Sunday, November 30, 2008

Yes you can!

His confident smile and kind eyes are an inspiration to us all. Change has come. Invest your destiny. Have your credit card ready.

Continue reading…

Friday, November 28, 2008

Reasons to ignore the media and play guitar instead

Staunch defender of plastic bags I am. I never fail to be irked by the sight of people leaving the government monopoly that is the LCBO without a bag, or with a paper bag heavily laden with precious brew. In Ontario, the plastic bag is no longer an option at these outlets.

I admit, I am similarly bothered to see customers bring their re-useable bags to the grocery store. I contribute relatively little to the landfill, certainly a tiny fraction compared to David Suzuki's and Al Gore's output, and voluntarily do my part to reuse and recycle, but the totalitarian nature of the regime of green has me longing for the days when everything went to the curb in a big black garbage bag.

Toronto, the bastion of diversity and correctness, has not yet banned the plastic bag, nor the plastic Tim Horton's lid, but if council approves, the focus will no longer be on a promised Pavlovian reward, but instead on penalties for incorrect choices:

A compromise between the city and big supermarkets will make shoppers pay a 5-cent penalty for taking a plastic bag instead of receiving a 10-cent reward for bringing a reusable bag.

[..] Mayor David Miller announced the deal he brokered with the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors at a waste transfer station near the port decked out with the colourful vinyl, cloth and canvas reusable bags, bins and carry alls that big supermarkets like Loblaws, Metro and Sobey's currently sell to shoppers at the cash.
Mr. Miller promised to introduce an amendment at city council to replace the rebate with the fee. He called it the "right thing to do" both for the environment and for business.

"The highest level of environmental responsibility is reducing," he said. "It makes absolutely no sense to use oil, scarce oil, for something and then throw it away. Yes, we will be able to recycle these bags, and people will still be able to use them in the green bins... Other kinds of bags that are not recyclable will be banned. (The National Post)
The threat of plastic bag bans are increasingly a chilling possibility. And the dissenters are not helping the cause with their collectivist bleatings:
Not everyone is on side however. The CCGD (Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors) represents about 60% of supermarkets. No one from the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, representing retailers as well as convenience stores and small markets attended the announcement.

Nor did the Retail Council of Canada.

Diane Brisebois, president and CEO, said the retailers her group represents would rather see a provincially harmonized policy on reducing reliance on plastic bags than a city bylaw.

"Otherwise this will become a patchwork of bylaws," she said. "We need a level playing field."
And nor are Industry studies saving the plastic bag by sampling a single re-useable bag from some random shopper of unknown hygienic habits:
Reusing bags might be good for the environment but an industry lobby group has released a preliminary study that suggests such reused bags are dangerous to our health.

A news release issued Thursday by Food Fight Toronto said an independent study out of Guelph found high levels of bacteria and mould in the one sample bag it tested.

From Nov. 1-18, Guelph Chemical Laboratories took a sample swab from a reusable plastic shopping bag and found an elevated bacteria count of 1,800. A level of 500 is considered safe for water.

[..] Pandey said the levels are high likely because people don't wash the bags as carefully or as often as they should. He said the bags must be washed in 140 C water to be free of any germs -- a temperature higher than most dishwashers reach (water boils at 100 C).

The bag was taken at random from a shopper leaving a grocery store. It had been in use for one year to transport groceries, said the news release.

"We know that a sample size of one is not enough, but one canary in the tunnel is enough to serve as a warning," said Joe Schwarcz, scientist and Director of the University of McGill Office of Science and Society. (CTV)
cp: The Broom

Continue reading…

Thursday, November 27, 2008

January 20, 2009 can't come fast enough


Now maybe if Israel just withdrew from Gaza, the West Bank or simply vanished from the face of the earth, none of this would happen. Or maybe if the West apologized for something, anything, name it … then none of this would happen. Try anything, because the alternative is to resist. And that will never do.
Especially if Guantanamo stays open!

Continue reading…

Monday, November 24, 2008

Satire is to blame

I knew it was coming. I cast the plastic bags I have been hoarding, and understood before the smoldering ashes were extinguished. The blame for the persecution of red heads is to be leveled on the heads of the makers of South Park. White privilege once again rears its ugly head.

