Friday, February 29, 2008

How many light bulbs does it take to screw in a City Hall?

The London Free Press asks: On average, does performance have anything to do with your job contract?

On average, how many sick days do you take in a year?
One to five
Five to ten
Ten to fifteen
More than fifteen

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Paul Van Meanbergen to blame for increase in absenteeism

Having "disillusioned and demoralized" the "hard-working employees" of city hall with his insensitive observations, Paul Van Meerbergen must shoulder the blame for the inevitable increase in absenteeism in the wake of his remarks.

"We are dealing with a deep-rooted cultural problem within the civil service of the City of London," Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen said.

"I come from the private sector and if our average sick days (were) 18.5, our plant would close," Van Meerbergen said.
Sorry sir, but all your real world experience doesn't mean a damn if it hurts people's feelings.
Van Meerbergen's words prompted a strong response by CUPE Local 101 president Cindy Cossar-Jones.

"I can not emphasize enough how Councillor Van Meerbergen's comments in the media regarding alleged 'unproductivity'[sic] of municipal workers have disillusioned and demoralized these hard-working employees," she wrote in an e-mail to The Free Press.
With absolutely no care for the feelings of others, he insulted the "culture" of over 2000 people. What a terribly insensitive person.

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Smug tax

According to London Free Press Editor-In-Chief Paul Berton, the introduction of a carbon tax in British Columbia has it "looking bleak for the climate-change deniers" …

… presumably in the same sense that a tax on churches would crush the dreams of atheists, or that a tax on newspaper editors would be ruinous to bloggers.

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Come for the hotel taxes, stay for the property taxes

As reported in the London Free Press, Board of Control recommended to Council yesterday that it petition the provincial government for the right to levy a hotel tax of up to three per cent to boost the $1.7 million the City already spends on promoting tourism. Provision in provincial legislation to allow implementation of the tax only by consent of the local hospitality industry would seem to beg the question: if hotels really think that investment in Tourism London provides returns to their industry, why don't they simply make contributions to the agency directly?

London's decidedly weak position as a tourist destination wouldn't seem to make extra taxes a very likely added attraction, but the idea is certainly consistent with City Hall's delusions that it can engineer tourism success — as one may recall, the last attempt to engineer one such triumph has cost taxpayers over $8 million and resulted in declining attendance at Storybook Gardens. The hotel tax would at least have the virtue of being relatively harmless to local taxpayers, but it's difficult to imagine that London's lack of tourist appeal has less to do with the city and more to do with a shortfall in promotional funding. But I may be wrong, and if I am then we can expect to be absolutely swamped with visitors if a tax on restaurant meals is also applied, as has been suggested as well.

Of course, the rationale that "other cities are doing it" exercises a particular hold on the imaginations of municipal politicians, who appear to be adamant that a new tax should not even be considered as "a tool" to reduce spending from other tax revenues, as Controller Gord Hume thundered. Small surprise there. But what happens if every city starts taxing and spending more just to lure the same pool of tourists from every other city? Simply more taxes and spending, but there's nothing in that idea to deter a politician.

Update: Coun. David Winninger repeats the now standard mantra of municipal politicians across the country that new taxing powers are necessary because "property taxpayers simply can't afford to keep pace with rising costs." Pardon me for asking such a simple question, but don't municipal politicians have any say these days in whether those costs must rise?

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Roll call

If it were politicians, most of them would be almost welcome to 100 per cent absenteeism for the rest of their terms for all the taxes they spend without having any idea what's going on. Almost, that is, except that administration would be left completely unhindered to pack its ranks — as with a current advertisement for still another administrator, in this case to deal with an absentee rate among City employees that's 50 per cent higher than in "typical municipal workforces." Certainly administration doesn't do anything to hinder itself by informing Council of costly administrative problems as the issue was only disclosed to Board of Control when Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen raised it, and then only because two constituents happened to question the job posting.

Administration will of course argue that by hiring a Health & Wellness Specialist it is addressing these problems, but it is unlikely to address the more serious concern over its failure to communicate its problems unless compelled to do so by Council. The absurd and indefensible advice of the City's lawyer, Jim Barber, to disclose the absenteeism problem in a closed-door session only strengthens the inescapable conclusion that London's administration under the supervision of Chief Administrative Officer Jeff "Feel Good" Fielding has invested itself in avoiding scrutiny when possible.

Accountability will likely have to be dragged from the offices of the City's administration. Given the Mayor's long and cozy relationship with Fielding, the prospects that any of the City's other politicians, more accustomed to taking the easy way out, will suddenly find the stomach for a hard and unpopular fight are not promising.

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VERY IMPORTANT! Be sure to (deleted)!

I can't tell you what this is about, because I have no idea; but, it's funny.

NIM39140 - National Insurance Numbers (NINOs): Format and Security: What to do if you suspect or discover fraud

HT Billy Beck

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Nonsense NOW

On a stage in which the spectacles and sentiments get all the press reviews, politicians have been quick to discover the rewards of baiting each other across jurisdictions. The spotlight, according to all the scripts, is trained not only to illuminate the hero but to dissolve all blemishes of appraisal and accomplishment.

London's "One Cent NOW" campaign to persuade the national government to contribute one cent of every GST nickel to cities writes a noble script for municipal politicians as the victims of "outdated" funding arrangements with other levels of government… "[n]otwithstanding the valuable contributions of their current municipal programming, such as the Gas Tax Funds, the Building Canada Fund, the GST rebate, the Public Transit Fund, and the Canada-Ontario Infrastructure Program." Surely there is an etcetera missing here. London, even more than most cities, is already extraordinarily dependent on spending by other levels of government considering alone the prominence of post-secondary education and health care institutions in the city's economy, and the local administration is surely ignoring other extra-governmental financing of which the recent $30 million in commitments to London's Diamond D-JET Corporation can only be one example. When the Frontier Centre's 2007 Local Government Performance Index reports that London's reliance on grants from other governments is 121 per cent above the average for Canadian municipalities, it's difficult to imagine that the City can suck any more out of other Canadians' taxes.

The City's claim that "property taxes and user fees … are not responsive to growth and do not provide sufficient revenue" is not only unsubstantiable, it doesn't even make sense when property tax revenue increases with assessment growth, when the City is at liberty to set both property tax rates and user fees, and when the City does not say what "sufficient revenue" means. Sufficient for what? Perhaps it is not the City than cannot afford to rely on property taxes, but property taxes that cannot afford to rely on what the City considers sufficient spending.

Whether voters are attending the City's script or not, the lines are falling on the deaf ears of the national government, and look to continue to do so. If the City considers a strategy of cooperation between different levels of government to be essential to maintaining its spending growth, it might drop the theatrical demands and get serious instead. In the words of Toronto Councillor Karen Stintz, speaking of her own city's "One Cent NOW" campaign:

The city's current strategy has focused on what the federal government is not giving the corporation of the city of Toronto instead of highlighting the federal government's contribution to business and to residents that live, work, play and visit in the Greater Toronto Area.

