Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Time on my hands

It's happened guppies, I'm no longer trapped in my office and enjoying the sunny sunshine for at least the next week or so. I hated where I was and now I am free free free!

Parliament is adjourning for the summer, so I'll be on the lookout for antics and shenanigans of a political nature shortly. The meeting of the Grand Wizards of North American assimilation takes place in Quebec in August, so naturally I'll be loudly freaking out about that.

Divercite is August 1st to 5th this year, I live in the village and will be SO on the scene. (despite the repeat performance this year by the city of montreal by pulling out needed funding at the last second. no-one says no to tourist revenue!)

Finally, the book continues, several peeks have already been shown on this site and I may reveal a few more finished moments while it's put together.

All in all, I'd say that at least until September, I'm freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! (that is of course unless the freelance thing doesn't pan out, I spend all my savings on rent and end up in another horrible office job working for my intellectual inferiors for peanuts. in that case, at least I'll have a lot to write about.)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Canada Inc.

I have many complaints about the current Conservative leadership in Canada. I've got many good reasons, not the least of which is the slow erosion of what our country is. I don't feel that only they were are part of this. The previous Liberal government went way too far into the North American union for my liking and the Maher Arar scandal along with recent pesticide integration, the no-fly list, are a few of many reasons for me not to trust them.

It's not just a matter of policy. Our news-gathering entities seem to be hamstrung at showing much of what is happening. When a pot-activist was arrested by the RCMP at the request of the DEA, it was news for two days. There has been no huge public outcry about the Canadian in Guantanamo and our answer to the softwood lumber debacle was truly disheartening.

I find Mr. Harper to be a failure at running this country. I find that rather than treating his post as that of the head of a governing body with a responsibility to the quality of life of 30 million people and our resources, instead he is treating this nation as though he is the president of a company with shareholders to answer to. He is behaving as though we are employees: valued, but expendable. He is treating our culture as something of commerce that can be traded for economic gain. His policy of cutting spending is laudable, just as it was under Diefenbaker's conservatives. They still however realized that spending our resources on preserving a standard quality of life in this country is the goal of a governing body.

The next SPP (the security and prosperity partnership) summit will take place in Montebello QC. There the leaders of our country, the US and Mexico will discuss border security, bulk water transfers, homogenization of pesticide use, bulk oil transfers and many others. Advised and indeed formed by the most powerful group of CEOs here, this partnership is seen by several states and at least two Canadians (me and Murray Dobbin) as a huge step towards integrating all three north american countries into one large union, lead by guess who?

The US president is the leader of a country, it's people. The title is not CEO of North America Inc, Principal Shareholder in Canada Inc. and Mexico Inc. We are diverse and different. In the past we have been able to partner, we each have our specializations and we are able to independently support each other. By becoming one, we lose a fundamental part of each of us.

Harper's fantasy about the sound governance of corporate citizenship will threaten all of us in ways not yet tangible. As such I must once again hail Danny Williams and his ABC plan for the next election: Anything But Conservative.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Agree to disagree

The Conference Board of Canada has decreed that we are a mediocre nation, devoid of innovation and our economy is and will continue to suffer for it. Many categories are mentioned and we compare to 16 other countries in topics such as healthcare, poverty elimination, environmental action.

The findings of the board are that we hold back on entrepreneurial initiative and we don't graduate enough science and engineering majors. We have too many illiterate adults and not enough is being done to look forward with creative ideas rather then simply reacting to current situations.

I wanted to agree. During a short-term illness several years ago, I wrote to Health Canada on the subject of childhood asthma as it relates to stress-levels in grown adults. My hypothesis is that people who occasionally suffocate regularly as children will have less ability to deal with stress and to calm themselves in difficult situations as adults, leaving them open to other illnesses and prone to drain psychiatric healthcare services. If so, the many children had asthma when I was young, who received the treatment of the day, are now stressed and desperate adults likely to panic in stressful situations. Our main treatments are steroids and bronchiodilators, drugs which when taken feel like speed. Not soothing. There are hundreds of thousands of us who may cost our country lots of money in health dollars. Ditto the current obesity trend that has adults and children suffering from the same diabetes at the same time. I got a letter back that thanked me for my question, but nothing was mentioned in terms of evaluating trends and future planning. I can't help but hope they have these plans on the table but just didn't want to share them with me.

