Friday, November 30, 2007

Comm vs. Unity

The following is a letter received from Margaret Johnston of London, which we publish without comment. The opinions expressed in this letter are those of the writer and not necessarily of The London Fog.

Once again my London housing complex is in the news. Once again, the police and city do-gooders are trying to twist the story to make it look they've done anything at all around the Huron and Boulee Street Housing Complexes.

I've been here for three shootings in the complex, one over on Boulee, and one out in the field where two teenagers were firing off a gun for fun earlier this year. Don't let General Manager of Community Services Ross Fair lead you down the yellow brick road with his comments about doing something and how it's going to take time. The time to do something was three damn years ago. Yeah, it's going to take a lot to turn it around now, simply because the City turned a blind eye to the problems and our pleas for help until the problems got too big for them to ignore. This is nothing new, and it will not change.

The city is relying on a "community group" to be its eyes and ears and to report back to the city about what we need here. The funny thing is that this is the same "community group" that I belonged to before it had a name. Back then, just after the first shooting, I begged for that group's focus to be on safety and I was ignored. Even after last year's shooting I continued to be ignored. Since leaving the group earlier this year, I have not seen one member of this supposed "community group" in my neighbourhood. They haven't been talking to me or my neighbours, and none of the current members live in this complex. So how are they really going to know what we need?

They don't. They'll tell the City about the half-baked ideas and dreams of grandeur the City wants to hear as long as it keeps them in power. Meanwhile, our neighbours will continue being shot or shot at. Oh, but lets not put all the blame on pointless, pre-packaged City-made "community groups" that are completely out of touch with their area of interest. Let's put some of this blame on the past and present councillors who are just as guilty as the City and the London Police department for letting things go this far. Of course, I refer to none other than Mr. Bernie MacDonald, whose only concern has been for home-owners and graffiti for the twenty-odd years his ward included both the Huron Street and Boulee Street London Housing complexes. For the last year though, there's been another that has not helped the area even though he promised to: Mr. Steven Orser, who has been unable to defend his lack of action. These councillors should be held partly to blame and should have the spotlight shone on their long list of shortcomings in front of the entire city. Alas, we all know they'll just continue to get supportive slaps on the back by the fat cats at City Hall while the rest of us continue to live in the hell they created.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

B before A

Opposed as I am to "charitable" donations via mandatory tax contributions, as compared to voluntary efforts and donations to help those in need, I can at least appreciate the Conservative government's attempt to reevaluate the foreign aid fund. A mess it inevitably remains, and NDP Alexa Mc-Donough, development aid critic, doesn't make anything clearer when she bleats.

There are 550 Canadian non-governmental organizations working on African causes, and they will be forming an orderly line outside the CBC to decry any government decisions that threaten their projects. Alexa Mc-Donough, the NDP development aid critic, said she finds the prospect of the government implementing any aspect of the Senate report "heart-breaking and horrifying."

"[Their]prescription is 100% wrong. If we shut down a number of countries because we are continuing to deliver overseas development aid at one-third the level we should be doing, it will be inconceivable to many people."

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We are all Public Art now

London's Public Art Policy … simply a facsimile of Ancient Art Policy.

Shockwaves are reverberating throughout the art world following the amazing discovery of abstract ancient Greek statues and paintings that resemble today's modern art and apparently are its long-lost forerunners.

"This finally proves my theory that the so-called 'aesthetically pleasing' 'classical art' with its 'proportions' and 'perfection' is a fraud and never really existed," says Columbia University professor Dan Browny. "It is a scientific fact now, that art has always been about a random grouping of disturbing shapes that required no special skills or training, and that intent is more important than result."

[…] "Ancient art was not only vanguard-oriented, it was also government-subsidized," Dan Browny writes in an article describing his discovery. "It was just as easy to get a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in Athens as it is today in Syracuse, New York. A famous example was a controversial project around 490 BCE that sponsored public defecation on a sketch of the Pythagorean theorem. It was hailed by critics of the time as a synthesis of art and science."

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Strangely, virtues are not diverse at all

Landmark London is changing its name and mandate to, as Joe Matyas of the London Free Press puts it, make it more "hip and happening." The London Heritage Council will maintain Landmark London's advisory role to city council in distributing tax-funded grants for heritage purposes but, in keeping with its expanded glam-pop ambitions, heritage purposes will also include multi-cultural outreach. For example:

The London Regional Children's Museum received $15,000 to give children a chance to learn about such diverse cultural celebrations as Christmas, Diwali, Eid and Hannukah.
Christmas is one of diverse cultural celebrations in London now? How quaint of those particular diverse Londoners. Let's have an exhibit to preserve that special little heritage for cultural tourists, then…

Pardon the sarcasm, if you will, but I'm still not quite "hip" to the "happening" meanings of heritage, diversity or culture now that they're no longer supposed to be taken as self-evident.

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Eco-Warriors First!

Darcey is doing some fine research today, so head on over to The Broom and read all about Eco-Commie David Brower:

Friends of the Earth were created as a spinoff from the Sierra Club by former executive director David Brower. His thinking was that the people that are easily named extreme make the people who were extreme seem suddenly reasonable (Confessions of an Eco-Warrior). It was an ingenious use of the Durkheim Constant which notes that as behaviour worsens, the community adjusts its standards so that conduct once thought reprehensible is no longer deemed so.

In this context David Brower didn't think the Sierra Club was radical enough for his idealism so he branched out to form a more radical group to make the Sierra Club seem more normal and ultimately acceptable to the general populace (see Green Party leader and former Sierra Clubber Elizabeth May for a taste of the experience).

Continuing to somewhat hide his true objectives and thru mobilizing his useful idiots, David Brower moved on to greater deviancy and founded Earth Island First in order to make Friends of the Earth seem reasonable.
Friends of the Earth has now filed a lawsuit against the federal government for failing to abide by its Kyoto commitments. Meanwhile, Brower has turned his energies toward Earth First!
Earth First! was named in 1979 in response to a lethargic, compromising, and increasingly corporate environmental community. Earth First! takes a decidedly different tack towards environmental issues. We believe in using all the tools in the tool box, ranging from grassroots organizing and involvement in the legal process to civil disobedience and monkeywrenching.

[..] We apply "direct pressure" to stop the bleeding, with a combination of education, litigation, and creative civil disobedience. Many EF!ers experience both the joy of the wild and the anguish of losing it so acutely that they feel isolated and alone before coming together as a group. Nothing is more empowering or more fulfilling than standing defiant in creative consort with other like-hearted people. Dare to love that much!
Those interested in furthering the agenda have since parted with Earth First and moved on to Earth Liberation Front:
It was founded in 1992 in Brighton, England by Earth First! members who refused to abandon criminal acts as a tactic when others wished to move Earth First! into the mainstream. The group jumped to North America in the mid-90's. Historically, the group has concentrated efforts on the timber industry and animal rights issues. More recent actions indicate that some ELF factions are also targeting suburban sprawl, with New York a hotspot for this type of activity. Within the past year, a number of under-construction condominiums and luxury homes have been set on fire by ELF operatives. Subsequent press releases describe an "an unbounded war on urban sprawl", adding that "we will not tolerate the destruction of our island" and "if you build it we will burn it."
Presumably, it will soon be considered intolerant to arrest such people who destroy people's livelihoods along with the economy.

