Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Issues in Saskatoon: Should Councillors get a raise?

Mayor Don Atchison created a bit of a maelstrom yesterday by suggesting that city councillors needed a raise.  Today's Star Phoenix reports that amongst councillors themselves there is no such desire.  Reasons cited are that similar size cities have similar pay structures.  The interesting part of the Star Phoenix article is found in the comments section where the sentiment is one of overwhelming dissatisfaction with the current council. 

Recently, we've heard lots of discussion about recycling, bike lanes and homelessness.  These are all important considerations.  However, as one poster suggested, what about the condition of our roads?  Of issues that matter to residents, where do roads come in?  Well, recently I did a completely unscientific study that had input from a wide spectrum of residents throughout the city.  It showed that roads and crime are the top two concerns for Saskatoonians:


Based on this, it is not surprising that council recently approved the increased Police funding in the budget. It is surprising that there were two councillors that opposed the increase. In the new budget there is also increased funding for roads; will it be enough to keep residents happy? Time will tell.

So, what do you say, do Saskatoon Councillors need a raise? This post is now up for discussion.

Monday, December 5, 2011

To Tip or Not To Tip

It's probably appropriate that the discussion on John Gormley Live today was on tipping as we are now entering the Christmas Season. Folks, remember Ebenezer Scrooge this season.

But, maybe I have it all wrong.  Who should get tipped? You tell me.

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Merry Christmas: The Great Debate

2000+ years ago Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day...or so the song goes. The reality is slightly different. Yes, Jesus was born, but on Christmas Day? That's a little lot less likely. That there was a man named Jesus born in Bethlehem, who then lived in Nazareth, and travelled around Galilee healing people and pissing off the ruling class is undisputed. Why we celebrate his birth on Christmas Day is an interesting story.

Christianity wasn't always a predominant religion--with approximately 2 billion adherents worldwide, I think it is safe to call it predominant. However, initially it was a band of 12 ruffians (well, maybe Matthew wasn't a ruffian...but Peter, James and John...definitely unrefined, red-necks). How they were able to spread Jesus' teachings in their lifetime and then have that teaching carry on so that 400 years later it became the state religion of Rome is beyond the scope of this post...however, it was at about that time that "Christmas" started.

As Christianity grew, it was brushing up against paganism and many folks were still celebrating some of the old pagan holidays. Old habits die hard, so a move was made to have a "Christian" celebration fall at the same time as an old pagan party so that rather than give up a party, the purpose would shift. (Click here for a great discussion on the history of Christmas--I don't agree with everything...but it is in depth.)

And, really, isn't that sort of what's happened in culture today?  For Christians, since about 400AD, there originally had been a focus on the actual event of Jesus' birth. However, as our society has become increasingly secularized, the meaning of the celebration has changed. For some, Christmas is about family. For some, it's about gifts. For business, it's about profit.

Some Christians think that we should fight back and demand that people say, "Merry Christmas" and not water down our holiday with "Happy Holidays." Historically, it is interesting that the predominant cultural norm has always won the day. The December holiday originally was a pagan celebration of nature/sun/solstice. As Christianity became dominant the pagan holiday was co-opted and given a new meaning. Now that commercialism is the predominant force (religion?) of our culture, gifts are taking precedence.

Fighting over a greeting isn't going to win the culture war. Christians should remember that the magic of Christmas is that the King of Kings was born in a manger demanding nothing and giving everything. Christians should be counter-cultural and should be known not for what we are against, but for the love that we show to others...whether they say, "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays."

And, for those that wish folks wouldn't say "Merry Christmas," my suggestion is that, if someone does greet you that way, you simply wish them a "Happy Boxing Day." Or, simply say "thank you" for their wish that you would have a special day, celebrated however you choose to celebrate that particular day.