I really wanted to agree. We have a long history of innovation in this country that has been stymied by various factors (arrows anyone?) and I strongly encourage heavy investment in green technologies including such financial incentives as "green rrsps" that the banking industry should offer as a way of investing in green initiative companies and in companies who "go green". It should be massive and it should be tax free.

I wanted to agree.

Then I read the top ten recommendations for alleviating this problem. They are:

1) Focus investments on commercialization.

2) Promote cross-border investment flows.

3) Cut taxes on capital investment.

4) Cut red tape.

5) Set up a cap-and-trade system to put a price on emissions.

6) Recognize immigrants' credentials.

7) Finance a handful of world-class universities.

8) Teach all adults to read well.

9) Fund health promotion.

10) Spend more on social programs for children and poor workers.


I notice a trend. Down near the bottom, psychically positioned as the least important items, are health promotion funding, social programs for kids and adult literacy. The top four are so insanely hypocritical my head spins. We are not missing foreign dollars and the company control and downsizing that comes with it. We do not at all need to focus investments on commercialization, we already have a huge problem getting investments elsewhere but in commercial ventures such as in research and human resources. Cutting red tape is a "simple" solution to anything and may as well be a place marker because they couldn't think of a better list. Cutting capital gains does zero to end the disgusting poverty found in North America and only promotes the idea that voodoo economics, now called Reganomics which never proposed to work in theory and in effect never have worked at all, is a reasonable idea.

Innovation is not lacking in this country, but funding for it is. Art is not lacking in this country, but funding for it is. Women as leaders and innovators in this country are not lacking, but funding and recognition of us is simply unnacceptable.

My innovative idea: don't publish findings or suggestions from the Conference Board of Canada.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

the gloves are offshore

The Premier and Natural Resources minister of Newfoundland and Labrador are playing hardball with international energy companies, and I can't say I sympathize with Exxon. By insisting the province has a stake in the development of offshore oil and gas, not only does the province stand to make some serious money (and not a moment too soon, it's getting rough out there) but the oversight of the environmental applications of the exploration will fall within that of a principal shareholder, the province. Rather than having to convince a board to properly clean-up or more efficiently develop resources in the first place, the province as a partner will be at the table with a voice in how the project is run.

The financial implications are worth considering as the maritime provinces have been in decline for several decades due to overfishing mostly and recent hurricanes. And I like to see innovation in various parts of the country on various levels. The revenue generated can begin to employ many Newfoundlanders in green energy production, water treatment and fisheries and fish regeneration.

Even better? Danny Williams, the Premier, is a staunch conservative. He has been loyal to his party from day one, way before Harper cleaned out the economists and brought in the christian right. And where is Mr. Williams now? Still a tory loyalist in terms of what the party stands for, but his election suggestion to the country is as simple as ABC: Anything But Conservative. Do I hear an NDP window in the East? Methinks I do!

Danny Williams and his Natural Resource Minister Kathy Dunderdale are in charge of a small and relatively underpopulated province. The coastal Newfoundlanders are mostly poor and speak with a thick accent indigenous to the area. Sound familiar? Most places that can be so described get little or no help or sympathy from governing bodies, and I am thrilled to see Mr. Williams demanding his share of what ultimately can make or break the province. If we have to foot the bill for an environmental cleanup and we have no stake or say in the profit-sharing, the federal government will do only the most limited clean-up available to us. Moreover, Newfoundland is a small island and the more the oceans warm and rise, the more the people, the Canadians, who live there are in danger of suffering first-hand when hurricanes develop and come inland. These are our people and we have already turned our backs on them with our fishing treaties and the slow decline of the Newfoundland French. There is a huge First Nations population in Labrador, it's fairly obvious how they get treated by us, and the whole place is north enough to offer a view (or lack thereof) of seals and whales as they retreat their usual homes.