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“You cannot paint the "Mona Lisa" by assigning one dab each to a thousand painters.”

Respect to William F. Buckley.

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Dependable Solutions

Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman has a diaper on his desk and he's prepared to use it. It's not clear which orifice will be used in a test.

George Smitherman sent eyebrows skyward when he made the straight-faced suggestion in response to critics who say the standard of care in Ontario nursing homes is so bad, residents are being left to wallow in soiled diapers for hours on end.

Products to help adults deal with incontinence have undergone an "evolution'' in recent years and have become more absorbent, making them an invaluable tool in improving the quality of life for elderly people, Smitherman said.

He said complaints that seniors are wearing soiled diapers for extended periods of time have prompted him to "seriously consider'' trying out one of the adult diapers that are commonly used in Ontario nursing homes.

[..] "I said, `How does a guy like me really actually figure out what's right about all this?''' he said. "Is a product that offers greater absorption capability an appropriate product or is that a front for some diminishment of care?''
Either way, pooping a diaper isn't going to answer that question, but maybe he has an ulterior motive that is best left unconsidered. One could only wish vampires like Smitherman would permanently retire to a nursing home, starting tomorrow.

HT: Darcey

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Understanding is the first step towards compassion

This was an interesting read for the astounded.

Commenter NIAC was probably wondering similar things, and kind of stole my thunder (all in good fun!) As a result, the author has now edited the profile to remove the painful braggadocio and self-aggrandizement -- but this is Wikipedia, after all. My favourite deleted section was the one on "User In-fighting".

Being an administrator on Wikipedia has no interest for me. While there's obviously an extremely valuable role for administrators, bureaucrats, stewards and arbitrators to play, it seems that the deeper one gets involved with the project, the greater the expectations and ultimately, the heartaches. Kind of like life itself...

The often-petty in-fighting that I've come across amongst various contributors over this or that information/ edit/ block is unfortunate. But, given a project of this size, its complexity, the number of active users and human nature itself, I suppose that it's surprising there's not more nastiness, trolling and vandalism.

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Bullying the anti-social

Even if you aren't a smoker or a fatty, if you value your right to treat your body as your own, this tale of social activism and public interest is sure to send chills down your spine. Surreality Times focuses on John Banzhaf, a public interest lawyer who spends his time minding other people's business. When he is not teaching his law students how to become "Legal Activists", Banzhaf is busy making money alongside pharmaceutical companies who can't sell their products fast enough.

High taxes on cigarettes, public smoking bans, graphic anti-tobacco ads and the like have not resulted in a smoke free world. Now, the doctors must be forced to join the crusade unless they are keen on fighting charges they are killing the population by failing to warn and subsequently prescribe treatment to suspected and admitted transgressors alike.

"The US Public Health Service's Clinical Practice Guideline for Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence provide that 'every patient who uses tobacco should be offered at least one of [two] treatments.' Many major guidelines by other respected medical bodies - e.g., the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, etc. - also require that smoking patients receive not just warnings but also treatment, including counseling."

In Banzhaf's letter to the health commissions, he threatens that if any physicians dare to excercise their professional autonomy i.e., "the freedom to exercise their professional judgement in the care and treatment of their patients" by not "following the guidelines" with all their patients who smoke, or by refusing to act as a marketing shills for pharmaceutical smoking-cessation products, he or his associates will sue those physicians into kingdom-come:

Banzhaf's letter warned that: "Since many in the antismoking community (including hundreds of organizations, many with their own attorneys), as well as lawyers associated with antismoking groups and others in private practice, are now considering how to proceed with the article's litigation suggestion, the need to remind doctors of their responsibilities and of their potential legal liability is paramount..." and " should not be surprising if antismoking lawyers, as well as those in private practice working on contingency fees, find physicians who deliberately flout federal guidelines to be a major target of litigation."
cp: The Broom

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Climate Change and You

'I don't know what to think of an education that has pounded the mantra "correlation is not causation" into my head, but then tries to convince me of human-initiated climate change.'

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

We need a "Gas Bag Free Day"

In the interest of accuracy, for which London Free Press headlines have never been noted, only the City's Environment and Transportation Committee is being asked to declare "Plastic Bag Free Day," which Council would subsequently have to approve. The consciences of Committee and Council have never posed the slightest obstacle to making affectations of virtue toward objects beyond the boundaries of their competence. Londoners themselves are simply expected to applaud inconsequential gestures made on their behalf as though reflecting sanctimonies right back at our own reflections is what we pay politicians and bureaucrats for. Like mirrors held up to mirrors, no actual light escapes to the rest of the world.

"They're ugly, they block drains and cause flooding, and our wildlife animals are choking on them," said Controller Gina Barber who, together with Coun. Judy Bryant, is sponsoring the request to add "Plastic Bag Free Day" to the list of civic celebrations of off-the-shelf bombasts, right on the heels of the equally fatuous "Earth Hour" in March.

Even heroin syringes don't get that kind of negative publicity from politicians, but then their idle imaginations tend to overlook victims when they are present and encounter them when they are absent. If there are no victims of plastic bags they must be invented, and Barber does so with a flourish. For most of us, the simple practicality of plastic bags for re-use as garbage liners and cat and dog litter receptacles precludes aesthetic considerations — it suffices that we don't have to buy packaged plastic bags to put in the landfill instead. The per-weight or per-volume contribution of plastic bags to landfills must be a tiny matter to calculate, but no smaller one should suppose than counting the piles of plastic-choked wildlife corpses that litter the city. Meanwhile, stigmatizing plastic bags as the cause of blocked drains and flooding certainly makes them a far easier thing for a politician to cope with than having to do something about aging brickwork that's actually clogging the city's watermains.

But a declaration in celebration of feeble sentiment at City Hall is only part of the ongoing "casual discussions" that a few London Councillors have been having on whether we really need plastic bags at all or, to be more precise, whether the manufacture of political virtue can tolerate us having them. That these casual discussions are continually aired in public would be odd unless they are supposed to lead us to the resignation that we really shouldn't have any choice but not to need them some day.

Barber, who has been envious of other cities that have enacted bans, also makes the casual suggestion of a 15-cent per-bag "levy" that is patently meant to be considered as a prelude to a serious discussion instead. Now where have we heard that sort of idea before?

Lorrie Goldstein in the Toronto Sun:

There was a time that when politicians raised taxes, they called it what it was: Raising taxes.

They didn't, at least not with a straight face, make grandiose claims that raising taxes was all part of their plan to save the planet and kickstart a "social movement" into being.

But that was before green fever madness gripped our politicians.
Read the rest of Goldstein's column here (link via Small Dead Animals).