This post is now up for discussion.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Do the Occupy Protesters REALLY speak for the 99%

I've been following with interest the Occupy Wall Street movement and it's subsequent incarnations in various cities throughout Canada. As I've stated on this blog, I support the Wall Street demonstrators but am continually at a loss to understand the movement here in Canada. Apparently, if you don't fully agree with the entirety of the Occupy movement you are then labelled and dismissed as intellectually inferior. Allow me to demonstrate. Recently, I happened upon the Occupy Vancouver movement at the very time a court ruled that the tents had to be moved. Someone in Vancouver tweeted:
Whether if you are for or against #occupyvancouver you cannot deny the fact that todays ruling is a direct violation of the charter.
to which I responded:
@alexpensato @soyvancouver not so. Upheld right to protest; just no structures on public land. #occupyvancouver
this was then met with the following:
@BSnowsell Sorry. I made a pact w/ myself not to speak to trolls. Pls stay under your bridge. cc @soyvancouver @infil00p @symbi0 #DNFTT
A few days later I was having a prolonged Twitter debate with a good friend of mine who's political leanings are diametrically opposed to mine. We often spar and generally it is good natured and I value his view even though I don't agree with it: that is the nature of a free and open society after all. But our debate was joined by another and I found it interesting that the pro-Occupy folks feel a great deal of liberty to infer motive to my opposition to the Canadian variant of the movement. When I stated my opposition of illegal demonstrations it was characterized as unease over uncomfortable demonstrations.  But, I was not at all uncomfortable walking by the protesters. I've been in many uncomfortable situations, that was not one of them.

When I suggested that, far from being representative of the majority, this movement was a few malcontents yelling loudly, it was assumed that I was afraid of the voice (of the people) and that made me uncomfortable. I again asserted that I was not opposed to free speech but was opposed to the "fringe trying to derail Canada." I was then labelled as paranoid.

For all my life I've watched special interest groups and professional lobbyists make a scene to garner attention...and it works. It's how Greenpeace and PETA stay in existence. They thrive on spectacle and aim to shut the opposition up by making it politically incorrect to speak against them. If you do, well shame on you--you're against [whatever it is they're for] and NO civilized person could ever be against THAT.

This is exactly what is happening with Occupy, only instead of ONE reason for being, they have potentially thousands and no clear idea of how to acheive what they want. And yet, if you point that out--shame on you, you're anti-democracy, you're anti-freedom. There is no logic. And, if you engage the ardent Occupy folks in a discussion, you will be made to believe that you are in a minority, that you just aren't seeing things clearly.

I don't think that's the case. I think most Canadians would agree that, while there are improvements that can be made, there's nothing so wrong that we need a major upheaval or revolution. I also think that the vast majority of people believe that reasonable limits on protests are NOT an infringement on protest. Additionally, I also believe that most folks respect our courts enough to obey their rulings.

However, I could be wrong. Rather than assume I have a pulse on public perception of Occupy, I've put together a short survey to gauge understanding of (or lack thereof) and support for (or lack thereof) the movement. Please take the short survey and if you'd like to leave a comment below, please feel free to do so. This post is now "Up For Discussion."
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

$550,000 to Panhandlers--wise investment?

Short answer: No.  Long answer: No and Yes.  A report came back yesterday that made some recommendations to city council surrounding the issue of panhandling.  What the report found out was that people were not so much concerned with panhandling but rather with the sense of security in certain areas.  In fact the study found out that many Saskatoonians feel unsafe going into certain areas at night.  Downtown, 20th street, Broadway were frequently mentioned.

The report recognized that there are wider issues of mental health, addictions and poverty that come into play and further recognized that unlike Calgary and other centres that they examined we do not have sufficient resources where folks in need can be directed to.  The second recommendation in fact recognized that the "larger issues" are largely provincial areas but that the city could play a role in the following areas:

(a) designing projects that are right  for Saskatoon and building support for them;
(b) finding private funding to assist with such projects; and
(c) making the business case for Government funding for such projects.

The report noted that in Calgary intox facilities (for example) were run by non-profit organizations and that having them run in such a way was preferable due to the likelihood of receiving ongoing private funding.