A B.C. student will reluctantly head back to school today after his classmates kicked him dozens of times last week during a daylong prank called "National Kick a Ginger Day."

The event, which has become an international phenomenon as word spread on the social networking site Facebook, asked kids across the country to kick schoolmates with red hair. The idea spread quickly from the virtual community into classrooms not just here in Canada but also into schools as far away as the U.K.

[..] Aaron Mishkin, a 13-year-old high school victim of the prank from Nanaimo, B.C., said he didn't know last Thursday was "kick a ginger day," but he quickly found out.

[..] Mishkin said punishing kids who participated in the violence may not be the best solution, but he said some of the kids should get counselling.

"Because really, it's like a hate crime directed against a group of people," he said.(CTV)
And if it's a hate crime, that means someone is going to attempt to gain some compensation for hurt feelings and bruised shins:
And one Calgary parent, who says his 12-year-old son was repeatedly kicked Thursday because of his red hair, says he may launch a lawsuit against South Park, the satirical television show that inspired the notion.

"It's worse than bullying," said Gorman, whose last name is being withheld to protect his son's identity.

"It's prejudice . . . it's not just 'Kick a red head today.' It's 'Kick them tomorrow,' 'Kick them at a party.'

"It goes on and on."

Kick A Ginger Day Gets Predictable Results

National Kick A Ginger Day

Continue reading…


Taking aim at an apparently underdeveloped "awareness of the dangers of second-hand smoke" at bus stops, fourth-year University of Western Ontario nursing student Sarah Fox and colleagues are "fighting back" with a new sign and flyer campaign. "It's gross, and we shouldn't be put at risk," Fox told the London Free Press, providing future patients with the comfort that nursing students are able to grasp and communicate complex medical concepts.

"People need to be aware of it," she continued, without the slightest awareness of anyone else's awareness. On the other hand, hectoring is a far more economical use of education time and resources than acquiring and applying ability. "Even a small exposure can have long-term effects." As opposed to far greater exposure to vehicle exhaust while standing at a bus stop?

On the subject of raising redundant information to the elevated status of awareness and research grants, a recent study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that poor people are as likely to "end up in hospital" as poor people in other studies. This result should prompt swift action to raise health premiums for poor people who have so far been ailing at the expense of healthier and more heavily taxed rich people.

Continue reading…


Undeterred by losing transactions with taxpayers marking the losses, City Hall will likely soon pass increasing debits from its recycling account to Londoners as retail prices for recyclables plummet by as much as three-quarters since the beginning of the year. In support of the ordinary civic practise of providing equal value for more money, Jay Stanford, Director of Environmental Programs & Solid Waste, emphasized that no blue box materials "end up in a landfill" … an odd disclaimer to make unless there were some reason to suspect otherwise, such as if it became more profitable for the recycling contractor to dispose of the lowest-priced materials than to sort and sell. In the event that the demand for feeling good about garbage exceeds the demand for the garbage itself, Londoners might well be receiving even less value for more money.

Continue reading…

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It's World Toilet Day

You've made the one ply sacrifice, you have scaled down to one square per session, but it's not enough. Now you must resist the urge to flush. Think of the endangered polar bears and bureaucrats who will gain from your sacrifice of a clean toilet. Think Brown Bin.

AS the world celebrates World Toilet Day today, sanitation experts have called for the end of the flushing dunny to save water and provide fertilizer for crops.

Leading health advocates have called for the use of "dry" toilets which separate urine from faeces and remove the need to flush.

Speaking at the recent World Toilet Summit in Macau, World Toilet Organisation founder Jack Sims said the concept of the flushing toilet was unsustainable.

Mr Sims said a culture where people flushed their loos but disregarded the thousands of litres of wasted drinking water each year was one of sanitation's greatest challenges.

"This 'flush and forget' attitude creates a new problem which we have to revisit," he said.
Have you burned your plastic bags yet in protest?

cp: The Broom

Continue reading…

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Loonar landing

"In years to come," tells Coun. Harold Usher who wants "all television sets to be tuned to Obama," "people will be asking, 'Where were you when Obama was inaugurated the 44th president of the United States?'"