I couldn't be happier that Mr. Williams is stepping up and insisting that his province be not only compensated, but partnered with in the offshore development of what can only be finite resources. I can't wait to see where he goes with it, and my fingers are crossed that it will not only buy the people of Newfoundland some time, but some respite.

Monday, June 04, 2007

are you freakin kidding me?

It's early and I had a late night, so this will be short and sweet. There's nothing in the news this morning about Darfur or Louisiana. Nothing on the disgusting length of time Native land treaty hearings are currently taking, nothing on how psychotic Mario Dumont is behaving.

There is mention about the polar ice-caps, and the upcoming G8 summit where Stephen Harper has offered to act as a "broker" to make a deal between nations to cut greenhouse gases. He's a little late to the game and is quite possibly a worse choice as a mediator on anything including Don Cherry, so it doesn't surprise me that other countries are skeptical. Also, I think we did agree on something, and there were a bunch of countries who signed the agreement at the time, I'm thinking the name of it started with a K.....who remembers?

All of this pales in comparison, naturally, to the fact that Paris Hilton has decided to do this "the right way". Kids, here's a lesson fer ya: if you're going to do it the right way, don't drink and drive at all. Know why? You might kill someone including, but not limited to yourself. The fact that Paris Hilton has a choice at all about whether or not to go to jail is a testament to our predatory and yet self-righteous celebrity worship. We complain that she and her ilk are popular, and then gobble it up when some wrong-doing takes place with them. Most of us don't have a choice. She is getting more publicity now based on even less accomplishment than she was previously famous for and her decision to act as though she is going to a regular jail like everyone else goes to for similar crimes with no special treatment etc. is a tribute to how willing we are to defer our own dignity to those we feel are somehow larger than us.

Most of us don't have a choice. We can be arrested and place in confinement for possession of substances not approved of by society at large. We can be fined for parking illegally, smoking indoors and speeding and we don't get to choose how to amend these wrongs against society. Paris is "choosing" to serve her time the "right way" after endangering herself and others driving drunk and then not even having the decency to exit the car like a porn star when pulled over.

I choose to ask for 24hr metros to offer safer ways home to those who are drinking or with friends who are drinking. I choose to demand more sympathy from bar owners who don't support their servers cutting off drunk customers and offering taxis. I choose to insist that more highway checks are done at closing time between this island and the suburbs where many bored yuppies drive in from to get a laugh or two on the weekend. I choose to demand that hotels offer pick-up services for intoxicated guests who might otherwise not get back to their hotels and indeed have even more trouble reading the French road-signs here when drunk.

Paris chose to get liquored and get behind the wheel. It is not newsworthy to mention that she is now "choosing" to accept punishment when she was caught. And it's not totally clear to me why she was so surprised that she was caught since she insists on so much publicity and attention. Attention from everyone except the police? Oh Paris, whatever will we do with you?

There was actual news this morning, a proposal for a national umbilical cord blood bank, a toddler who fell to it's death, a space station on Cape Breton (oh my god, high tech employment exactly where it's needed!) but these stories were below the fold (in the sidebar where I read them). They were not "front page headlines". They were closer to the diversions section than they needed to be.

Paris, you don't care about me and I certainly don't care about you. But I know in three weeks a similar story will inspire me to wax poetic on celebrity culture as you are asked "how was it?" and "were you afraid?". Shall we dispense with it please? Will you simply go home and see your friends and family just like anyone who gets out of jail does? Will you hold another press conference to tell all about the "conditions" you were put under? Please consider quiet contemplation or a drink and a cab-ride home.

For all our sakes.