In fact, all of the subpoints the committee made in regards to addressing the larger issues of homelessness, addiction and poverty through establishment of facilities and housing initiatives make a lot of sense.  What doesn't make any sense though is the recommendation to hire five "bylaw officers" before there are facilities in place to actually address the larger issues.

In Calgary, the city that is mentioned as having this program in place, "bylaw officers" are used to interact with the panhandlers and people on the street in their given area.  When someone new comes in the area they know who they are and what they are about and when required they can direct them to appropriate facilities such an intox centres or shelters or low-cost housing.  As the report points out, Calgary has a wealth of these facilities (again...privately/government funded--not city funded); and, as the report also points out, Saskatoon does not have sufficient facilities.  Our intox centre is regularly full by early evening.

So, the question I have is where are our "bylaw officers" going to be directing people to go to?  If there are no services (and there is a recognition that sufficient services are currently not available) then what is their purpose?  It appears that the sole purpose of the "bylaw officers" is to provide a sense of security to the general public.  Isn't that what our police are for?

If we are going to create a program that is designed to help panhandlers or those with addiction problems or mental health issues, let's make sure we're actually helping them.  Hiring 5 bylaw officers when there is no infrastructure is really just a band-aid solution that is designed to make the public feel good about going downtown at night.  The only thing they realistically will be able to do is call the police.  And that can be done by the very shop owners, restaurant owners and bar owners that are also in the area.

Feeling safe is not a bad thing. That is what the police are for.  If we're talking about helping people off the street, we've got to have viable solutions.  What the report points out is that it is private, non-profit organizations that are best suited to address those concerns.  What Saskatoon should be doing is finding those local non-profit organizations interested in helping folks off the streets and aiding them in securing funding from private and provincial government sources--ie all the things the report indicates in its second recommendation. Once that is done, then and only then should the city entertain the possibility of hiring "bylaw officers."  To do it the other way around is really putting the cart before the horse.

Carts are useful.  They are exponentially more useful when pulled by a horse. The way the current report is structured is backwards. If it is turned around, then it becomes much more palatable. But, in its current form, it would be a further waste of $550,000.  Let's hope City Council gets this right.

This post is up for discussion.
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Monday, November 14, 2011

Crunching the Numbers: Roads, Crime and Jobs

I've been intrigued by the idea of "Direct Democracy" recently. So, I decided to do my own little poll to gauge the priorities of the citizens of Saskatoon.  Below are the preliminary findings:

Of perhaps no surprise the top priorities are roads, crime and jobs/housing costs. What I do find interesting is that despite the continual talk by the city surrounding transit issues, poor bike lanes, and the need to "not become Calgary" in terms of urban sprawl, those priorities are not being adopted by the public.  Perhaps the below graph indicates why.

Over half of the respondents were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with the job their city councillor is doing.  Of interest is that the majority of the respondents that answered this way did not know who their councillor was, or what their role was. And yet over 80% of the respondants to date voted in the last election and plan to vote in the coming election.

The survey is still open and I welcome your input.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Curbside Recycling

As the debate surrounding mandatory curbside recycling continues on (even though the RFP was approved, the process could easily continue on for another year), it occurred to me today that if city council really wanted to know what the people of Saskatoon wanted for a recycling program they could just ask us. There was talk of a plebiscite, but in the current age of technology we really don't have to have an official plebiscite to get a really good indication of what people think. Nor do we have to rely on special interest groups. Yes we have the John Gormley snap polls, but we can do better. We can ask the question and then see how people answer. And this can all be done openly and anonymously. Maybe it's not scientific. But, as a citizen, on important issues, I think it's important to be heard.

So, I give you one simple question about recycling. What is important to you in a recycling program. It's anonymous. It's simple. It's straightforward. And, as the results come in, they too will be shown. Will we get the program that we want? Vegas will take your bets.

Looking forward to compiling your results

Hey, and while you're here, why not take this other short survey on issues in Saskatoon.

Don't Occupy! Get Involved!