Ummm… working, as in all probability during any previous inauguration ceremony? Which, incidentally, would be the most useful thing anyone can do to make any presidential administration a success unless its success is to be measured more by facile personality- or race-driven sentimentality than by results.

Postscript: again with the racist advertising at the London Free Press!

Continue reading…

Choo talking to me?

Contrary to the opinion of London Free Press reader John V. Day of London, the "lack of consultants" in any political decision is almost never a "cause for concern" … unless one happens to be a consultant or desperately trying to become one, of course.

As exhibit of the latter, the very top story in the broadsheet edition of today's Free Press is Urban League of London chairman Stephen Turner's criticism of Council's decision Monday to postpone making a decision on implementation of a green bin program until a new study has been contrived. The Urban League of London is entitled as anyone to hold a recklessly wrong opinion, but Mr. Turner ought to consider the benefits of being repeatedly recruited as an arbitrary and un-credentialed consultant by both the City and the Free Press for at least a few more months.

Continue reading…

Community Voices: We Are All Somali Pirates Now

We are all Somali pirates now

Everywhere you turn these days, people are talking about Somali pirates. Day in and day out, this prejudice-fostering phrase is used by journalists, NGO representatives, government officials, and even by some of my friends in the arts community. It's as if we've collectively forgotten, or are supposed to forget, or choose to ignore, that not all Somalis are pirates, and not all pirates are Somali. Never do the neoliberal media display any curiosity about the root causes of "piracy", of the real motives and views of these men and women, or the loving families they leave behind on their dangerous journeys out of poverty.

Leaving aside the old adage that "one man's pirate is another man's shipmate", have we so quickly forgotten about Sir Henry Morgan? Blackbeard? Calico Jack? Captain Kidd? Entire towns such as Granada and Panama were sacked by these pirates -- and yes, they were pirates, and to a man, none ever even set foot in Somalia. Who are we to label Somalis as bloodthirsty pirates when we romanticize our own civilisation's sordid history of piracy with Disney rides and films?

When you participated in Talk Like A Pirate Day on September 19, did you speak in English, or in Somali? Who exactly is trying to shift the narrative, and why? Why are we discouraged from asking these questions, and why does it require so much bravery to do so? Ignoring the complexities may make simplistic minds feel good,but it doesn't help solve the situation. Nor does the unreflecting application of the kinds of labels that got us into this situation in the first place.

The coverage is having an effect and it isn't a pretty one. I doubt that most of the armchair pirate hunters so eager to "crack down hard" on this complicated phenomenon would even be able to locate Somalia on a map. Maybe their idol Sarah Palin could help them -- if she knew that there is more than one country on that continent.

We need to demand that our news media get a lesson in sensitivity, and put a stop to their unfair and ahistorical association of piracy with the Somali community, with whom we all stand in solidarity in the last days of this, the most corrupt White House in my lifetime.

Aloysius Krane is a visual artist specializing in transgressive pottery.

A moment for reflection
I tremble for everyone affected by the recent outbreak of piracy in the Gulf of Aden, and pray for the safety of all who have found themselves involved.

It is at moments such as these that we all are thankful for the small mercies the Lord of this World has shown us in our lives, and the good fortune each of us has in not being involved directly in such terrible situations. Although none of us is an island and all are diminished by this crisis, we cannot help but be touched by the situation. The fear and terror of every person on the unlucky oil tanker must be tremendous.It calls out to every person of faith like a sea-borne beacon.

Imagine being on that ship, miles from shore, waiting for the reaction of the world community; a community whose usual American-styled response to such events is to meet violence with more pointless violence.

I myself was once prone to that way of thinking, until I realized in my heart that it is only by God's lenience that I myself was not drawn in by the lure of plunder and murder. Granted, I could never have become a Somali pirate, but that is no reason to deny that any one of us might one day find ourselves launching grappling hooks onto a boat, or firing warning shots from a perilously unsteady dinghy to warn a tanker's crew of the danger that awaits them, or anxiously patrolling our assigned portion of the ship, trembling at the sound of every approaching helicopter.

If we are to be fishers of men, and to fulfil our sacred mission to turn the stones to bread and feed the impoverished, we need to think of how difficult and confusing it must be for the people on that ship even to sleep -- crew and visitors alike -- fearing that at any moment foreign troops might storm aboard and end the dream forever.

