Monday, August 20, 2007

SPP Day One

Indiscriminate projectile vomiting prohibits a long posting on this subject. Find below a petition brought forth by the NDP to end all talks until there is a democratic mandate from the people of Canada and full Parliamentary oversight. I signed it at the party website, but it is available to download and distribute here.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Montebello is tomorrow

Today I need to revisit the past a little. Does anyone remember the 2000 US elections? I know anyone in close proximity to me remembers it not so much for the outcome, but more because I was screaming at the top of my lungs for most of that week. I bring it up because so many terrible things have taken place since then that the fact that the election was hijacked is no longer a part of the discussion. Bush did not win, the country was taken hostage and instead of rioting in the streets, the american people shook their heads.

The effect this had on the rest of the world was profound. If the first and some say best example of modern democracy living today could so easily be pulled out from under it's own people, why should any other dictator hesitate to pursue their goals through corruption and violence? The validating influence of the united states and it's position on a range of issues became paper thin overnight.

Domestically, the conservatives came out of the closet. I don't mean fiscal conservatives who have always shared a reasonable and centrist attitude with their left leaning neighbors. After all, in order to enact, maintain and upgrade the social services we all enjoy, we'll need a way to pay for it. A substantive and honest discussion between smart people who disagree is the only way to manage such a huge country with a diverse population. The closet-walkers I'm talking about don't seem to know the first thing about money, except how to spend it irresponsibly and then how to plead for a loan for more. The moral conservatives who can in one breath accuse trapped pregnant women as murderers for having abortions and still promote the death penalty, the same people who demand one religion for our country, who insist on a military response to any situation escalated or not, who in fact are convinced that the plight of the First Nations people is "whining", these people are the "conservatives" who have come to the forefront of North American politics.

For some reason, many countries have attempted to kow-tow to a man who was not president of his own country and yet claimed to run it for four years. Canada has a century of experience holding the giant's hand, and as we look for appropriate ways to deal with our neighbor to our mutual benefit, we find ourselves in a constant state of erosion. Our cultures are quite similar, although we do have fundamental differences. As we struggle with our own identity, we must also observe the identities and behaviours of other nations. At the moment, now that GWB's presidential career is politically over, many nations are turning away from him and the US itself. I suspect this will change after next year's election, but again it will depend on who wins.

This week, the SPP summit takes place in Montebello Quebec. No major news agency is covering the meeting. Local news stations are discussing the possibility of a riot due to a massing of protesters, but that discussion is not a springboard to the issue itself. On the agenda is a "harmonization" of pesticide uses and laws, the distribution of water resources according to NAFTA (although I can't see why since in NAFTA we already agreed to sell to the US even if our reserves deplete enough to leave us thirsty), the sale and consumption of energy between all three countries, a matched No-Fly list between Canada and the US because f*^kups like the Maher Arar scandal have to be properly coordinated, a superhighway including rail-lines and pipelines, and of course TILMA, an agreement of port integration and deregulation that could easily turn our country into a Wal-Mart parking lot.

Several states and many in congress have actually been quite upset about this as well, but with the primary election campaigns well underway, whose got time to worry about sovereignty? Not only are we failing to discuss the agenda of the meeting per se, we are failing to discuss the fact that one of the three, in fact the player with the most pull is not the elected representative of the people of his country. I know there's been an election since then, in 2004, and I don't care. If the 2000 election hadn't been rigged, I have huge doubts that GWB would have won or even run in 04 at all.

While our news is held hostage by Paris, Hillary and the Sunday morning prayer hours, people are posting videos on the internet, holding discussion forums and signing petitions. Amnesty International even wrote an open letter on the subject of human rights which is nowhere on the agenda.

Gone are the days of rogue reporters itching to get a story out much to the chagrin of their corporate overlords. We are in a time of entrenchment, embedded reporters figureheads for the embedded corporations who don't wish to make mention of the way their countries are being run. Will it take a riot? I certainly hope not. But it will take volume and Monday is the day to make a voice heard.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Grab Your Green

Recent market events, ie, gigantic unilateral, international panic, has put me in mind of the people running the markets today. Does anyone remember the eighties? The coke, the arrogance, the junk bonds? How about the nineties? The dot coms, the crystal meth, the property? The current crisis is a product of unbelievable hubris that masqueraded as confidence when the banks were strongly pressured to issue credit above usual risk tolerance. It sounds dry and comprehensible, but in fact the ripple effects of such irresponsible financing has led to a point where literally the banks don't know the value of what they have. As a result, daily lending cannot take place and the rates of future loans like mortgages can't be calculated because there is simply not enough information out there to make a sound judgment.