My apologies on the delay in posting. There have been developments in the life of this here father/citizen-blogger. As you may have garnered from my blog, I have an interest in political discussions AND I am a proponent of individual responsibility.

Because I love my city, and because of my interests, I prefer NOT to Occupy Anything, but rather to work within the systems and structures that have already been established.  As such, I applied for a number of civic boards recently and just found out that I was appointed to the Development Appeals Board.

I am excited about this posting as it will give me an opportunity to serve my city. As a servant of the city, I endeavour to make decisions that best reflect the opinions of the people I serve.  To that end, I've created a little survey that I would really appreciate your participation in.  It serves no marketing goal.  I have nothing to sell. I simply want to gauge how the average Saskatoonian feels about the current state of affairs in our city.

So, please take 5 minutes ('s only 10 questions), and click on the below link to take the survey. I don't need your name--I just want your voice.  Thanks!

Monday, October 24, 2011

#skvotes and #OccupySaskatoon

I appreciate democracy.  But, I despise elections.  Why?  Well, for example, on Twitter recently I was following a discussion about the NDP promise to raise the minimum wage by $1 to $10.50 and then index it to CPI.  Someone actually commented that it was a crazy idea to give high wages for non-skilled jobs.  $10.50 qualifies as high wages?

I'm as right-wing a Canadian as you'll find (well, maybe not crazy right like Kevin O'Leary), but this doesn't mean I hate left-wing goals.  Now, listen can be right-wing and have the same goals as left-wing people.  I despise poverty.  I despise racism.  I think everyone should have the opportunity to get an education.  These are all supposedly "left-wing" goals.  They are good goals.  But, the way in which we achieve these goals differs from right to left.  I don't think it is our governments responsibility to tackle all of the social issues.  Being conservative means believing that governments role should be limited and non-intrusive.

And this is why I'm against #OccupySaskatoon #OccupyEverywhereElse.  As far as I can make out, #OccupyEverywhereElse is protesting the governments lack of involvement in ensuring the well-being of all.  But, our situation is entirely different from #OccupyWallStreet.

See, in the US, financial institutions took advantage of deregulation and loaned out money to folks that never should have qualified for loans.  The government, instead of backing the individuals who'd essentially been swindled, then bailed out the criminals corporations in hopes that jobs would be created thus allowing the victims public to be able to meet their financial obligations and not lose their homes, cars etc. etc. etc.  This NEVER happened in Canada. Yes, people lost their jobs.  Yes, there are people that make tons more money than other people.  But, no laws were broken.  No Canadian financial institution knowingly abused its power and put a Canadian homeowner in jeopardy of losing their home.

And this is where Canada is completely different than the US.  Not only were our financial institutions not complicit in the market crash, but our government's approach to guiding us out of the recession has been completely different.  In the US the #OccupyWallStreet folks are equally upset at corporations as they are with Washington; in fact, they have a lot in common with the TeaParty folks.  No one is happy with the economic situation.  It's not about changing governments there--the Republicans and Democrats are both equally owned by Wall Street. 

But in Canada it is a different matter entirely.  You may disagree with the current government, but they are not owned by our corporations.  Or maybe you think they which case you work to get another party elected.  Unless you think that the NDP, Greens, Liberals and Bloq are also Bay Street puppets.  If you believe that--then protest away; I think you're completely wrong--and would be interested to see where you think the NDP et al are controlled by corporations...but, protest away.

#OccupySaskatoon is just lazy thinking.  As Canadians, we typically pride ourselves on "not being American."  We're kinder, gentler, more socially conscious...and yet, here is a movement that is basically saying we are the same as the US.  What?

Oh, that's right.  We elected a Conservative government and now they're destroying Canada.  And of course, we can't vote them out because now we're a dictatorship so we must join with the legitimate beef of #OccupyWallStreet because we are now the same as the US.