The legacy of poverty and racism has left us all washed up on strange shores indeed.

Hilda Reich is pastor of Supine Road United Church.

Continue reading…

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

W-w-w-w … Wacism!

Random advertisement for Porky's BBQ & Leisure accompanying the London Free Press on-line edition report of Coun. Harold Usher's letter to Board of Control urging it to urge schools and businesses in return to "make it easy" to watch Barack Obama's inauguration in January.


Continue reading…

The Sound of Settled Dogma

Obama is vowing to control the thermostat to stop climate change. Denial is no longer an option. Money does grow on trees.

"Few challenges facing America -- and the world – are more urgent than combating climate change," he says in the video. "The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear. Sea levels are rising. Coastlines are shrinking. We’ve seen record drought, spreading famine, and storms that are growing stronger with each passing hurricane season. Climate change and our dependence on foreign oil, if left unaddressed, will continue to weaken our economy and threaten our national security.

Obama continues that "too often, Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership. That will change when I take office. My presidency will mark a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process.
cp: The Broom

Continue reading…

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Waste diversion program tosses financial prospects down the pit

Deputy Mayor Tom Gosnell's recent warning that local taxes might increase 20% or more next year appears less of an exaggerated caution to a spendthrift City Council than a genuine possibility after London's Environment and Transportation Committee recommended an aggressive launch of a green bin program and expanded recycling at an estimated $8.5 million in capital start-up costs and $6.5 million in annual operating costs.

Despite a 35 per cent increase in property tax rates and an 86 per cent hike in water and sewer charges since 2000, the effects of spending growth on taxpayers have been mitigated until now through expansion of the City's assessment base. But after the lowest rate of property assessment growth since 2004 last year, an already weak development prospect as identified earlier this year by the Real Estate Investment Network appears headed for further decline as regional economic outlooks continue to deteriorate; property valuations may even decrease in London. In the absence of assessment growth, taxpayers will begin to face the full brunt of annual spending increases well above the rate of inflation at a time when many can least afford it. Even as Council frets over spiraling expenditures beyond its direct control, it is not difficult to assess the impact of still further hikes in discretionary spending on an already fragile base in current economic and fiscal conditions.

Concerns expressed for the longevity of existing landfill space are misconceived at best and contrived at worst; benefits of postponing expansion by two years have neither been properly costed nor are supported by any data made available to the public, and in any event rely on optimistic assumptions such as full compliance with a new recycling regime which would inevitably entail further regulatory and policing costs. Given that the landfill will need to be expanded at the current or near-current schedule at any rate of diversion, the speculative benefits are bound to be negligible in contrast to more immediate and material tolls on the local economy. The weak credibility of these concerns and speculations suggest that they are being peddled in support of programs whose appeal to Committee members rests less on financial prospects than on prospects for behaviour modification. Unfortunately for Londoners, nothing in this Council's experience is compelling enough to counter this suggestion.

Continue reading…

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Scrapping Common Sense

It's a time of economic decline, there is yet another tax hike on the horizon, and so London bureaucrats and politicians logically start talking about recycling kitchen scraps. The city's environment and transportation committee is recommending regular garbage collection be reduced to once every two weeks, along with the implementation of a green bin program, that is estimated to cost $8.5 million to start with and another $6.5 million annually to operate. Apparently shifting scraps of biodegradable food bits is going to save the landfill that is projected to be full in 15 years.

Londoners could be using a green bin to recycle kitchen scraps faster than city hall bureaucrats are calling for.

And, in an unexpected twist, city politicians yesterday urged staff to consider reducing garbage pickup to once every two weeks year-round.

Both measures, suggested by city council's environment and transportation committee, go beyond what city hall staff had proposed.

The more aggressive options pleased Coun. Joni Baechler, a member of the committee.

"I'm concerned the longer we delay, the more space we're taking up in the landfill," she said. (LFpress)
And while I long for the days when everything just went into a big black garbage bag before being hauled out to the curb, it could be worse. We could be living in Toronto where you need a manual to figure out which receptacle to put your waste in.

Continue reading…