There are some very informative articles out there on what the crisis actually is, how it affects regular people and businesses and why the crisis has reached such epic proportions. As usual, I see not only a financial situation, but a societal/emotional one. The people who have been in charge of international finance for as long as I can remember have been men, particularly men like a good friend of mine who admires the "confidence" of George Sourus. I get where he's coming from in the sense of seeing a pro at work, but when I ask him about the larger economic implications of speculating on a falling currency where real citizens of the country in question will be affected by it, he looks at me blankly as though I am comparing pastry to cold fusion theory.

Money is a fiction. It is information represented numerically based on agreed upon variables like the value of a commodity or the potential value of an enterprise not yet begun. As such, it is important to ask yourself how money affects you, what you want, how you intend to get it and even what the consequences of accumulating your money might be. Are you going to invest in a company that mistreats it's employees but has a strong record of solid growth? Do you even know what companies are included in the mutual fund or rrsp (IRA & 401k for anyone south of the parallel)?

There is huge history between men and women about money. We've gone from being impoverished parters to commodities ourselves to social markers to independent earners and all along we've discussed and written about such issues as queendom, manipulation, widowhood, divorce and the corporate glass ceiling.

When WWII was in full swing, the Gilette company realized that most of the men who usually bought their razors where otherwise engaged and their sales dropped off. To offset some of the economic difficulties of a depression and then a world war, they started marketing razors to women at almost twice the price of a man's and convinced women at the time to shave the hair off of their legs regularly. When it was discovered that women had a huge amount of collective buying power even poor and lower middle-class women, the market began to open up in strange and fantastic ways. It was important however, to maintain total control over what we bought and so commercials depicting devalued women who need a product to overcome some fictional flaw was born.

These two scenarios together along with our current pricing plight tells me that chicks need to get in the game, get a firm handle on where we're spending our money and not let another landslide like this happen. As such, I'm including links to sites and magazines specifically for women and money. What your investments are worth, how to gauge good value with hubris, what reasonable risk needs to entail to you and your family. Your credit score is important, but there are ways to correct it if you've had a bad year that takes several years to recover from like I have, if you do or don't own property and even if you've had a messy divorce.

Take control of your money and own what you have. Get to know your comfort level with risk and investment, I recommend starting small if you've never examined investment financing before. Your bank will probably have a specialist you can talk to and their websites will generally give you good information.

I remember asking my dad once about the stock market, and he launched into a story about if you have a small company and you want investors, you do something called "going public" etc and so on. This was not the information I wanted, so I asked my uncle who sat back in his chair and said, "well, let's say you have a company that makes widgets and you want to" blah blah blah. I stopped him and asked what the ticker was all about. What does the Dow Jones measure? Do you need a broker or can you do it yourself? How accountable is your broker towards you if they have little control over market fluctuations? I was told some of the most useless advice possible, along the lines of "it's worthless to buy stocks in anything unless you can get a hundred". The only reason my dad imparted that to me is because it is easy to divide by a hundred to find the value of my investment, hopefully to prevent smoke coming out of my ears while I do long division.

People like this who smirk and nod at each other are now facing a crisis beyond the prediction of economists at both the US Treasury and the Bank of Canada. I strongly suggest we take their example and shove it in a Guaranteed Investment Certificate and make with some fiscal responsibility.

Here are some great links to financial information by us, for us:

The Women's Financial Learning Centre This is a great organization that offers information sessions and workshops.

Financial Women's Association This is an association of professional women with the goal of furthering the prominence of women in major financial roles.

The Women's Institute for Financial Education (WIFE) An organization I am in love with. Every financial topic covered from taxes to investments to savings to credit. "A man is not a plan" Fabulous!

Single Ma's Fabulous Financials A fun, accessible blog on the topic of gaining financial independence as a single mother. Amazing stats on the sidebar about car payments, mortgage payments, very encouraging to read.

Ms. Money's Blog A self-help money blog from Ms. Money that brings together not just financial topics, but how career and life skills affect money and vice-versa. Thoughtful and warm from a powerful woman financier.

No Limits Ladies
A no-nonsense blog resource for women to increase financial education and skills. Awesome!