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The Not-Quite-As-Creative Other Forest City

Rockford is a mid-sized city located on both banks of the Rock River in far northern Illinois. Rockford is often referred to as "The Forest City" and is the county seat of Winnebago County, Illinois, USA.
I hear you can make it in Rockford.
"The Rockford Area Chamber of Commerce would like to express a special thanks to all those Rockford artists who's talents and dedication made this record album possible. The songwriting contest, which started with hopes of finding some musical interest in the Rockford area, has ended with the production of this professional record album showing the world what Rockford has to offer."
Be sure to check out the funk workout "Make It In Rockford... Weigh The Difference".


The whole album is at WFMU, praise be upon them.

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Following the success of his WESpeak in fostering a strong local blogging community in Windsor and the Essex County area, Blue Blogging Soapbox has now launched LondonSpeak to aggregate content from London bloggers, both professional and amateur, into one location for readers to visit.

An introduction to every entry from participating sites, provided by RSS feeds, are displayed on LondonSpeak with a link to the writer's blog. If you're a blogger who would like to participate in the aggregator and have your blog promoted within a wider local blogging community, visit LondonSpeak's Join page. And if you're a local reader who wants to keep up with what London bloggers have to say, make a regular visit to LondonSpeak.

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The Future of London ...

... if the city administrators continue to favour arenas, heritage, arts and culture, and trees over basic infrastructure maintenance and improvements.

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Blinded by the Red glare

If you have any remaining doubt that the NDP party is inherently totalitarian, go check Darcey's post from earlier today, taking care to follow the links provided. Of special note to Londoners, particularly those residing in the riding of London-Fanshawe, is an upcoming riding association executive meeting. Those in attendance will be treated to a speech from Amneet Bali who will share details of his adventure with Hugo Chavez.

If you want Canada to end up like Venezuela, vote NDP.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Unity, diversity and teddy bears

Exhibit A: A teddy bear named Mohammed:

A British primary school teacher has been arrested in Sudan, accused of insulting Islam's Prophet by letting her class of 7-year-olds name a teddy bear Mohammed, her school said on Monday.

Police arrested Gillian Gibbons, 54 of Liverpool, on Sunday at her home inside the Unity High School premises after a number of parents complained to Sudan's Ministry of Education, said Unity director Robert Boulos.

The country's state-controlled Sudanese Media Centre reported late Sunday that Gibbons had been accused of "insulting the Prophet Mohammad." It said charges were being prepared "under article 125 of the criminal law" which covers insults against faith and religion.

[..]If convicted, Gibbons could be sentenced to 40 lashes, six months in prison or a fine, said Ghazi Suleiman, the head of the Sudan Human Rights Group.

[..] Gibbons, who joined Unity in August, asked a girl to bring in her teddy bear to help the Year 2 class focus, said Boulos.

The teacher then asked the class to name the toy. "They came up with eight names including Abdullah, Hassan and Mohammed. Then she explained what it meant to vote and asked them to choose the name." Twenty out of the 23 children chose Mohammed.
Unfortunately for Ms. Gibbons, her demonstration on what it means to vote in Sudan was more effective than she would have hoped. On the bright side, at least Ms. Gibbons was not a rape victim in Saudi Arabia.

cp: The Broom

Update: Gibbons is to spend 15 days in a crowded, disease infested Sudan jail. After serving her time, she will be deported. It's a hard lesson to learn, but hopefully in future Gibbons will do some research before accepting job offers in foreign countries.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Signify the significant!

A three percentage point gap in the representation of visible minorities in city staff and the overall population… someone would have to be looking very hard and purposefully to even find such a niggling disparity. Of course, there is always someone looking for it, and as imperceptible as the statistic might be to the lives of Londoners, it's quite enough to produce institutionalized hand-wringing, sympathetic media coverage, and bureaucratic reports.

Such a lot of ineffectual investment in paper, energy and taxes… why won't they come out and admit to the only real remedy to their racist problem: racist quotas. Given that there is already no apparent standard of talent or ability required, Londoners should hardly notice the difference if skin colour is used as city hall's basis for hiring.

See also:
Acceptance is just something we'll have to accept

18 out of 19 London politicians prefer preferential treatment… Well, what's not to prefer about that?

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Why we need a Public Art Policy

So Londoners will have costly and trivializing bureaucratic procedures to which they won't have to pay attention while they ignore the costly and trivial public art (PDF).

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Shoplifting Promotes Social Equity

I happened across this 5 minute justification of shoplifting while on the prowl for a Sunday Propaganda feature clip for The Broom.

"Shoplifting is a refusal of the exchange economy. It is a denial that a monetary value can be ascribed to everything."

Nothing positive going on here folks. Move along and cease and desist.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

How much for that Libel in the window?

Posting 63

147. The Plaintiff complains of the following words:

"Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be that his head wasn't screwed on quite right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small."

148. The Posting in question contains serious allegations against the Plaintiff, clearly stating, in its plain and ordinary meaning or by virtue of surrounding circumstances which give the words a defamatory meaning inferentially or by innuendo that:

a. Plaintiff's head isn't screwed on quite right;
b. Plaintiff's shoes are too tight;
c. Plaintiff's heart is, up to and including an extent of two sizes, too small.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

The Hand

Internationally renowned Czech puppet animator Jiri Trnka explores totalitarianism in his last film produced in 1965.

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And if they would rather die…

…they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population of liberals.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

A case study in hypocrisy

Human Rights crusader Heather Mills blames the planet's woes on snobbish and selfish capitalists. Not everyone possesses the moral authority to be rich. Celebrities know best:

Mills McCartney said she was reluctantly obliged to befriend the world's wealthy because that was the only way to maximize her power as an agent for change.

"Sadly, you have to mix at a certain level of people to raise the level of funds you need to bring about the greater good," she said. "Because people are very snobby. These people who have lots of money, they're either snobby or they're stingy. If you have lots of money, you have to be stingy — because why would you want that amount of money?"
Perhaps Heather can provide the answer to that question:
Paul McCartney's personal wealth is estimated at $1.6 billion. British press reports have speculated that McCartney has offered his wife around $50 million, while she is seeking at least double that amount.
All you need is love.

c/p: The Broom

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Grey Market Judaism

Whether you "agree" with Leviticus or not -- certainly 20:13 is wrong -- there's more wisdom in any given letter of the Torah than there is in all the Human Rights codes of the world. It will be studied long after Canada, human rights, and tribunals are all forgotten.

On October 27, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal issued a precedent-setting cease and desist order which forbids Jessica Beaumont from posting certain Bible verses on the Internet. If this 21-year old woman posts the wrong Bible quotation online - even if it is on an American website - she could face up to 5 years in prison.
So, because I am an atheist, or something, I can reproduce the following verses without having to pay off a human rights profiteer like Richard Warman -- or live them in prison -- but Beaumont cannot.

I don't like them (as painful as the Human Rights Commission makes it to say that), but by its ruling the Human Rights Tribunal compels freedom-loving Canadians to spread these non-freedom-loving verses far and wide.
Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.


If a man lies with man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Now, hold on to your hats, because I'm going to insist you don't obey 20:13, okay? That would be against real laws, as opposed to human rights legislation.

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Three Bites

Hello Mediocracy.