#OccupyWallStreet is about justice and that's neither a left-wing or right-wing issue it's a human issue.  #OccupyEverywhereElse is about forced redistribution of wealth (higher taxation) and that's a left-wing issue and I am against it. I am not against it because it is a left-wing issue. I am against it because I don't believe the government is the best institution to deal with complex social issues

I am in favour of smaller government (government should enact laws, maintain infrastructure, defense and's a small list in my books) and incentives that encourage people (whether corporations or public individuals) to apply the Golden Rule in their daily lives thus working towards the jointly shared goal of justice (human value).  And, I guess, this is why I hate elections.  We tend to focus on the "what"--$10.50 minimum wage--and if you're against it you end up sounding like a heartless slumlord.  $10.50/hr is a pittance.

The larger question isn't what should the minimum wage be, the larger question is what's the best way to ensure people aren't living in poverty?  More government means more taxes.  Is that the best bang for our buck?  Maybe lower our taxes and incentivize us to give to non-profits who would get more mileage from our donations and then the government could match those dollars.

There's positive change that could happen in Saskatoon.  I don't see any of it coming from #OccupySaskatoon.  I do hope that this larger discussion gets some traction in this coming election...but, if history is any guide, all we'll see is bashing of platforms where real ideas get denigrated to the best sounding soundbite.  And that's really too bad, because the issues that really matter--in this case justice--aren't right or left and their solutions will require the best minds from both sides of the spectrum.

This post is now up for discussion.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How Much Is a Life Worth?

How much do we value human life?  I guess that depends where you live.  Today, if you are a soldier in Israel your life is worth exchanges 1000 other lives of your enemy.  If you are a 2-year old living in China, your life isn't worth very much.  You can get literally run over by a truck, be writhing in pain on the street and yet 18 passers by won't stop.

And, seeing the video this morning made me seethe with anger.  I have a 4 year old and a 15 month old; to think that anyone could pass one of them by if something like this were to happen.  It makes me almost hate humanity. People, WAKE UP! We are all in this together.

We all do this though, from time to time, in one way or another--maybe not so obviously, but we do it.  It's not limited to investment bankers profiting from the misery of the working class father of 4 who can no longer afford the mortgage he was convinced to take out.  When we turn a blind eye in our own communities to the racism, poverty...when we decide that "it's none of our business" that there is an 8-year old wandering the streets at 11PM.  When there is a severe shortage of foster parents and children are shuffled from abusive home to abusive home and we do nothing--are we better than the 18 people who passed by the toddler dying on the street?

Getting hit by a truck is sudden and shocking.  Being born into poverty, abuse and racism is a creeping death--sapping the good-will breath by breath.  If we sit by and do nothing, we are as complacent as if we see the toddler lying on the street.  We all see the truck, we all see the toddler lying on the street we've just convinced ourselves that if they really want to they could get out of the way or get up and get help because, really it is THEIR choice.  Is it?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

#BAD11 A Retrospective

The very first post in this blog was a post I wrote when I heard there was a famine in Somalia.  Today is Blog Action Day and I decided to participate as the topic is "food" because today is World Food Day.  There is still a famine in Somalia.  The post I wrote then, is still relevant today:

I woke up at 5AM on Wednesday, July 20th and read the news that famine had been declared in Somalia. The reasons for the famine are being debated and discussed. But, because this is a tragedy of, largely, human making, does that mean we are absolved of the responsibility for caring for those affected?
Can we simply chalk this famine up to the policies of a failed state, wash our hands and walk away? What, realistically can they expect? Our own governments are struggling with debt; we have less disposable income than we did ten years ago. We have our own natural disasters to contend with, we can't help everyone, all the time.
That may be true. But, if you have $20 that you can spend on leisure activities then you really can make a difference and you can save a life. We hear much about how we are living in a "global community," with a global economy. I guess it's great to say you're part of a community and it makes us feel better to be connected with our "brothers" and "sisters" around the world but if we turn a blind eye to them when they're dying what kind of a community are we creating?
Yes, Somalia is complicated. No, there are no easy solutions. But, this is not the time for debate about "why" this famine has occurred. This is not the time to find blame. This is the time to "do to others what you would have them do to you." So, the question you have to ask is: if you were starving, what would you want someone having bbq steak do for you?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Breaking Down #OccupyWallstreet

I'm not entirely certain when I first heard about Occupy Wall Street.  But, as I've done some research on the movement, I've come to some preliminary conclusions.