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Some unimportant facts

I've been tagged by Darcey to participate in one of the countless memes that circulate throughout the internet. The idea is to list 6 unimportant things about yourself. I don't usually bother with these things, but I'll play along for Darcey's sake. Here goes:

1. I use a Mac.

2. I smoke.

3. I'm a vegetarian.

4. I can't stand shopping and would rather stay home and do laundry if given a choice.

5. I virtually never wear pants, preferring skirts and dresses instead.

6. I have two shelves full of cookbooks, two fat binders full of recipes and an inbox scattered with recipes I mean to try but sometimes I can't decide what to make for dinner.

If the other London Foggers wish to participate, list your unimportant quirks and habits in the comment section.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Fat People a Greater Threat to Public Health than Suicide Bombers

So say attendees of the International Oxford Health Alliance Summit. Lettuce and bombs are clearly healthier choices.

World governments are focussing too much on fighting terrorism while obesity and other "lifestyle diseases" are killing millions more people, an international conference heard Monday.

Overcoming deadly factors such as poor diet, smoking and a lack of exercise should take top priority in the fight against a growing epidemic of chronic disease, legal and health experts said.

Global terrorism was a real threat but posed far less risk than obesity, type two diabetes and smoking-related illnesses, US law professor Lawrence Gostin said at the Oxford Health Alliance Summit here.

"Ever since September 11 we've been lurching from one crisis to the next which has really frightened the public," Gostin told AFP later.

"While we've been focussing so much attention on that we've had this silent epidemic of obesity that's killing millions of people around the world and we're devoting very little attention to it and a negligible amount of money."
Send The Mayor your money for the ultimate solution.

cp: Dust My Broom

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Three Plastic Bags (MP3)

Here's the B side to the scary Fenris song -- a highly irritating trad. arr. singalong in praise of that friend of the common man, a friend who gives so much and asks nothing in return: the disposable plastic shopping bag.



well they've got these cloth ones to reuse
but i know which kind i'm gonna choose
it's too much work to be prepared
cause you gotta think to bring em with you there

Crossposted to Mitchieville.

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"When I see a spade I call it a carbon credit."

"Philippus aunswered, that the Canadonians werfeloes of no fyne witte in their termes but altogether grosse, clubbyshe, and rusticall, as they whiche had not the witte to calle a spade by any other name then a spade."

The truth of the matter is, taxes have always been about green policies.

There was a time that when politicians raised taxes, they called it what it was: Raising taxes.

. . . But that was before green fever madness gripped our politicians.

It was in the throes of that condition last week that B.C. Finance Minister Carole Taylor actually claimed, with a straight face, that her province's imposition of Canada's first carbon tax (a tax on fossil fuels) could be the start of a new "social movement" across the country.

For gawd's sake, let's hope not.

Because that "social movement" is designed to hoodwink taxpayers into believing they no longer have the right to complain about our usuriously high taxes, lest they be shamed into silence by the Suzuki Nation as global warming "deniers."
Politicians will be politicians . . .
Finally, have you noticed how politicians have suddenly stopped talking about the outrageously high gasoline prices we're paying -- something you couldn't shut them up about for decades -- although of course they never did anything about it?

Problem is, politicians can't complain about high gas prices now that they're all thinking of raising them higher, ostensibly as part of their "green" plan to prevent a 20-foot rise in sea levels from wiping out Newfoundland.

It's as if we all went to sleep one night and woke up in the Oceania of George Orwell's 1984, where, instead of telling us on Monday that we've always been at war with Eastasia and on Tuesday that we've always been at war with Eurasia, now on Monday its: "High gas prices bad" and on Tuesday: "High gas prices good."

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Trolls and things

The London Fog has its very own troll who also happens to suffer from multiple sock puppet disorder. We won't mention the real name of this man of many aliases because we don't have the time or inclination to fight false allegations of libel. Nor will we attempt to initiate hate crime proceedings against this personality-challenged individual who continues to type characters clearly meant to make us cry, but we reserve the right to delete the mad ramblings of a stupid man who obsessively comments on a site he claims is boring.

A taste of what you are missing, as previously attached to this entry:

Hey Mike, cool post. It exceeds your normal high standards!

Ha Ha Ha! ZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.


Mike, you've put up another lame post, as usual.

You're the stupid one of the bunch, ain't ya?

Can't handle the truth or are you just addicted to deleting posts that disagree with your lame-o thoughts?

and also:

Come and get me, Mike.

I'm a threat to your semi-retarded views.

Your mommy dropped you on your head when you were a wee one, didn't she?

The London Fog reserves the right to delete spam from their premises.

Mike adds to Lisa's original post: As an old Tocharian proverb says, "Alcohol should not be poured so heavily into buried wells".

I missed these comments the first time around, but I thought something was up. I could smell the pong of rum and failure from all the way out at Mitchieville.

"Come and get me. You wanna wrestle? I'll wrestle ya right to the ground! Come here boy!"

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Bargain Protesting

Watch two patriotic girls protest Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia.

"We came to Belgrade to defend Kosovo," one of the girls, her face blurred to protect identity and identified only as Maja, told B92 television. "We started looting when they all did."

[..] "We looted because we are poor, not because we are rich," Maja said. (AP)

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The Carbon Is Staining My Nice White Sepulchre

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.


David Suzuki is a hypocrite until the day he walks with Jesus and forgets he's entitled to a bus or a donkey. I believe Jesus is cool because he walked on water; until Suzuki can prove he doesn't fart, he can live the life of the common man he advocates - in other words, leave the world behind, oh hallowed environmental monk, your Blackberry is choking us. Until then he will be criticized as any religious zealot aught to be.
H to the T to the Captain.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Aging brickwork

According to city engineer Pat McNally, sinkholes in London are often caused by aging brickwork. With Council voting tonight on a 4.4 per cent tax rate increase, that would seem to be a likely explanation.

Sinkhole Exhibit ASinkhole Exhibit B

Left photo: Morris Lamont, Sun Media

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Trotsky or Stalin?

I've never understood the logic of 'developed nations' (read: wealthy; often approaching some reasonable form of democracy) buying carbon credits from 'developing nations' (read: cheap labour for developed nations' capital; often totalitarian, or very limited democracy). It seems to me to be the epitome of 'big business' sabotaging local industry and labour, so they reap even larger profits; all the while, they're granted an excuse to invest in less restrictive environmental policies abroad, and paying far less in wages than they would here. Meanwhile, countries with often horrendous environment records boom industrially. So when I read this I got to thinking about the revolution . . .

But, are we targeting the right noxious fumes? And, as laudable as our achievements in emissions control and fuel conservation have been here in North America, will any further improvements even be noticed?