"At the moment people don't take it as seriously as other forms of hate crime. Research suggests that you are four times more likely to be a victim of blogosphere satire if you are a socialist."

And David Kingdom, head of policy at think tank Medos, said it was important to try to "change the culture, to ensure people value each other equally".

"We know a lot of bloggertarian bullying goes on. A report we commissioned showed that nine out of 10 people with leftist beliefs have been fisked," he said. "Anything which makes it more difficult to do that is good."
Nice graphics too:

And pull quotes:
The worst sort of dominant ideology is the kind which portrays itself as not dominant but counter-cultural, like the present one.
Lots of reading to catch up on here. HT David Thompson.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"All-circuses-all-the-time urban leaders"

Joel Kotkin could be thought to have written this article in the Wall Street Journal with London in mind, but two months before the sinkhole he could only have been unsurprised but not prophetic about the negligence of basic infrastructure in our own town.
wo years ago, as floodwaters overcame the tired defenses of New Orleans, American cities got a wake-up call about the dangers of inadequate infrastructure. But most urban leaders went back to sleep. Since then the occasional disaster, such as the recent bridge collapse in Minneapolis, has been followed by tut-tutting. But if history is a guide, the rhetoric will be followed by another tap of the snooze button.

Rather than deal with the expensive and difficult task of retrofitting the sinews of commerce and communication — bridges, tunnels, roads, rail lines, ports, sewers, and drainage systems — America's urban powers focus on the ephemeral and the glitzy. They emphasize not brick and mortar, but sports stadia, convention centers, arts palaces, dubiously effective new light-rail lines, hotels and condo projects.
As aggregates of people, commerce and industry developing and expanding the transportation and utilities that support them, cities have largely formed through more natural processes preceding the more artificial and momentous foundings of supra-jurisdictional levels of government. As a result, cities have been largely exempt from the practical and philosophical debates about jurisdictional roles and functions that occasionally serve to check national and provincial governments, and have been able to re-invent themselves almost without scrutiny as entertainment centres, lifestyle designers, workfare recruiters, social agencies, environmental advocates… almost anything other than the custodians and planners of the ordinary value of infrastructure.

The Canadian Federation of Municipalities claims that property taxes are "not enough" to provide the $123 billion needed to prevent infrastructure from crumbling. Whether by this time this is true or not, property taxes appear to have been ample for altogether too many other non-essentials over the past few decades while infrastructure has been decaying. Après moi le deluge… but perhaps the debate over the role and functions of municipal governments should finally be opened.

Or, as it may happen, it will be deferred…
Even in New Orleans, federal and local authorities still have not agreed on a long-term infrastructure plan to protect the city. More disturbing: Instead of looking to rebuild a diverse economy, the emphasis is on cultivating tourism and "culture-based" industry. […] The pitch suggests that "the role of great cities of the world is shifting from places where you must go, for a job, to places where you wish to spend time."

Reinventing New Orleans as a mildly raucous, hipper Disney World could spark a renaissance of sorts. But it offers scant hope for many middle-class families who fled the real city two years ago. […] Instead of returning, many evacuees — including teachers, businesspeople, health-service workers and the working poor — appear likely to stay in Atlanta, Houston, or Dallas, where there are prospects for middle-class job-seekers and their families. These cities, particularly the Texas ones, have made significant investments in new roads, airports and waterways.

[…] The ultimate question here is that of priorities. Yes, artists and cultural institutions have always been hallmarks of great cities. But underpinning that efflorescence since the earliest times has been critical commitments to such mundane things as water systems, canals, dikes and protective walls — the economic infrastructure that supports the rest.

[…] Nevertheless, few politicians seem interested in a coherent "back to basics" infrastructure investment strategy, except as a potential opportunity for pork-barrel spending. Until they are, we can look forward to more natural disasters, bridge collapses, subway malfunctions and power shortages.
Bonus: YouTube videos of London's sinkhole, via Alt-London.

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The Green Revolution

When they ban plastic bags I’m not picking up dog poop and putting it in my pocket.
That's Dinosaur, commenting on London's green policy which could soon result in drive-thru regulations. Happily, I have received telemarketing training from Fenris Badwulf and can address all of the concerns raised by Dinosaur and NIAC.

NIAC is concerned that jobs will be lost if the city bans drive-thrus. Dinosaur correctly notes that dog owners will be less inclined to clean up their dog's feces if plastic bags are banned. The solution is to impose both bans at once. More dog poop on the streets means more overpaid city workers to clean up the mess. That means jobs. The unemployed workers, many of whom are accustomed to working for minimum wage, will soon understand going green is in their best interest after all. Heteronormatives who do not meet hiring quotas can always start pushing bags to children and climate change deniers on the black market.

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For $1.9 million a year…

…Londoners should be getting private adult chat lines. An Alt-London commenter reports that Chief Administrative Officer Jeff Fielding is suggesting that city staff answering calls at a proposed municipal services call centre should receive annual salaries of approximately $100,000. Although this figure is not confirmed, it is certain that city staff manning a call centre will be making much more than the standard $10-$12 per hour call centre wage.

From our comments, BBS on Windsor's experience:

What's wrong with issuing an RFP and allowing Municipal employees to bid on the process along with private providers? If there is a business case to be made, make it.

Automatically in-sourcing this is simply about bureaucratic empire building and control.

Windsor has had 311 for several years now, and as per ususal, the costs only continue to grow. The next thing you'll see is "due to higher than expected call volumes we require..." . To make things worse, Windsor has now decided to add 211 service to the 311 service, uploading a service that was previously done by a United Way agency. Now the call centre wants a new location with all the bells and whistles. For example, each shift supervisor (they supervise 3 to 4 employees) needs to have their own office, because it's too difficult to share.

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Take me to the River, Tax me in the Water!

Toronto city council, along with Mayor David Miller, are considering levying a tax on bottled water. This comes in the wake of the new land transfer tax and a vehicle registration surcharge imposed by the city just last month. This new tax was spearheaded by councilor Bill Saundercook who states:

"It's one of my contributions to solving the [financial] problem here at City Hall,"[...]"Unless discussion comes out that it's absolutely crazy to do, then I'd like to pursue it."
Mr. Saundercook 'contribution' to fiscal management lies in raising taxes first and not considering cutting back on his own frivolous spending (eg. docking taxpayers for a digital camera for his [sic] "march break trip to miami").

Who would have though that if you give more tax powers to a socialist-dominated city council that their lust for more taxes would never end? I guess Dalton McGuinty didn't when he gave them. Lets just hope that London never receives the same taxing powers as Toronto.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nationalizing the Economy One Municipality at a Time

Longtime landowner and farmer Arthur Fouillard is soon to be robbed of 288 acres of his property to protect the rights of municipal interests, however vague those rights may be:

To maintain possession of his land, Mr. Fouillard fought long and hard, spending tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees over the past six years. He tried to negotiate a lease or a partial sale, but to no avail.

According to Reeve Guy Huberdeau, the municipality had no choice. "For us it is about the survival of our community," he told the media, "and for us that was more important than the rights of one individual. Maybe I shouldn't say it that way, but the survival of the community is really, really important, and I don't think that 288 acres is going to make a big difference in the lives of the Fouillard family."
Ironically, Mr. Fouillard invited perverse attention to his property by staging public charity events and heritage fun days free of charge.