Fundamentally, I think I understand why folks are occupying Wall Street (why they are occupying Saskatoon--my city--is another entirely different subject).  Let me rephrase that. I think there are two competing ideas at play; one of those ideas I agree with and the other I don't.

At the root of the movement, I believe, is a deep-felt, guttural yearning for justice.  Banks that got trillions in bail-out dollars from the US government have literally done nothing.  Yes, banks were in trouble.  But what of the home-owner who owed the bank not trillions of dollars but thousands of dollars, what for them? Nothing.  And, did the banks--the same banks that had just been bailed out--show any leniency?  Any mercy?  Did they reciprocate and extend credit to the homeowner who suddenly found him/herself unable to pay their mortgage? No, they didn't.

This all happened three years ago.  I questioned the wisdom of the US government giving the banks trillions of dollars.  And, when very shortly after those same banks gave their executives bonuses in the millions while not extending credit to anyone, I too thought not only is that not fair, it isn't right.  There was outrage everywhere.  Did they give the money back? Nope, it was contractual they said.  They were obligated to honour the deals that had been made prior to receiving the bailout money.

And so what did the government do?  Nothing.  That it has taken three years for the Occupy Wall Street movement to get going perhaps speaks to the American ideal.  Perhaps somewhere they hoped that the promise of "Yes We Can" would eventually become a reality.  It hasn't.  So, people are calling for change. The governments role is to ensure justice.  They have abdicated that responsibility and the people are saying, "no more."

There's an old story about this sort of injustice.  In this story there was a man who owed a king millions of dollars and couldn't pay.  The king was going to sell the man, his wife and his children into slavery to pay off the debt.  But, the man begged for a bit more time to pay his debt.  The king relented and completely forgave the debt and sent him off--a free man.

Now, this man in turn was owed a few thousand dollars by another servant.  He went to the servant grabbed him by the throat and demanded all his money instantly.  The servant, couldn't pay and begged for a little more time to come up with the money.  But, the first man wouldn't give him any more time and threw him in jail until he came up with the money he was owed.

Now, some friends of the recently imprisoned man, thought this was a pretty rotten deal and they went to the king to let him know what was happening.  The king immediately called the first man into his throne room.  He said, "Who do you think you are? Did I not just forgive your debt of MILLIONS of dollars? Shouldn't you have shown your servant the same mercy that was shown to you and forgiven his debt?  So, the king then threw the man into prison until he came up with all the money he owed."

Jesus told this parable to his disciples and if you want the unparaphrased version you can find it in Matthew 18: 21-35. The king is the government of the day.  The banks are the man who owed millions.  The homeowners are the servants.  The friends are #OccupyWallStreet.  Will the US government do what is right?  Will they FINALLY hold the banks to account for their mistreatment of the American public?  Time will tell.  Kings knew that ultimately you had to rule fairly or there would be revolt.  The same holds true for any government.  

Now, I believe there are a second group of people in the Occupy Wall Street movement as well--perhaps moreso here in Canada where the issues of the US don't apply as our government had put in place measures to hold the banks to account.  But, there is a measure of people in the Occupy Wall Street movement that see what the rich have and are coveting.  Thou shalt not covet.  I have no respect for that.  We all need to work for everything we get and shouldn't expect any handouts along the way.

I think though, for the most part, that the Occupy Wall Street movement--at least the part I sympathize with--isn't about redistribution of wealth.  It is about justice.  It is about friends--community--coming to the government and saying, "Hey, you bailed out the banks, but they've done NOTHING for us...nothing for our neighbours--they are taking our homes, they are taking our businesses...that's not right.  We want JUSTICE."