The reason I ask is that a recent estimate sees China constructing some 500 to 1,000 coal-fired plants to fuel its thirst for energy. Yes, in this day of nuclear, wind and solar power, it is still dirty old compressed carbon that will fuel 80% of China's electricity (and, by the way, 48.2% of U.S. electrical power). I can't speak for anyone else, but from an industrial base that can't prevent GHB-related pyschotropics from being manufactured into children's toys, I'm not exactly confident of its ability to make sure all those plants' emissions are scrubbed clean.

. . .

Let me unequivocally state that it would be the height of imperialistic hypocrisy for me to be horrified at the prospect of the millions of Indian and Chinese citizens driving cars instead of scooters. With North America averaging almost one registered vehicle for every licensed driver (and far too many of those hulking sport-utility vehicles), decrying their desire for aumobile ownership would be the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. Nonetheless, if we are truly serious about conservation, we must confront it on all fronts -- both domestically and internationally.
Watch out for the ice picks.

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Lame mater

Whatever else might be said for the constitutional weakness of Canadians for mediocre solutions that try to please everyone, if it deprives us of much of the vigour with which many Americans defend their freedoms it also spares us much of the vigour with which many other Americans will try to stifle it. So with a few exceptions, a conservative on the campus of a Canadian university is far more likely to be humoured or even occasionally indulged as a harmless if pitiably deluded antiquity than met with the rigid codes of expression and openly hostile intimidations and quasi-legal persecutions that his counterpart at an American college all too often faces — the subject of a new documentary, Indoctrinate U, reviewed here by David Thompson.

The relatively benign Canadian approach to campus conservatives is actually entirely rational from the perspective of the academic fellow traveller since they cannot possibly make the slightest difference to the thoroughly entrenched left-wing politics and grievances that occupy the areas of communal debate in universities. A steady and virtually uncontested fixation on sometimes generic and occasionally esoteric left-wing dogmas not only dominates the main theatres of speakers, posters and presentations in Canadian universities, but is inserted continuously and fatuously in "incongruous political sermons being shoehorned onto lessons" in even the most innocuous and unlikely of subjects. The instruction that I and thirty other students once received from a professor to vote for the NDP during an undergraduate class on geographic research methods was met with a complacency that I could not begin to imagine if she had promoted the Conservative Party instead. Canadian academics can amply afford to be tolerant of their impotent conservative colleagues and students.

Like many others, I can at least be grateful that I am quit of that remarkably undiverse environment. Now all one must do is live with the political consequences of what students leave these institutions with.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Act Now, Think Later

As much as I complain about living in a city as poorly managed as London, I am thankful it's located in Ontario, rather than England. While Ontario is hardly free of laws designed to protect us from ourselves, the craze to manage other people's habits has yet to reach the hysterical levels it has in Britain, but then I recall that people in Britain are at least permitted to purchase private health care. But then again, "caring" self-proclaimed community leaders are never content to mind their own business within anyone's borders.
The chairman of the International Obesity Taskforce wants world leaders to agree a global pact to ensure that everyone is fed healthy food.

Professor Philip James said the challenge of obesity was so great that action was needed now, even without clear evidence of the best options.

[..] Professor James, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, was speaking in Boston at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

He commented: "This is a community epidemic that is actually a response to all the wonderful apparent industrial and economic development changes that we've seen, with a collapse in the need for physical activity, and now a targeting of children to make profits by big industry in food and drink.

"We have to change that, and it will not come unless we have a coherent government-led strategy. The issue is: have we got the political will?"
The answer is to nationalize everything. Farms, grocery stores, restaurants, bars, workplaces, transit - Everything and Everybody! Individuals allowed to make their own decisions have caused climate change and starvation in third world nations.
Another expert, Professor Rena Wing, presented research at the AAAS in Boston suggesting that large-scale changes in diet and exercise were needed to prevent obesity.

"The obesity epidemic won't go away simply because people switch to skimmed milk from whole milk," she said.

"They need to substantially cut their calories and boost their physical activity to get to a healthy weight - and keep minding the scale once they do."
Thanks for that tip Ms. Expert. Now, what's your plan to ensure people comply with your vision of common sense?

cp: Dust My Broom

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Scrap the façade

Or so goes the London Free Press headline in its account of an architectural report commissioned by the City to lay the groundwork for a deal to lease 5,000 square feet of office space for 10 years at an estimated cost of between $1.15 million and $1.6 million from developer Shmuel Farhi in exchange for preserving the narrow façade of the old downtown Capitol Theatre building.

Whether it is worth saving to the taxpayers who will help fund its restoration was not a question that the architect, Allan Avis, was contracted to address. Having written that it "warrants preservation and restoration," it would seem that he was instead invited to regard the question as moot, as it is in fact from the view of the politicians who commissioned the report at taxpayer's expense.

"It's pretty amazing," Controller Bud Polhill said yesterday. "There may be a premium to pay but there will be a great benefit, too."
Of the premium there is no doubt, but what should Londoners suppose is the benefit to them of preserving a strictly generic façade to a building that many of them haven't even seen for years? Having pretty much ceded the entire Talbot-to-Wellington corridor along Dundas to the vagrant population, it's unlikely in any case that the city's junkies, hoodlums and welfare recipients could have seen through the equally generic blanket of punk handbills that covered the façade since the theatre was vacated years ago. Assuming that they would have appreciated the value of downtown heritage, it has become a heritage of human more than structural dereliction now. Restoring one façade among several blocks of decrepit and half-empty store fronts will hardly restore the rest of London to the core.

The state of preservation being what it is in London, façades of generic political management have at least nothing to fear. In forcing through millions of dollars over the past decade in downtown restorations and improvements, London's politicians have ignored the real heritage of entrepreneurial building and commerce that created a vibrant and viable downtown in favour of promoting their own heritage of top-down driven managerial vanity. While administration has done an admirable job in recent years loosening restrictions on residential development in the core, politicians remains committed to a rose-coloured vision of business land use from which they perversely calculates the tight controls and political interventions that have destroyed the downtown. The evolution of the economy to produce new forms and functions makes it quite obvious the downtown will never appear or function precisely as it once used to. So it should be obvious that if a successful heritage of entrepreneurial creativity is permitted and protected instead of being regulated and restricted, the downtown will find a new way to thrive.

From the February 12, 2008 London Free Press:

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Ballad of a Coffin Man

Frank le Fou has a new song which he says was inspired by the strange and sad story of the 'coffin guy':

One day, a long time ago, Hans Scholze drove home from his job at an asbestos factory and immediately ushered his wife and young daughter out of their Beach home.

Martians, Scholze told his befuddled family, had chosen him as their representative on Earth, and the house was urgently needed for a high-level meeting of extraterrestrials.

That bizarre act some 30 years ago signalled the beginning of Scholze's downward spiral, which would eventually see him move into a mobile plywood box he parked for years under the Gardiner Expressway.