The municipality received unanimous support from the Manitoba Court of Appeal to seize a portion of Mr. Fouillard's land:
In a unanimous decision Monday, the Manitoba Court of Appeal has given the green light to the R.M. of Ellice to take 115 hectares of pasture land owned by Arthur Fouillard, 86.

"In my opinion, the municipality expropriated the 288 acres in question for a valid municipal purpose," Chief Justice Richard Scott wrote in the decision.

"A municipality has the authority to engage in a business-related undertaking, such as tourism, if council considers it, in good faith, to be in the best interests of the municipality as a whole."
If you don't agree with council and their faith, you are simply selfish and greedy. Quite simply put, you lack the power to subject the masses to your collective will.

cross-posted: Dust My Broom.

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The best call centre job going

When confronted by the idea that a call centre for municipal services — estimated to cost $3.3 million to equip and $1.9 million annually to operate if staffed by city employees — could be contracted out to existing firms, "several" councillors said that "they would never contract out such a service."

Why is that? Whether out of an adherence to some parochial-level form of nationalistic hubris (municipalism?) or, as is more likely, patronage of their bureaucratic and civic union clients, the refusal of these councillors to even entertain cost-saving proposals hardly squares with the objective of "serving our public" that the call centre is supposed to meet. Given the current frustration of trying to reach appropriate departments, a one-stop call centre for municipal services would certainly be a welcome added service for taxpayers who are expected to pay for them anyway, but there is hardly any added service in having the call centre staffed by highly-paid unionized city employees.

Despite the resistance of these councillors and chief administrative officer Jeff Fielding, however, staff has at least been directed to report to council on the savings of hiring a private firm.

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James Madison would not have been amused

Who would ever have imagined that there would be a debate on the use of international law to interpret the Constitution in the United States? Should there not be some relation between the supply of legal and constitutional interpretation and its popular demand?

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Remember, we're the big meanies here

Why don't food banks collect tax-deductible monetary donations to purchase and distribute grocery-store vouchers to needy people instead of running costly and inefficient duplications of the services grocery stores already provide? Aside from the presumptive political and moral authority accrued to food bank administrators, Karen Selick notes in the National Post that only one other explanation makes sense:

Charities can't simply collect cash and give grocery money to the needy because donors know it wouldn't all be spent on necessities. Some would be spent on cigarettes, booze or bingo.
Similarly, vouchers would be sold or traded for the same purposes — and the same phenomenon would be seen equally in the provision of affordable housing. Food bank and housing activists are only too aware of this, which is why those services are run in the manner that they are, but acknowledgement would only undermine their haranguing of politicians and the public for even more of the redistributive policies that they entitled to administer. Selick continues:
Middle-class or wealthy Canadians shouldn't accept guilt when anti-poverty activists hint that the existence of food banks proves some moral deficiency in the economic system. Far from it. Food banks simply conceal problems that are too taboo to discuss these days.

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The science is settled

"I notice the tide is coming in. Do you think it will stop if I give the command?"

His officers were puzzled, but they did not dare say no. "Give the order, O great king, and it will obey," one of then assured him.

"Very well. Sea," cried Canute, "I command you to come no further! Waves, stop your rolling! Surf, stop your pounding! Do not dare touch my feet!"

He waited a moment, quietly, and a tiny wave rushed up the sand and lapped at his feet.

"How dare you!" Canute shouted. "Ocean, turn back now! I have ordered you to retreat before me, and now you must obey! Go back!"

And in answer another wave swept forward and curled around the king's feet. The tide came in, just as it always did...

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Heather Mills fantasizes over SUVs

Heather Mills, self-proclaimed "charity campaigner", thinks you are destroying the planet if you eat animal products. If you want to drive an SUV, you should consider becoming a vegan to offset your carbon bootprint.

Last night animal charity Viva! insisted it was merely a coincidence that its billboards had been covered up by the domestic violence posters.

A spokesman said: "They were for an old campaign that is nothing to do with us."

The violence posters were eventually removed to reveal the Viva! billboards featuring Miss Mills, which accuse the meat and dairy industry of helping to fuel global warming.

But still the 39-year- old former model wasn't clear of controversy. She provoked accusations of hypocrisy after she arrived at the launch at Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park in a gas-guzzling Mercedes 4x4 - and kept the engine running for part of the morning.

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"Canada's sinkhole city" ads to appear shortly

There's growing excitement about the possibility of changing London's 'brand'.

No longer will we simply be known as "London, the city beside Dorchester".

Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco said she's aware Mississauga has used London [and the new logo] to make its cash pitch.

"I'm OK with that, that they have used us as one of their examples," she said.

DeCicco said all cities are in the funding pinch together.

In a recent presentation to council, and on its civic website (www.mississauga .ca), Mississauga uses a colour photo of a backhoe poised over London's downtown sinkhole to decry decaying public works.

"It's what we have been talking about for five years," she said, noting the nasty sinkhole surprise brings the underfunding issue into sharp focus.
DeCicco, a savvy politician with a media background, knows this is an opportunity not to be missed.

"We have to take advantage of this while people are talking. We must re-brand ourselves while the momentum is here. By the spring, unless Richmond caves in, people will once again think of us as 'London, the city beside Dorchester.'

"With a cute little logo of a backhoe over a hole and some buildings surrounding them - it's manly because it's got big Tonka toys, it's urban 'cause it shows downtown, and it's hip 'cause sinkholes are big across the continent right now - I think we'll have to double the infrastructure in this town to accommodate the influx of those drawn by the new brand image!"

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Hot boxin' toxin law

No more hot boxing the kids in the car in Wolfville N.S.

Anyone caught smoking in a vehicle with someone under the age of 18 will be fined between $50 and $250 by local RCMP officers.

I'm not sure how that applies here but this is absurd:

In Nova Scotia, the legal age for smoking is 19. The bylaw would also apply to an 18-year-old resident who is driving and smoking by herself.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Our call for service

London Fog: Why does a call centre for city hall services cost $3.3 million to create and $1.8 million a year to operate? Have you guys ever thought about contracting out to India?

Answer: *click*

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“We feel it’s worthwhile”

One has to be grateful that all these housing projects are affordable, since no one bothered to negotiate with us the price of our contributions in taxes. We do at least gain the courtesy of knowing that 446 King Street is another area of town to avoid in the future.

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Buy Nothing Day: Set Tasers On "Stun"!

Store owners across North America have become accustomed to enjoying Buy Nothing Day as a respite from the presence of unsightly, surly poor people in their establishments -- and the shoplifting they inevitably bring.

Started as a marketing initiative by the philosemitic "Ad-Buster" magazine, Buy Nothing Day was once welcomed by business and capital as a day on which activists refrained from bringing their dangerous attitudes and subversive views of capitalism into friendly establishments. But now, Buy Nothing Day has begun to turn into something more sinister. London Fog food security and poverty studies expert Karl Hammer is warning local businesses of an upcoming potluck dinner of stolen food to be held in London to celebrate the day. This new tradition may require a greater vigilance from capital.