It is now up to the government to show its true colours.  Are they really a government of the people, by the people and for the people?  Or are they a government owned by corporations and banks?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The NHL and the Centre of the Universe

Very interesting news yesterday about the impact hits to the head have on the brains of hockey players.  And, all I have to say to everyone who commented on my last blog post that there was no correlation between fighting and depression is, "are you so sure now?"

But let's leave that aside for now.  The season starts today and so every fan is just waiting to see how their team will do.  And, that's what's got me pondering: are Toronto Maple Leaf fans the most deluded fans of all time?  Every year, every post regarding hockey will bring out the Leaf fans rabidly defending the fact that this year is the Leafs year.

Now, I have to out myself as a Sabres fan at this moment, because historically we've not yet won a Cup.  Yes, we should have had Brett Hull been playing by the rules.  And, oh my have we had some exciting teams.  But, just like the Oilers in recent years, we've been a team with a very small payroll and just when players are hitting their stride we lose them because teams like the Rangers and the Flyers offer them more money than what our ownership would.

All that changed this season.  The Sabres new owner opened the vault and so there is a real sense of optimism surrounding the team.  But, what of the Leafs?  Because our Canadian National media thinks Toronto is the centre of the universe, we are subjected to the rantings of delusional Leaf fans who again think "this is the year."  Why?  Does living in Toronto lower your IQ?  Is the water bad?  Have the radio waves somehow been brainwashing daily commuters during the 3 hour trek to and from work?

It is the duty of this blog to discuss those things that don't have a rational voice elsewhere.  Toronto Maple Leaf fans...YOUR TEAM SUCKS.  Respectfully submitted.

Enjoy the season everyone.  I will.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Shanahan vs. Cherry

Brendan Shanahan has caused quite a stir by suggesting that the NHL is seriously looking at whether fighting has a place in hockey.  I'm certain that Don Cherry will have something to say about this on Coaches Corner when the season starts.  But, are we really suggesting that hockey is BETTER with sanctioned fights between goons?

There are three compelling reasons that fighting should be eliminated:

1)  When you think of the BEST games, what comes to mind?  Stanley Cup intensity, Olympic Gold medal games, World Junior Championships.  Is there fighting?  Nope...or at least very rarely.

2)  Is it a tactic that works?  Most likely not.  Drew Remenda on his radio sports show took a look at the teams with the players that had the most PIM last year and with one exception none of the teams even made the playoffs.  So, does fighting equate to Stanley Cups--really, not since the era of the Broad Street Bullies.

3)  This past summer three well-known hockey tough guys (enforcers, pugilists, role-players) all took their lives.  Each, it was subsequently learned, suffered from depression.  Is there a correlation between fighting and mental health?  If that possibility even remotely exists, until evidence suggesting otherwise is produced, the NHL MUST eliminate fighting.  To not do so would be like Toyota not recalling vehicles it suspected of having accelerator sticking issues.  How many people are required to die before taking action?

For those that say fighting is a part of hockey; every sport evolves.  Boxing used to be bare-knuckled and 15 rounds.  Now they have gloves and only go 12 at a maximum.  And, how often do boxers fight?  Once every few MONTHS.  In an era where we have 82 games, pugilists face the possibility of fighting 2-3 times a WEEK--bare-knuckled fighting at that.  And, it's not just the fights.  The pace is quicker.  The equipment is lighter and more lethal.  The players are bigger and stronger than they were in the 1950's and 1960's.  Is the culmination and frequency of hits and fights too much for the brain?

Do you see fights in the NBA, MLB or NFL?  Yes, occasionally when things get entirely too heated you do.  The same would be true in hockey if you eliminated fighting.  From time to time, a spontaneous Iginla/Lecavalier fight would break out.  Suspensions would ensue.  That is how it should be.  But, to sanction bare-knuckled fist-fights that could potentially add to the risk of a mental health tragedy when we KNOW better--that's an egregious error that is akin to using asbestos or lead.  When we have facts at hand that suggest there are health issues, we are compelled to take action.  To not do so is criminal.