Women in Red
A forum where women can ask questions, offer advice and present scenarios to get and give financial advice.

OWN An excellent resource for black women about ownership. Owning a business, a home, building wealth, this is the magazine made by and for north american women of colour.

Par Excellence Magazine An excellent women's magazine with specific sections on women consumers and financial news and services. This brings it all into one.

Scarlett Magazine A business magazine designed to celebrate women achievers and what they've achieved.

The green section will be included in my sidebar and will remain updated.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

kiwi siren song

Finally, the amazing Flight of the Conchords dedicates a special segment to the sheer beauty of Mermaids and all music lounge. Here now, the Mermaid song from Flight of the Conchords!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

vive l'attitude libre!

As a resident of Canada's most fun and distinctly beautiful city, I get my fair share of vacationers who want a little europe in the safety of north america each year. Many are easily confused by the french street signs, many are drunk and disorderly, many are shopping beyond what is reasonably necessary.

I love it personally. For every rude idiot who has something to say about not liking the place, tantamount to complaining that they want to go home, there is a sweet, curious person who wants to know more or at least just wants a picture taken. I see them in my favourite bars trying to order drinks or talk to the french girls, I see them in shops acting surprised the store clerks speak english, I see them on my street for festival after festival after festival.

But the guy in the coffee shop took the m*^&erfu*ing cake! I had met up with some choice family members to enjoy gay pride with on the final day. We had dinner and then dessert and we were walking around, checking out the terraces and shows. Pictures were being taken, there was loud music and shirtless men everywhere! After a few hours we were ready to start winding down and they were getting ready for a two-hour drive home. We stopped at an internet cafe for evening caffeine and we grabbed a table with some comfy chairs. I didn't take any coffee still being full from dinner and delicious iced-cream after.

Out of the dank corners of the internet part of the internet cafe, this guy storms out, there's obviously a problem, and he starts yelling at the girl behind the counter. It's about 10:30 at night, she's got no customers and he's giving her this epic tirade about how there isn't service and he should just learn to expect that because this is Quebec where everyone is lazy and nothing is ever done etc. ad nauseum. He finished with "why bother complaining, this is Quebec." I was forced under these circumstances to ask him why he would bother visiting Quebec when he had obviously decided already that he hates it. He came right up to me, his eyes smouldering with righteous indignation (I actually thought he might cry) to tell me that there wasn't service and she should tell her boss. I told him not to yell at girls in coffee shops if he wants service anywhere, no matter the province, and he told me he wants her (desperately wants her) to tell her boss what happened so that he can improve customer service and save his business which apparently is on the verge of collapse.

I couldn't help myself, I had to smirk rudely as I asked what he was doing in a small corner of the world wide web while gay pride in mecca was happening all around us.

It got better when he started talking about Quebec as a province. He hasn't been anywhere in Quebec except Montreal (according to him, I don't intend to fact check that one) and when he suggested we don't contribute and do nothing but stay on EI I got mad. He seemed surprised that Quebec is the highest taxed province in the country, with one of the lowest unemployment rates, but that's not the weird part. The weird part came when he asked what I had bought and I honestly told him I hadn't bought anything as I was full from dinner, but I did catalogue my family's purchases. He seemed to take this as me "not contributing". What's weird about it? He left and came back two minutes later to give me four dollars and tell me to buy a product in my own market. This shortly after me yelling at him for raising his voice to a girl in a coffee shop for no reason. I guess my forthright bitterness (okay, rage and bitchiness) is now a commodity that I can make a profit with!

Who are these people who think that the easiest job, the most degrading jobs are the jobs people are desperate to hold on to? Why is it acceptable to yell at a girl in a coffee shop uniform at 10:30 at night and not a suit-coated business criminal at any time of the day? I've heard more than once complaints about customer service which is fair enough to a point. But I've also seen with my own eyes people threaten Tim Horton's employees by saying they are a good friend of the owner. Are you kidding me? Of all the nonsense out there, the true human rights violations happening here and around the world, the line in the sand is drawn around the percolator.

I carefully saved the coins I was given, in case some day I need to dig in my change jar for a coffee in the middle of the afternoon while I laze around on EI not paying taxes like in the rest of Canada.

I only wish I had given him a receipt.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

complete!

The book is done, this afternoon I wrote the ending and it's all together. I have officially written a book. done done done done done done done done done....

On to the next one!