For those who don't know how a freegan potluck is different from a regular potluck here are the ground rules. You can't buy any of the food you bring! Seems fitting for buy nothing day. You can't cop out and just buy everything you plan on consuming the day before. This means that you will need to gather, grow, salvage, be given, or steal the food that you bring to the potluck.
"For many activists in London, stealing food may be the only way to get through another day without terrible munchies -- especially on a day on which they have sworn not to contribute to the economy." says Hammer. "It's important for socially aware businesses to recognize this, and to prepare accordingly."

Hammer warns local businesses and fat-cats to be on the lookout for Buy Nothing Day participants.

"Most are posers, slumming for psychological rather than financial reasons. Essentially, none are actually poor in any meaningful sense. All have education, youth, weed, and access to computers. The normal profile is that of a confused senior adolescent with a chip on the shoulder who has been given an excuse for that chip by this or that fifth-generation Marxist theology. Often, these individuals visibly identify with mass marketing brand-loyalty initiatives such as 'Hip Hop', or 'Punk Rock'. We need to be understanding, but above all, we need to be vigilant."

Hammer suggests businesses keep a close watch on consumers fitting this profile. However, Hammer also warns that it may be impossible to distinguish honest, starving poor people looking for a good deal, from troubled young activists looking to steal food from the mouths of entrepreneurs' children. Businesses need to be prepared to deal with both equally harshly to discourage theft.

"At the end of the day, preventing shoplifting is every business' job. We can't be too careful defending the privileges of capital."

Hammer recommends the Taser Industries KK-46 for retail defence against activationists and the poor. The effects are more humane than popular misconception would hold.

"Buy Nothing Day participants, and certainly poor people, do not suffer as much as ordinary people when tased. Their relative lack of electrolytes makes the shock less severe than would be experienced by a normally functioning member of the economy."

As part of The London Fog's Community Outreach Gathering Series (COGS), Karl Hammer will be offering a workshop for local retailers interested in the more theoretical side of poverty studies. Topics will include:

  • Learn the danger signs of starvation -- every second counts when ejecting a potential offender!
  • Taser operation from basic to intermediate
  • Distracting our most vulnerable with frightening noises as a means of warding them off
  • The 3 T's of dealing with the hungry and disadvantaged: "Tsk", taser, truncheon

The workshop to be held at the Community Caring Sugar Shack on Queens Avenue. Email the London Fog for further details.

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Felix the Cat visits his nephews in London

If you're a Killing Joke fan you know there must be a reason these work so well together. If you're not, turn the volume down and watch it just because it's Felix the Cat!

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Jesus did not provide candy to the masses

Apparently, he can part the Red Sea and walk on water, but the selfish prophet gives no candy to the unconverted. Thanks to our fine Communist leaders for the treats.

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655321 Valdez Lemons celebrate vocalist's parole with new single

With their lead vocalist, Pond Sludge, recently paroled after serving time on illegal dumping charges, denialcore band, 655321 Valdez Lemons, have released a celebratory single:

"I Slept with Al Gore's Mother (She Does it with the Lights On)"


In a rare telephone interview just after both his and the single's release, Mr. Sludge expressed despair over the current state of environmental activism:

"Fuck this shit, I'm angry.

"How did it get this bad? I thought people learned to ignore that fucking bore, Al Gore, seven years ago when the courts so wisely denied him the presidency.

"The fact he won The Nobel Prize says it all. You know you're a worthless turd when they give you one of those.

"When we first started as a band - in response to the Kyoto accord - we were kicking the crap out of a few tree-hugging fucking sissies, dumping used motor oil at every show and legally blowing smoke in the faces of our many adversaries in the clubs where we played.

"I lost a lot of time at the reeducation camp. We've got to get out and play more shows and build on the feelings of contempt which are growing out there."

Unfortunately for the band and their fans, plans for a new world tour were dashed after drummer, Dead 'Beats' Beat, was taken into custody for releasing freon from his extensive collection of used fridges at Sludge's parole party.

"We all knew when he started hurling hospital waste at the by-law enforcement officers who showed up that they weren't going to grant him bail.

"Of course we can't replace 'Beats', man. He was the first guy to drum on perforated oil drums seeping used motor oil as we played our set. The sound of the drums change as the club environment becomes more toxic - the guy's a fucking genius!"

It was stage antics like this, especially with rumours that the oil was often laced with PCBs and other substances that got Sludge sentenced to what he calls 'reeducation' camp.

"As leader of the band I took the rap for the list of environmental crimes we were accused of as a band. Unfortunately for 'Beats', things got a little out of hand at my release party.

"There are a lot of really, really angry bands out there. I'm sure we can find someone to bash the oil drums for the handful of local shows we still have booked.

"We had arranged performances at some of the biggest drag strips and auto shows this year - unfortunately I won't be playing Detroit - with my environmental record they won't let me cross into the Motor City.

"As for 'Beats', they're saying what he did was a hate crime. They're saying 'Beats' hates the environment. Because the drummer openly mocked the environment and its activists the police are calling it a hate crime. This gonna take a while to get sorted out.

"We're still planning Get Trashed Festival which will be an outdoor festival of music and debauchery at the Green Lane Landfill site this February.

"We're going to have an enormous tent with a massive light show, stacks of sound equipment, and literally hundreds of electric heaters all plugged into gasoline powered generators. We're planning a wet T-shirt contest, so you know the tent is going to be hot inside.

"Man, there's going to be a really intense energy at this show.

"We're looking at a pretty solid line-up so far with some of the biggest names in denial - many of whom performed at this past summer's Denialfest - promising to be there.

Sludge was tight lipped about what he and the other members of 655321 Valdez Lemons had planned for their stage antics at the festival.

"This dump doesn't have a license to handle the really toxic shit so we don't want to generate too much interest in what we're going to do before it happens, you know what I mean?"

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Oh, to be a Library administrator in London in the springtime

With the exception of Controller Gina Barber who approved its submission in October, Board of Control must be commended for wading through the Library Board's 53-page Sustainability Business Case (PDF), released in October, detailing its request for a minimum 4.7 per cent or an "ideal" 6.4 per cent budget increase for 2008. Since its release, the request has apparently been adjusted to a 6.1 per cent increase, as argued before Board of Control yesterday by the Library's Chief Executive Officer, Anne Becker. This figure does not appear as any one of the alternatives in the October submission, so one can only surmise the specific threats to taxpayers contained in this latest request from the previous document.

A year after council caved into the Library's ultimatums to close branches and reduce operating hours if it did not accede to a 4.6 per cent increase instead of administration's 3 per cent target, this year's Sustainability Business Case warns that even a 4.7 per cent increase will still result in the closure of the Glanworth Branch (open four hours per week) and reduced hours of service in other small branches. Whether or not these are practical alternatives — and we would argue that the Northridge and Carson branches, both one-staff limited-hour branches in areas serviced by other branches, should also be closed — they are calculated to have an intimidating political effect on council:

Residents around small branches "came out in droves" to meetings held during the last year, Becker said. "They said … 'Don't touch our library.'"
This is of course an entirely predictable response, even if it hadn't been invited by the Library, when the costs of services to a minority are distributed at large for them.

At the same time that the Glanworth Branch closure and reduced operating hours at smaller branches and for the Telefact service are threatened under the 4.7 per cent increase, the proposal would provide for new Monday openings at four larger branches, whereas the "ideal" 6.4 (or 6.1?) per cent increase would simply maintain all current operating hours. Confusing? Well, yes, but then clarity is not a Library objective. "Capacity utilization" of "community needs," however, is a primary Library objective. What this means, precisely, is best left to the imagination — where, of course, it is meant to be for the optimal suggestive effect — although it will probably have something to do with further accommodations of vagrants and drug users. All we know is that under both the 4.7 and the 6.4 proposed increases, capacity utilization is achieved. Hoorah!