But now he has gone missing entirely.
Frank said he was so moved by the story that he wrote and recorded the song in an afternoon. Here it is:

"Ballad of a Coffin Man" by Frank le Fou


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Another Rat Fleeing The S.S. Levant

Shire News Network has an interview with Ezra Levant, in which he announces that the notorious Alberta Human Rights Interrogator Shirlene McGovern is attempting to resign from his case over the massive public "odium" to which she has exposed herself through her career choices.

Ha ha ha... I bet the understudy for that gig is thrilled! Bring in the next contestant for the love and respect of the international blogosphere...

"If someone makes her living being a state-sponsored bully, I think there should be a public odium attached to that. She should not be able to go to cocktail parties and to a comfortable setting and say, Oh yeah, I'm a state censor. No. She should have to fib about it and say that she does something better, like being a used car salesman, or a prostitute."
Levant is providing yet more evidence of the validity of the Marc Emery principle, that the way to deal with illegitimate censorious institutions is to destroy the morale, moral pretenses, and reputations of the perpetrators with aggressive publicity of righteous, funny, uncompromising philosophical defiance.

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Happy Family Day

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Consulting Your Collective Fate

The slippery slope of official intolerance is about to get even slicker in the UK. Smokers in England might soon be forced to obtain a license from the government should they wish to legally purchase highly taxed tobacco products they are only allowed to enjoy in designated locations.
Professor Le Grand, a former adviser to ex-PM Tony Blair, said cash raised by the proposed scheme would go to the NHS.

He said it was the inconvenience of getting a permit - as much as the cost - that would deter people from persisting with the smoking habit.

"You've got to get a form, a complex form - the government's good at complex forms; you have got to get a photograph.
Smoker or not, the wages of the collective are weekly garnished to employ bureaucratic pen keepers to come up with social cleansing legislation to ensure the public health care system continues to be 'cost effective'. No matter if you are fat or otherwise diseased, a cost benefit analysis of the situation is sure to inflate the egos of the socially selfish amongst us.

cp: The Broom

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

"Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual"

Heard on Hugh Hewitt, here's Barack Obama's wife Michelle laying out some chilling, proud totalitarian imagery. Partial transcript here, partial audio and Hewitt's fisking here.

Be sure to listen to the audio and her tone of voice for full effect that a transcript of "We have to fix our souls" cannot capture.

We have to compromise and sacrifice for one another in order to get things done. Barack Obama is the only person in this race who understands that. That before we work on the problems, we have to fix our souls. Our souls are broken, in this nation. If we can't see ourselves in one another we will never make those sacrifices. So I am here right now because I am married to the only person in this race who has a chance of healing this nation.

Barack is more than ready. He will be ready today. He will be ready on day one, a year from now, five years from now, he is ready. That is not the question. The question is what are we ready for? Wait Wait Wait! Because we say we are ready for change. We say we are ready for change, but see, change is hard. Change will always be hard...

And Barack Obama, will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your division. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zone. That you push yourself to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved and uninformed.
Get any kind of adrenalin rush from that?

The Captain has more.

Crossposted to Mitchieville, where hope and change are just a kiss away

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The six degrees of wallet separation

Federal Industry Minister Jim Prentice announced this afternoon a $19.6 million "repayable" investment by the Canadian Government in London's Diamond D-JET Corporation for research and development into the company's proposed five-seat jet aircraft. Repayable, in the context of government industrial investment, means of course we'll be lucky to see a nickel back for every dollar spent.

Together with the $11 million already committed to the project by the provincial government, this less-than-zero-sum type of political economic tinkering is the new face of investment in a city determined to erect even higher tax and regulatory obstacles to private development. Considering how much of the local economy is subsidized by other levels of government, where do politicians get away with claiming that London needs even more money from them?

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Participatory Economics

I think the concept they're groping towards discovering is known as "money", but I could be completely wrong.

"Some workplaces, such as a coal mine, have an average work rating that is lower than others. Across society, all of these work ratings are averaged, to get an average Work Empowerment Rating for all of society."

Imagine the Excel spreadsheet for that. No, seriously, imagine it, because that's all anybody will be able to do in the brief few hours of a Parecon world before clever people combine to employ to their own advantage the imperialist racist Alexander Hamilton's maxim that "power over a man's subsistence is equivalent to power over his will" -- and reconsider the problem of how to ensure fully staffed coal mines.
"Everyone in a Parecon system belongs to a Worker's Council where they work, and a Consumer's Council where they live."
Mussolicious! Now, what could go wrong with that? But one important question is left unanswered by the video: what if I don't want anything to do with you and your Councils and your fist-wielders?

Enter a world untouched by economics, as you would a newly built Ptolemaic planetarium staffed by enthusiastic young Social Astronomy grad students eager to share some fresh ideas. Disregard the Freudian typos in the core values of "Divirsity" and "Renumeration according to Effort and Sacrifice". Hilariously, the teleprompter-reader even reads the word aloud as "renumeration".

HT LPPS, where you can let a fist be your umbrella.

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The takers

John Clarke, an organizer for the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty but better known lately as as a ringleader for organized crime, will be one of the featured speakers next week in London at a public forum being held by London's "anti-racist, pro-feminist, anti-capitalist" Project for a Participatory Society (PDF poster). Together with Justin Podur, of whom enough can be said that he is a professor of Environmental Studies at York University, Clarke will expound on the subject of

TAKING BACK OUR CITY from the developers, landlords and corporations that now dominate decisions that affect us all

How they're going to do that I couldn't tell, but it naturally won't be by the shortest path. While most of us aspire to dominate the decisions that affect us through the customary method of actually buying property, or at least negotiating for the optimal result in a free market for property, activists expend far too much energy trying to dominate the decisions that affect everyone else instead. A shroud of superior knowledge and philosophy may gratify their urges to avoid working at anything productive, but maintaining it hardly leaves them time to accomplish anything that might actually prove consequential, like getting a real job or education. Thanks, but I'd rather take my chances with the un-clenched-fist developers, landlords and corporations if we're going to have to give the City back to the kinds of people illustrated in the event's promotion over at the London Commons:

Link via Honey Pot in the comments.

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I mean really. Is there anything you can't accomplish with a fist?

Nothing says "freedom", "peace", "love", and "happiness" like a mob of Homo sapiens sapiens with raised fists and no faces. Through mankind's history, the raised clenched fist has signified the sacred alchemical wish to join with others to make a better world under the sign of the Great Fist, wielded together as one.

From horizon to horizon, and pole to pole, the fist has been an undying symbol of man's greatest dreams and boldest aspirations. Share those dreams with OCAP's John Clarke, speaking on "Our Right To The City" at the Central Library, 7 PM on Friday, February 22.

You know, if the Conservative Party or the Freedom Party were to use such imagery, some people might suspect a little tinge of fascism in there somewhere.

P.S. Fenris, the people need you.

