking about "America Alone", or for having a copy of the offending Macleans magazine. The Arts Council has your back.

The freedom to write? Well, comrade -- you take your chances with the Human Rights Commissions, there.

(They're two floors up and down the right-hand hall from the Arts Council.)

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New Character, Same Bad Content

My man Billy Beck.

The bloody imbecile Andrew Sullivan links David Brooks asking, "Americans are not going to want to see this stopped. When an African-American man is leading a juggernaut to the White House, do you want to be the one to stand up and say No?"

You're goddamned right I do. That's because I am not a racist in any way, in any direction. Do you understand? This man's skin color means nothing to me. And the very idea that it takes putting a black man in the White House in order to obliterate what is unquestionably America's original sin is an elevation of dirt-cheap emotion over reason. He is every bit the threadbare socialist that all the rest of them are, and that's what should be important...

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Denialcore: A Thoughtful Discussion Of The Cases For And Against Anthropogenic Global Warming

There's a new sound, the newest sound around. It's the strangest sound that you have ever heard. Not like a wild boar or a jungle lion's roar -- it isn't like the cry of any bird. But there's a new sound; it's deep down in the ground, and everyone who listens to it panics, because this new, new sound so deep under the ground is the sound that's made by hardcore global warming denial fanatics.

It may be that, as Basil suggested, some denialcore musicians are turning to an ambient sound to make denialism less "easily identifiable as socially counter-productive." Brown Bin would be an example.

"A Thoughtful Discussion Of The Cases For And Against Anthropogenic Global Warming" appears to have been produced in 2005, by the same people as this.

The message, here, is the medium: classic global warming denialcore. Like global warming denial itself, "A Thoughtful Discussion..." is hideous, incoherent, and not worth hearing except by those whose senses are already so blunted as to still deny the evidence of anthropogenic climate change in 2008.

PLAY LOUD

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