What "community needs" means in reality is that the Library is simply following the City's ambition to be all things to all people, which is why shouldn't be surprised to see the Library's gambit succeed just as well this year as it did last year… and the year before, and the year before, etc. Why should the City discipline its departments when it will not discipline itself? It always bears repeating that the Library has received an average annual increase of 4.8 per cent over the past five years, which begs another question: When will the pace of the community's needs finally match the pace of its resources?

It's also interesting to see that the Library's manipulative and emotive strategy has been adopted by Windsor's Library Board as well.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Happy Thursday Thoughts From Fenris Badwulf

Fenris provides some advice for activists still on the nine to five schedule payment plan:

Do not be discouraged, Happy Workers, that the work week is drawing to a close.

Put a smile on your face! Every hour you work, you pay more taxes so that others can have access to your money to agitate for more of your money to talk about social problems. Think of all the happy taxspenders, spending your money. They are smiling, and they are smiling because you are working and being taxed.

Famine grips most urban centers in North America. Without your taxes, this famine would not be being addressed by studies, think tanks, and activist action activities. No posters would be posted, no press releases would flow to the press, and no bottles of gin would be presented to savvy media truthspeakers without your money. And to hand over more of your money, you need to work more, and support more taxes, and more taxes more often!

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Stolen, or rather, squatted, premises

From OneCosmos, which has been very good lately.

Michael Polanyi felt that the secular left had succumbed to the two diseases of modernity, which are rooted in two false ideals, 1) detached objectivity as the ideal of knowledge, which eventually leads to the denial of the role of tradition, belief, and faith in the acquisition of all knowledge, including scientific knowledge, and 2) a strident hunger for moral perfectionism with regard to social and economic conditions, or Judeo-Christian religious impulses in the absence of religious structure.

You will note that these are contradictory ideals in the first place, being that belief in (1) undermines the basis for any belief in (2), that is, objectively knowable moral imperatives. This is one of the enduring contradictions at the heart of leftism, but as always, they are clueless to the fact. They are always "in your face" with their insane moral demands, even though they have no epistemological or ontological basis for having such demands.

Polanyi's term for this ubiquitous phenomenon was "moral inversion," and it is one of the things that makes the left so annoying. For example, if there is no objective morality and human behavior is simply guided by the lust for power, on what basis can they condemn Israel for merely defending itself from Arab savagery? Likewise, if President Bush is engaging in war merely to somehow advance the interests of his "corporate friends," isn't he doing exactly what their simplistic worldview predicts?

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Grey skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy face

Correction: The head of the London Downtown Business Association (LDBA) was erroneously identified as Councillor Harold Usher in the original post. The head of the LDBA is Bob Usher, and the post has been updated to correct this mistake. Thanks go to reader Elaine for pointing out the error, which I can only attribute to my having city councillors on the brain.

For a limited time only, the City of London is giving you the can't-miss opportunity of a lifetime to catch its latest and greatest downtown production, "The Sinkhole"! That's right, get two hours of free parking between Waterloo, York, Ridout and Queens at Dundas and Wellington before this record-setting run of performances ends! You can't drive to "The Sinkhole," so you might as well get out of your car and walk. Don't miss out, this is a limited-time offer!*
*Offer ends when the sinkhole is repaired. In other words, who knows. And, no, there won't be any street signage to let anyone know.

At least Bob Usher, the head of the Downtown Business Association, is pumped by the "creative atmosphere" of downtown. "What a fantastic opportunity to get people talking about our downtown," Usher said to the London Free Press. Don't worry, Bob, people are already talking about downtown, but it's not the mural and the metal trees that have got them talking.

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Sinkholes, Metal Trees and Giant Flakes

An additional series of coloured pieces of scrap metal sculpted into shapes resembling psychedelic trees are soon to appear in downtown London. The first 32 "artistic" creations cost approximately $200,000, paid for by the London Downtown Business Association. It should be recalled that the LDBA is funded by mandatory fees collected from downtown merchants. No word on how much the additional 48 trees are to cost, but on the pragmatic side of things, they might prove useful when it comes to filling in further sinkholes.

[Head of the London Downtown Business Association, Bob] Usher said the number of metal trees will grow to 80 and LDBA will also contribute $10,000 to the planting of real trees. He said the mural on the King Street face of Galleria London has also attracted national attention and he promised it would be the first of "many more to come."

In an interview, Usher said much of the pessimism about downtown revitalization has vanished.

"We haven't had so much to celebrate in a long time and we are working hard to keep the momentum," said Usher.

The LDBA also unveiled a new logo and a new shared website with Mainstreet London,
In other downtown news, global warming can't steal away the magic of Canadian winters. Even if it doesn't snow, some giant flakes will soon appear in the core at the bargain rate of only $80,000.
"We have a great downtown. We should have more spectacular decorations," MainStreet London manager Janette MacDonald said.

Measuring up to 1.7 metres in diametre, the snowflakes use white, blue and purple LED lights.

About 80 snowflakes will be installed along Dundas Street and part of Wellington Street.

"They're very wintry, not just Christmasy so they can stay up right through January," MacDonald said.

The displays are owned and installed by the city but the London Downtown Business Association (LDBA) is contributing $20,000 toward the total cost of about $80,000.
The echo in the sewers is that a giant statue to our Worship Anne-Marie DeCicco-Best and creative cities mastermind Gord Hume are next on the agenda. The London Fog waits with abated breathe for further inspiration. We will be applying for a Community Arts Investment Grant to further our diverse agenda. A list of this year's recipients can be found here in pdf format.

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Two Sides Of The Same Coin

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Diversity Workshop manifesto released

I'm not sure if these folks are a band or a political party but they apparently write music and secret manifestos. Here's their latest PR:

Diversity Workshop have released the hard cover edition of their manifesto "Londonista!" to a select group of their most enthusiastic fans within the traditional boundaries of the Forest City. This limitation on distribution is significant in that it has been ensured that none outside the 1855 boundaries of the city will gain access to this document at the present time. As it is, all that will be made public at present is that "Londonista!" demands city council acknowledge that within these historic former boundaries the Independant (sic) City State of London, Ontario will be established. As a result, council will hand over all governing powers within these boundaries to Diversity Workshop and will vacate all public buildings. These, of course, will be turned into public housing or daycare centers. Yellow markings thoughout (sic) the city have been painted on significant roads which clearly indicate the boundaries of the new city state.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The naked boom

Growth of Paid Employment, August 2006 to August 2007

As William Robson notes in the Financial Post, "productivity in the public sector tends to be lower than in business." This may seem self-evident to anyone who's watched a government employee on the job but, notwithstanding the welcome and vital work performed in some areas of the economy — like health care — in which the government has effectively legislated private competition out of existence, the most significant cost to productivity from the public sector lies in the fact that most government business is contracted by political demand instead of real demand. Services for which either a large enough politically-significant constituency desires but is unwilling to pay for out-of-pocket in purposeful transactions or, worse yet, that politicians and top bureaucrats commission solely to placate their public sector clients are intrinsically unproductive to some degree or greater. More so, they are economically counter-productive because they squeeze out the private sector's ability to supply real demand, raising compensation pressures on businesses that exceed labour productivity as well as artificial inflationary pressures on interest rates. As always, there's no free ride… unless of course you're a government employee.