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Planning the Planning Committee

Recent political tussles over appointments to the City's Planning Committee would seem now to have resulted in a stalemate between forces that the London Free Press characterizes as wanting either to "support development led by the private sector" or to "wrest some control of growth away from developers." What control of growth would that be? Simply from the Planning Committee's existence as a board to approve, amend or refuse development proposals, it should be fairly obvious that the City already has complete control over growth as much as it chooses to exercise. The Free Press, in other words, is engaging in a little populist revisionism to defend an agenda of stemming growth by councillors Nancy Branscombe, Judy Bryant and Gina Barber. If an apology should be required for any perceived dissatisfaction over growth, shouldn't it be coming from the City instead of developers?

Given the track record of political planning over other projects, the question for Londoners is whether tighter planning of growth could possibly achieve any desirable outcomes, especially if that planning is driven by pseudo-environmentalist dogmas that exclude calculation of the costs and benefits of historic and existing land uses or the impacts of regulation. Non-concepts such as "sustainable growth" are clearly indictments of anti-growth perception of problem and solution.

Up until the election of the notorious Killer Bs to the Planning Committee last year, anti-growth sentiments were generally disregarded in favour of a more pragmatic financial calculation that growth in assessment revenue needed to property tax rate hikes was easier to obtain with horizontal development than with vertical. The net cost or benefit to taxpayers of servicing growth versus absorbing spending increases without accompanying assessment growth revenues is practically impossible to quantify, but if the concern is one of a net cost, surely a more reasonable and equitable solution to more political planning would be that the City relax its claims of control over development in return for ceding those costs to developers. Conversely, if the benefit of planning is assumed to be protection of property owners' control over what they perceive to be desirable or undesirable local development, surely a more precise and efficient solution to the vagaries of political satisfaction would be the creation of simple, unbiased and automatic mechanisms of obtaining majority approval of submitted proposals to property owners within defined radii of new developments proportionate to their size.

As is typical, however, purely political oversight will continue to leave almost no one satisfied.

See also:

Council minutes: micro-seconds of councillor reflection
Stupid cities
"Smart Growth" is just dumb economics by Kim Ainslie

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Pencil lines continue to offend

Trust our respective governments to come up with an acceptable solution:

Iran summoned the Danish ambassador to Tehran in protest over the reprinting of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad by leading Danish newspapers, state TV reported on Thursday.

The report said that during a late Wednesday meeting between Foreign Ministry officials and the Danish envoy, Soeren Haslund, the Iranian side strongly condemned the reprint earlier in the day and demanded the Danish government take a "serious approach" to the case and prevent its recurrence.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Self-assessment, The Candian Way

The Canadian Revenue Agency is spending taxpayer's dollars to promote taxation, beginning with research into how best to "motivate" new immigrants to pay their taxes. Diversity does indeed come with a price. Thank goodness for those entitlements. (HT: Darcey):

Few citizens enjoy paying taxes, but the Canada Revenue Agency is hoping new advertising will offer some motivation and maybe even a new slogan: Paying taxes is the "Canadian way of life."

The CRA plans to launch a multimedia campaign this year that focuses on compliance and targets new Canadians in particular, according to a request for tender published yesterday. The campaign is set to run until 2010.

[..] It plans to test the ads on focus groups in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, and wants to concentrate on Mandarin, Arabic and Punjabi speakers.

"The objective of research with these groups would be to determine how best to inform new Canadians that they are required to file a tax return if they have taxes to pay, and that they must file a tax return to receive benefits to which they are entitled," the document said.

Participants in the focus groups will be asked to discuss reasons why they might not pay taxes and what information they need that would help them file. They will also review several motivational messages the CRA is considering, with themes such as: "duty," "Canadian way of life" and "fear of penalty." (Globe and Mail)
If you have attended the Fenris Badwulf School of Telemarketing, you have nothing to fear:
When you take a dollar out of your lunch money, ask yourself, how can this dollar help others to help the helpless?

The average Canadian taxpayer only pays around 55 percent of their income into the hands of taxspenders. Thats only fifty-five cents per dollar. Fifty five cents is not very much money. That is only two quarters and a nickel. So, people who complain about taxes, about mismanagement of taxes, and the squandering of taxes on parasites, predators, and other marginalized members of the community, are racists.

Taxspenders come in two species. The first type are the activist taxspenders ... these are the important people who take the fifty-five cents (thats not very much, now is it?) and wisely re-distribute this money into the hands of the second type of taxspenders. But this diversity of taxspenders all have one thing in common: they cash cheques drawn on some government account.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sell Storybook Gardens

As if anything should need to in the first place, annual operating deficits in excess of 10 per cent of revenue at London's Storybook Gardens illustrate the profound absurdity of entertainment being managed by politicians and bureaucrats. Five years and $7 million after City Council recreated Storybook Gardens in its own bloated self-important image as a triumphalist "tourist destination," the once-steady local summer spot has seen attendance drop each year since its politically-designed reinvention in 2003, and lose over $1 million in the process. On gross expenditures of $1.272 million, taxpayers will be spending $258,000 to subsidize the attraction in 2008 after revenues of only $1.014 million, after subsidizing it by $113,000 the year prior (PDF).

So this is how the Storybook ends, not with Council's bang, but the whimper of taxpayers. We are grateful that — at least in this case — both politicians and the Parks and Recreations Department acknowledge that the result of overwheening ambitions has been a bust, but we have admittedly low expectations of a solution from what is principally the same cast of characters that appeared in the 2003 production. Coun. David Winninger, who approved the budget providing for Storybook's makeover that year, wonders "Do you have any idea how our assumptions were so off-base?" Let's try some new assumptions then from the same politicians "resolved to change," at least for the next five years.

City staff's response is to spend $500,000 over the next two years on upgrades and improvements to restore in part some semblance of Storybook's former appeal to storybook characters. The London Free Press reports correctly that the funds would not "strain the city's budget" this year since they would come from a capital reserve fund for Storybook Gardens instead, but the information that the attraction adds to the fund itself each year is misleading — taxpayers themselves contribute to the reserve fund through an annual contribution, which will amount to $110,000 in 2008 (PDF) and likely more in future years to restore it from current drawdowns.

Ironically, the City's Creative Cities Task Force presents Storybook Gardens as an illustration of the Creative Cities concept at work in the building and management of cultural investment and excellence in London (PDF). This sort of accomplishment suggests abandoning the political premises of the concept, of course, but along with the struggle of Storybook Gardens to compete with privately run attractions, as cited by the Free Press article, it also points a way out for the City that should have been evident long ago — get out of the business altogether. A sale of Storybook Gardens and its assets to private business may not recoup all of taxpayers' investments in the property, but it would certainly cost taxpayers nothing more than further political mismanagement could possibly do, and would actually create revenue in the form of property taxes. There is clearly no tangible benefit to Londoners from public ownership of entertainment resources like Storybook Gardens except for the decidedly weak value of probably rarely held sentiments. On the other hand, exposing Londoners to the financial risk of political investment decisions is entirely real. Storybook Gardens is currently a liability to Londoners — a sale would not only remove that liability, but would likely make Storybook Gardens an attraction to Londoners again in the hands of people whose genuine interest would be in creating demand.