And of interest to observers of municipal politics is this little gem: local government payrolls jumped 11% year-over-year to August 2007.

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$50,000 down the sinkhole

The sinkhole in the downtown core remains and yet city council yesterday voted to pay a consultant $50,000 to prepare a report on "the feasibility" of a performing arts centre. Property taxes and debt have been rising every year since Anne-Marie DeCicco-Best was elected Mayor, and the infrastructure isn't getting any younger, but with the exception of only Paul Van Meerbergen, council agreed to the plan, including councillors that found little support for the project from residents in their respective Wards.

Of course the project is "feasible" in so far as a good chunk of taxpayer money would be paying for it and taxes can always be raised again in the name of making London a Creative City. There is nothing to consult about because ultimately it's a political decision whether to spend other people's money on bread and circuses - the emphasis here being on the circus part. As is usual with such reports prepared by consultants paid to do a job city staff is already getting paid to do, the findings will be used to sell the idea to public.

Maybe more sinkholes will finally shake Londoners out of their complacency. Trouble is, a municipal election is three years away and that's plenty enough time for Hume and his supporters to plunge the city into further debt.

Leading the push for a centre was Controller Gord Hume.

"London is the only city its size in Canada, and I'm told in the United States -- but I don't know that -- that doesn't have a performing arts centre," Hume said.

While there's a cost to building a facility, doing nothing also has a cost, Hume said.

Such a facility is crucial if London is to attract and retain creative people, he said. "The leadership starts in this council."

[..] Coun. Cheryl Miller said Londoners shouldn't have to choose between an arts centre and quality public works. "We deserve both," she said.
And Londoners who voted for the current council - with the exception of those who voted for Paul Van Meerbergen - get what they deserve, meaning higher taxes, more sinkholes and less money for tickets to the JLC.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Doctor Suzuki (Won't You Give Us A Prescription)

I dug up the B-side to the A-side...


Doctor Suzuki, won't you give us a prescription for a better world?

Don't you know the trees need you?

Don't you know the seas need you?

Don't you hear our pleas to heed you?

Don't you know that we need you?
Crossposted at Mitchieville.

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If only that sinkhole had swallowed City Hall

The downtown sinkhole has not yet been fixed, but Gord Hume expects little debate over a proposed performing arts centre that would certainly lead to further tax increases. It's like buying a top of the line sound system for your home on credit though your basement is flooding and your foundation crumbling, except in this case, your money is spent without your consent and the city is counting on welfare from the province to address subsequent sinkholes caused by aging and neglected infrastructure.

Hume said council's committee of the whole will likely ask staff for a business plan for a performing arts centre. That would be ready early to the middle of next year, Hume said.

"At that point, council and the public will have a chance to see what figures are involved in this," he said.

He dismissed suggestions that the sinkhole in downtown London that triggered a major power failure in the core would erode support for the centre, which has been proposed for decades.

"Most people understand that a community is made up of many things, a budget is made up of many parts. We put a lot of millions of dollars into roads and sewers and we should."

But it wouldn't make sense to take money from other areas, such as libraries, and focus exclusively on roads, he said.

"That would be ludicrous."

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

The poverty-industrial complex

Stéphane Dion declared a "War on Poverty" Friday as part of a bold strategy to find out whether or not there's actually any constituents still left out there for the idea. Dion's War on Poverty should not be confused with the War To End All Wars on Poverty, because nobody would want that…

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A Tribute to Communism

"In Memory of the Tens of Millions Dead for One Bad Idea."

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Friday, November 9, 2007

"Our food is brave, difficult and challenging to eat."

Please. It just tastes like garbage.

Check out this marvelous comments pile-on, and praise BitTorrent. Hollywood delenda est.

"Just by reading the comments you can see why these movies are failing. The People don’t buy the distortionist propaganda the Leftists are selling. The delusional, Anti-American, Leftist, Hollywood Propagandist live in a “reality distortion field”. Anti American Propaganda just won’t sell in the USA. However, they do seem to have a market for their trash in Europe and the Middle East where their Kool-Aid drinking “Matrix” dwellers reside."

"Courage would be telling stories about enemies that cut open a man’s stomach and fill it with the heads of his family as a warning to the neighborhood. Or who stone girls to death for dating someone from the wrong faith. Or who try to kill our fathers, brothers, and sons - as they try to build schools and keep the peace. Even when all of your Hollywood buddies think you’re an embarrassment for doing it.

Unfortunately, all of those courageous producers, writers, and actors know that might expose them to actual danger in the form of violent reprisal as was the case with Van Gogh in Holland. They are only brave when there is no risk. That lack of courage is assymetrically opposite to what our soldiers around the world are doing. Its no wonder Hollywood doesn’t understand."
A cheering read.


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Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Carbon Dioxide Blues

In California, activists are swarming the schools and so-called educators are eagerly helping to spread the word by staging a series of assemblies. Since the science of climate change is "settled", pupils are now relieved of the burden of thinking for themselves.

Teachers, parents and volunteers helped organize the assemblies and participated in the skits to help raise awareness about global warming and what people can do about it - exchanging traditional light bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs, for example.

School officials distributed more than 500 CFLs last week.

On Friday, Rancho students will be given bilingual "Cancel-a-Car" coupon books filled with ways they can fight global warming.

Once the coupons are returned to school, teachers will track what conservation efforts are made and the date. Teachers will help monitor the progress. As the carbon reduction increases, images of cars will be crossed out on a giant poster kept at school.

[..] Eco-friendly ideas in the coupon book include buying reusable water bottles instead of bottled water, walking or cycling to school, reducing junk mail, washing clothes with cold water and reducing time showering.
The planet gets smellier each day.

c/p: Dust My Broom

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The War that is Climate Change

As fans of Mitchieville are aware, the annual Weblog Awards are in their final day of voting. The race is in the Best Science Blog category where the voting and the plotting is hectic and vicious. Climate Audit is a blog hosted by Steve McIntyre who is the cat who was instrumental in debunking the science behind the hockey stick climate graph. He generally focuses on the underlying statistical analysis of climate science and debunks a great deal of it. What has this to do with the Weblog Awards? A couple of the nominees who are true believers... or are read by true believers... have essentially pulled out the "anybody but Climate Audit" strategy to stop a Climate Audit win. This has lead the Junk Science blog to throw its support behind Climate Audit to counter this political move by the chicken little science blogs. So when you head over to cast a vote for Mitchieville, think about throwing a vote towards Climate Audit in the Science Blog category and piss of the doomsayers.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Whatever happened Fender Newton-Wright and the Poppy Seeds?

Having spent the last couple of decades toiling in obscurity, classic AM radio recording artists, Fender Newton-Wright and the Poppy Seeds, recently recorded a comeback single inspired by London's Storybook Gardens.

"Whatever Happened to Storybook Gardens?"


Whatever happened to Storybook Gardens?
Where went those glory days?
I ain’t ever been to Storybook Gardens.
It don’t hold no memories for me.

It’s just another city sink hole
deeper than the one on Dundas Street.
I ain’t ever been to Storybook Gardens.
Slippery the Seal’s never done nothing for me.

A seven million dollar investment
bringing back those glory days
250 000 visitors and the Mayor
couldn’t put back the pieces of that place.

Whatever happened to Storybook Gardens?
Where went those glory days?
I ain’t ever been to Storybook Gardens.
Slippery the Seal’s never done nothing for me.

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Quote of the day

David Thompson revisits a 2005 interview with Theodore Dalrymple:

Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect, and is intended to.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Money for nothing and the infrastructure's for free

London's sinkhole may be succeeding where Storybook Gardens has failed in attracting interest in our city. If the attention is deserved for the graphic if superficial illustration of the deficit in basic infrastructure renewal in London, it is much more so for the illustration of the city's superficial if graphic administration.

At the same time Londoners are assured that the city's administrators and politicians have been "good stewards" of infrastructure, its defects and failures serve as a vehicle for blaming and pleading with senior levels of government for funding as though they have any constitutional or legislated responsibility for municipal infrastructure. The assurance appeals to the out-of-sight-and-mind nature of most of infrastructure problems that permits politicians to carry on acting as though they were cruise ship directors instead of governors, showering gifts of funding to special guests and catering to Londoners' every entertainment desire. The offloading of responsibility, on the other hand, is an acknowledgement of the looming and post-dated costs of repairs and upgrades that by themselves do not usually attract votes.

It's an astonishing position for the city to find itself begging for funding, given the meteoric rise in tax revenues and spending over the past decade, and a manifestly deceitful one for a council that has spent hundreds of millions of dollars and incurred hundreds of millions more in debt over that same decade on massive and frivolous capital projects and is now even contemplating spending tens of millions on a performing arts centre. Nevertheless, as long as infrastructure can be patched over in a makeshift fashion to put off the day of reckoning, politicians and senior administrators are simply responding to the incentives of an Ontario Municipal Act that places almost no restrictions on cities' powers or jurisdiction except a plurality of popular support once every four years.

As long as those incentives remain — and they will not be amended by a provincial Liberal government that prospers under the same philosophy of governance — they are an obstacle to natural and rational fiscal remedies to the infrastructure problems in London, such as divesting itself of assets that it has no business running and that it just as naturally squanders. And it will shortly become inescapable that there is no alternative for cities like London except for a massive bailout by the national government. And when it happens, it should be called exactly for what it will be — a bailout.

Given the pernicious mismanagement of cities by their local governments and electorate, however, a bailout by itself may ameliorate infrastructure conditions but will do nothing to solve the problems of governance that brought their deterioration into being. Moreover, unconditional blanket transfers of tax revenues between jurisdictions, although by no means unprecedented, provide no remedy or relief to taxpayers and, in the long run, are injurious because they create an ambivalence among taxpayers about jurisdictional responsibilities. Nevertheless, these revenue transfers to cities are inevitable, and if it should gall us that irresponsible municipal politicians should be the beneficiaries of bailouts, it should dismay municipal politicians to find strings attached to the funding!

In an imperfect country, and in a province that will in no case make even a token acknowledgement of the circumstances that have brought this situation to pass, Publius of Gods of the Copybook Headings makes an innovative and extraordinarily politically adroit suggestion for the national government in its handling of immature and recalcitrant junior levels of government. Although fraught with the potential for abuses by future national governments and ineffectual political compromising by the current Conservative government, an initial precise and expert handling of a Ministry of Cities could prove to be a well-grooved path for future ministers and a hard nut to crack for political detractors.

Since cities are both responsibilities and creatures of the provinces, the federal government can only set minimum standards and direct federal funds. This is the approach taken in health care and to a certain extent in post-secondary education, though the latter in a very small way. It is an approach, admittedly, fraught with constitutional and public policy problems for conservatives. It flies against the spirit of decentralization, it oversteps Ottawa's role as laid out in the constitution and even runs counter to a recent federal government proposal to limit its spending in provincial jurisdictions. Another way of describing these problems is "maintaining the status quo." We wouldn't be creating more violations of these principles, simply carrying on in the time honoured tradition of violating them in the same old way. That's a bleak and cynical assessment, it's also politics. There is also a very powerful advantage to creating a new ministry, it will preempt spending in scores of different areas that would be even greater violations of the above principles.

The new ministry must, at all costs, insist on targeted and matched spending. This is itself fraught with problems of inter-government relations, no one wants money with strings attached. Before we get to bringing the provinces and cities on side, the point about targeted spending needs to be expanded. Simply adding to the general revenues of Canadian cities will not solve the key issue of aging and obsolete infrastructure. […] Municipal politics is the most unaccountable of Canada's elective institutions, save perhaps school boards. Voter turn out is low even by the levels shown in recent federal and provincial elections. Media attention is fleeting and often superficial, and this is again by the already low standards displayed in most coverage of the two senior levels of government.

When the Harris government pushed through municipal amalgamation in the late 1990s it had estimated the move would save a considerable sum in administrative costs. They miscalculated. While there were now fewer politicians and bureaucrats in some executive positions, these comprised only a small fraction of the overall administrative costs of the municipal governments. The savings realized there were more than offset by a policy of standardizing wages and benefits upward. If old City of Toronto employees were paid more than their counterparts in North York, as they often were under Mel Lastman's frugal management, then the North York employees were in many cases given pay and benefit increases up to the Toronto levels. This policy, essentially a sop to insure peace with the unions, shows the nature of local government. David Miller demanding more revenue generating powers will not solve the problems of crumbling roads and bridges, that money will find its way elsewhere. Targeting money insures it's spent on services actually demanded and needed by urban residents, not free needle sites and public housing projects that soon degenerate into ghettos. Matching, demanding that cities foot part of the bill for new projects, prevents or limits municipal governments from creating new programs with the money saved from not having to pay for capital expenditures on existing services.

Targeting not only side steps municipal mismanagement, it also undercuts the package deal being spun by David Miller and like minded local politicos. They point to actual deterioration in basic services as an excuse to hike taxes and obtain increased subsidies from the senior levels of government. That money is in turn spent on placating unions and creating new programs, neither of which are big vote getting policies, even traditionally left-leaning urban centers like Toronto and Vancouver.

[…] The provinces will naturally oppose targeting but the federal side must insist on this point. Simply throwing more money at the junior levels of government has a very poor track record. Including municipal leaders in this process is essential. A conference on cities without municipal representation would be instantly ridiculed - and rightly so. The municipal element could also act as restraint or moderation on recalcitrant provincial governments. In turn the final appeal can always be made to urban voters. The federal level can always reply: We have offered so much money for these projects; list mass transit, more police offices and so forth, but hint at specific proposals so as to have a greater impact. The focus must always be on basic issues and services.

The Left in Canada has seized on urban issues and made it their particular niche. Promoting an urban agenda that focuses on real urban issues, such as infrastructure, crime and public health (control of infectious diseases) can undermine the Left's dominance in these areas while limiting the scope of government by diverting money from new programs into old ones.
If it could be done politically, I would require provinces to institute a limited governing constitution for cities instead of an Act that gives them carte blanche, but since that will never happen I could at least be satisfied watching Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best's protests against any sort of bailout oversight.

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