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Canterbury Tales

Ye unmatch'd Iowahawk adds a new Tale to the Canterbury Tales, an ancient relic of English non-cultural culture. A delightful must-read.

1 Whan in Februar, withe hise global warmynge
2 Midst unseasonabyl rain and stormynge
3 Gaia in hyr heat encourages
4 Englande folke to goon pilgrimages.
5 Frome everiches farme and shire
6 Frome London Towne and Lancanshire
7 The pilgryms toward Canterbury wended
8 Wyth fyve weke holiday leave extended...

53 "But Father Williams," sayed the Gaye-manne
54 "Though I am but a layman
55 The Mussleman youthes hath smyte me so
56 Whan on streets I saunter wyth my beau."
57 Sayed the Bishop in a curt replye
58 "I am as toolrant as anye oothere guy,
59 But if Mussleman law sayes no packynge fudge,
60 Really nowe, who are we to judge?" ...

77 To eaches same the Bishop lectured
78 About the cultur fabrick textured
79 With rainbow threyds from everie nation
80 With rainbow laws for all situations.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Carbon Kisses "Turn Your Lights On"

In a cynical attempt to relive their dry ice spewing arena touring days, Carbon Kisses, the 80's chain smoking synth-pop quintet, have hit the come back trail with "Turn Your Lights On". As their post-Botox career prospects get more desperate, they have hopped on to the denial bandwagon in hopes that they might score points as early pioneers of the genre, if only because of their name. They are currently seeking sponsorship from major oil companies for a jet setting world tour.


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Scientology's Rehabiliation Project Force

Here's a documentary on Scientology's progressive re-education camps, known as the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF). These camps help members of the Scientology community to re-connect with their traditions.

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What's a storybook without characters?

Sorry to have kicked all you guys out of your home, but since you left people haven't been coming to visit, so we're hoping that by spending even more money to welcome you home . . . again, we can justify funding this nostalgia cult.

Since the city spent $7 million to overhaul Storybook in 2003, the park has lost more than $1 million, a path of debt council has resolved to change.

"I think we can all agree . . . that's a lot of money. It's a sad day for kids and a sad day for taxpayers," Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen said.

The chasm between poor results and lofty projections made five years ago has politicians scratching their heads.

"It opened with such fanfare," committee chairperson David Winninger said. "Do you have any idea how our assumptions were so off-base?"

Winninger expressed concern about giving up on the skating loop after spending more than $1 million to build it. "Isn't that a considerable loss?" he said.
It's kinda like Scientology or the Peoples' Temple; once you've wasted that much money, it only gets harder to admit your mistake. Presumably, David Winninger will be stirring up big vats of grape Flavor Aid for the 50 anniversary celebration.

Here's Fender Newton Wright & Frank le Fou singing Wright's classic,

"Whatever Happened to Storybook Gardens?"


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Monday, February 11, 2008

Smoke 'em while you got 'em

Former RCMP Commissioner Norman Inkster is "dismayed and angry" that the good intentions of millions of dollars spent on tobacco control by governments "are being thwarted by an out-of-control illegal cigarette trade." It turns out that they really do care!

If I were caring in return, I'd suggest that a little less spending on a little less control by governments might just help spare their hurt feelings, even if does nothing to help them understand natural responses to artificial incentives. Well, it could, except that it turns out that what they really care about is their lost revenue. See you on the reserve!

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The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away

Hugo Chavez threatens to cut off his country's best customer of oil:

President Hugo Chavez on Sunday threatened to cut off oil sales to the United States in an "economic war" if Exxon Mobil Corp. wins court judgments to seize billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets.

Exxon Mobil has gone after the assets of state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA in U.S., British and Dutch courts as it challenges the nationalization of a multibillion dollar oil project by Chavez's government.

A British court has issued an injunction "freezing" as much as $12 billion in assets.

"If you end up freezing (Venezuelan assets) and it harms us, we're going to harm you," Chavez said during his weekly radio and television program, "Hello, President." "Do you know how? We aren't going to send oil to the United States. Take note, Mr. Bush, Mr. Danger."
Expected discourse when you are dealing with endangered tyrants who never seem to become extinct.

cross posted: The Broom.

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Stubbing toes

An article in today's London Free Press conveys a wistful tone that seems to hope Londoners will consent, not so much to turning their lights and appliances off for one "Earth Hour" on March 29th, as to their politicians making cheap gestures to their own environmentally correct sentiments on the citizenry's behalf. Realizing that global climate cannot possibly be within their jurisdiction, it is probably too much to expect municipal politicians to recognize the utter inconsequentiality of these hackneyed sort of gestures both to the power grid itself and to the "attitudes" to which they are supposed to appeal. Knowing just how inconsequential and quickly forgotten their own participation in these gestures has to be, of course, enough of the general population can be expected to sympathetically shout "Hurrah!" for one brief and dim moment to make it a rousing episode of blithe self-congratulation all around.

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Prospects for assessment growth and tax increases

New figures from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (PDF) show a substantial drop in the number of new housing starts in the London area in January year-to-year from 406 in January 2007 to 112 last month, a 72 per cent decrease (note that the figures reported in the London Free Press are incorrect). This was the poorest housing start growth performance among all Canadian metropolitan centres over 10,000 in population with the exception of Thunder Bay, and although one month's numbers will not determine housing prospects for the entire year, they can appear to illustrate a trend predicted last year by the Real Estate Investment Network identifying London as only a middling prospect for real estate investment opportunity in Ontario. Together with deteriorating economic outlooks both south and north of the border, especially in the housing and manufacturing sectors, and the news reported last month that property assessment growth of 1.51 per cent in London last year was the lowest rate of increase since 2004, the CMHC statistics signal a hard road ahead in London's assessment base this year.

Dependable and healthy growth in assessment revenue has for a number of years been used by City administration to fund spending growth well in excess of increased property tax rates that themselves have climbed 31 per cent since 2000, or in other words to mitigate property tax rate increases that would otherwise have been that much higher. Unfortunately for London taxpayers who are already among the most heavily burdened municipal taxpayers in Ontario, spending growth during that time of several multiples of the rate of inflation has largely been used to entrench and expand the City's spending obligations to new programs and agencies from which it will be reluctant to sever dependencies, or to liabilities such as the cost of servicing a $350 million debt that will reach $59.8 million in 2008, or almost 6.5 per cent of the City's overall 2008 budget. Unless Council actually reduces spending to programs and departments, a flat rate of assessment growth — or even a potential decline in property valuations — will expose London taxpayers to the full brunt of spending increases in their property tax rates. With London's unemployment rate rising since last October in contrast to declining rates in the rest of the country, this will come at a time when many Londoners will obviously be least able to afford it. Having incurred those obligations for political benefits, however, councillors have so far demonstrated only token gestures of restraint in a 2008 budget that will require another 4 per cent tax increase.

An intelligent and competent Council acting as representatives of taxpayers would wait to spend taxpayers' assets instead of waiting for constraints on those assets to be imposed from without. That is, while taxpayers still have assets.

See also:

Decline in assessment growth may expose London's lack of fiscal discipline
Assessment growth: stealth taxation

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Spending Other People's Money

It's that time of the year again, when city councillors, under guidance from unelected city staff, decide what to do with the spoils collected from taxpayers. Even if city staff were elected by the minority of voting Londoners like council members are, it wouldn't improve the system much, because when you are doling out other people's money with relative impunity, there is no tangible incentive to responsibly manage that cash except to further your political advantage.

Remember, we are paying these people to spend our money on horse-lessons, creativity, entertainment, false hopes (think Ambassador London and London Economic Development Corporation), community festivals, heritage (think Pioneer Village, Capitol Theatre, Locust Mount, Guy Lombardo Museum), to name just a few areas where your money is squandered against your will. The perceived need of one group is necessarily bought with another group's resources.

Big thanks to council for expanding their expense account by an additional $1,500. Each councillor will soon receive $6,900 on top of their salaries to spread the word of their self-perceived worth. Let the fight for the handouts begin!

One option would see money handed to umbrella groups that would make the decision. The city's arts council, for example, could decide if a pottery guild deserves $200,000.

But several members of council said that kind of approach has been considered in the past, and making such decisions, no matter how difficult, is part of city hall's obligation to Londoners.

"This is something we can't delegate to other organizations," Controller Tom Gosnell said. "When you're building a community, this is what council gets paid to do."
Thanks for the potholes and slushy roads. Looking forward to more sinkholes, tax increases, and call centers.

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Offense Taken: Alert The Authorities

This letter in today's Free Press offends me. It violates my rights not to feel angry and hurt. It is a disrespectful, brutal, hateful, bigoted attack upon values that my ancestors killed and died to establish and defend. I can hardly type this through the tears. The dripping mucus has stuck down the \\\\\\\\\\ key on my keyboard. Though he would disingenuously, smirkingly deny it under interrogation, the author clearly hates me and everyone else who thinks like me.

Every nerve aches with the torture, the agony that I have had to endure reading such hate-think that spits all over my people's traditions and values.

From the grave, my forefathers scream out their pain at the insult and disrespect offered by this hate-filled monster. Will you listen? Are you too desensitized to care? Will you, too, cast them into the fire and piss on their bones like the letter-writer and the London Free Press?

My heart cries out its torment: "Why is the author still a free man?" "Why is the London Free Press not under investigation for promulgating his hate?" "Who will champion my freedom to silence the filthy words of this creature who hides behind his version of 'free speech'"?

Somebody better have a cheque and an apology ready for me before I hit "PUBLISH POST".

In the U.S., "freedom of speech" has precedence. There, one has the right to offend up to the point of "fighting words" When the fighting starts, "might is right": those who can afford the best lawyers. I would suggest that is not a fair system.

In Canada, all of us have a right not be offended on a number of basic issues that we have no control over ("grounds"). The law is structured to protect the weaker party. Ordinary social interaction is expected and there is intended to be room for give and take.

The other issue Jacob presents is that the U.S. has human rights. Here, we are comparing apples and oranges. Unless the American is working for the federal government, and even those rights are limited, for most Americans there are no human rights. The Constitution has precedence over everything.

Whatever human rights the Americans have is grassroots local level, sporadic and inconsistent. Canada's is top-driven, universal and law.

For all its failings, I know which one I want to be under.
I feel assaulted. If this fellow truly believes what he says, he will turn himself in and be forced to apologize to my community.

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Pest management

Coun. Bill Armstrong wonders why the provincial government is only now proposing a pesticide ban when earlier action might have spared London the whole process of drafting its own bylaw, but then promptly supplies the reason as the same one for which municipal politicians themselves waited until 2006: "It divided the community…"

Why wouldn't the provincial government let municipalities clear the political landmines for a proposal of strictly political utility?

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A flag solution

Posted only days before Council voted to fly the rainbow flag at City Hall during this summer's Pride London Festival, many London Free Press readers would obviously have interpreted "cultural groups" to be newspaper code for gay rights groups. It would also happen to be the most appropriate description for gay rights groups, unless one would prefer to say political lobby groups instead. Displays of "pride" in what we are supposed to believe is a congenital disposition are patently silly unless the pride actually rests in the cultural distinctions of belief and action that accompany that disposition — a patriotism of sexual orientation, if you will. All fine and well, even if the rather vulgar demonstrations of that particular pride might understandably lead some to conclude at the very least that homosexuality is a rather vulgar culture.

Whatever one's own aesthetic, cultural or rational convictions about homosexuality, however, the special proclamations and advertisements that pride activists lobby from municipal governments amount to political endorsements of separate cultural beliefs and practises to which the community that these governments pretend to represent does not ascribe as a whole. They are far from declarations in pursuit of the equal legal rights that governments can implement and enforce, of which homosexuals have enjoyed in full for quite some time, but for the discriminatory privilege of establishing political legitimacy for particular cultural norms. Non-receipt of those privileges is the occasion for demonstrations of remarkable spite, as when local gay rights advocates successfully petitioned the Ontario Human Rights Commission ten years ago to force then-Mayor Dianne Haskett to issue a public proclamation for Gay Pride Week, and fining her $10,000 for her dismissal of the original claim. What rights could have possibly been abrogated then?

Whatever the views of the poll's respondents on homosexuality itself, they have at least recognized the hazards and indiscretions of making political endorsements of segregate communities as though they were representative of the entire community — a simple and obvious recognition that is lost on politicians more interested in establishing politically correct credentials. So as ridiculous as the need for a municipal flag policy might seem, one is still apparently needed to bridle Council's urges to make cosmetic but divisive gestures. City staff, charged with drawing up a policy, could not do much better than look to Pictou County in Nova Scotia where Council there narrowly approved a policy that allows only the national, provincial, county and First Nations flags to be raised on behalf of county residents. London Council would briefly have to weather the storm of gay rights groups protesting that an objectively non-discriminatory policy that avoids any preferential treatment of any group whatsoever is discriminatory and "homophobic," as they have done in Pictou County, but this is so clearly nonsense that it would be worth the short trouble of ignoring them if councillors could find the stomach for it. Remove the questionable inclusion of First Nations flags, and even the Ontario Human Rights Commission would find it extraordinarily difficult to manufacture an exemption. More to the point, it would be the correct and least problematic thing that the City could do.

See also:

Not that there's nothing wrong with this
Are we proud now?

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