To those that say that fighting cuts down on the amount of stickwork in the game.  Baloney.  As the league is demonstrating with it's video reviews of illegal plays and subsequent suspensions, this is not an either/or issue.  Both need to be eliminated.  And, both can be eliminated.  If we eliminate illegal stickwork and goonery from the game of hockey, what would we be left with?  Fast, hard-hitting, skilled hockey.  Hey, we might just have playoff calibre hockey year round.

And, maybe we won't be faced with another summer of monthly reports of hockey players funerals.

This post is now up for discussion.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Mr. Trost and Mr. Vellacot: A suggestion.

Wiith Brad Trost (and now Maurice Vellacot) in the news again, I thought it pertinent to re-open this discussion. I still question whether our government should fund optional abortions. But, in terms of providing funds to IPP (International Planned Parenthood), rather than decrying the $6M that went to countries where abortion is already illegal, might a better solution be to find an agency that does a BETTER job of protecting and enhancing the lives of women in the 3rd world and switch funding to them?

Does such an organization exist? If it does, then please frame the decision not as a negative (ie anti-PP) but a positive (better organization). If, however, there is no such alternative, then rather than rail against women who feel they have no options, work towards providing an alternative.

To do anything less is to play politics with people's lives. Provide viable alternatives, or shut up. Abortion should not be used to capture a sound-bite. Life matters.
Respectfully, this is now up for discussion.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sex Trade, Abortions...What a Week

Much has happened this week that has been blog-worthy.  In Saskatoon, the Police Chief and council discussed regulating sex-trade workers.  I recommend two articles by Jordan Cooper: this blog post and this article from the Star Phoenix.  Then, Brad Trost, publicly challenged Prime Minister Stephen Harper regarding the funding of Planned Parenthood International.

Both of those are extremely interesting events and not entirely's also interesting to me that the whole issue of "right-to-life" (especially given the "Designer Babies" issue I blogged about recently), has yet to be decided upon in terms of the pre-born (is it unborn? I like pre-born...unborn reminds me of the undead and really, who wants to picture their baby as a vampire?)

But, there just isn't enough time in MY current schedule to adequately tackle either of the above topics.  Perhaps one day I will be able to break down the complex issues of childhood, poverty, prostitution, government legislation and on and on and on.  That will wait for another day.

There was something that did happen this week that, for me, overshadowed all the highlight grabbing headlines of the newspapers.  I had the chance to be a hero this week.  Long after I've forgotten about the debate regarding legislation for sex-trade workers and the designer baby dilemna, I will remember that this week, I got to cement a memory in the mind of my daughter.

It may seem like a small thing, but I don't think so.  If you read Jordan Cooper's article in the Star Phoenix about parents who knowingly and callously prostitute their own daughters, I think that ANYTHING I can do to protect my daughter and give her pleasant, positive memories is my primary role in life.

So, what did I do that was hero-like?  My 4 1/2 year old daughter and I went for a drive on a beautiful autumn evening in a brand-new 2011 Mustang GT/CS (the CS stands for California-style and means "convertible").  Just to watch her face as the roof of the car rose up and slid back, "I've never seen that before Daddy, I did not know it did that."  And the perma-grin on her face as we drove down Circle Drive looking up at the night sky viewing the stars.

We have the unveiling of the convertible on video-tape.  I won't forget it.  Nor will my daughter.  Heck, if she does, I'll bring out the video-tape! 

Please take care of each other.  Do something today to love another human being.  Make a memory. We may not have the answers to all of societies ills, but surely every small act of kindness has a ripple effect.

By the way, my Mustang GT test drive was AWESOME!  :-)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Capital Punishment: Talk About Confusing

I listened yesterday to three bits of news that had folks up-in-arms for very different reasons.  I believe all three news items--although different--all point to one obvious conclusion: people are very confused about what they believe.

First thing I heard was the news that Clifford Olson is near death.  Second bit of news I heard was that we can now screen 8 celled in-vitro human embryos for over 300 possible genetic deficiencies and allow the "donors" to decide if they want to then implant the "embryo" and carry it to term or flush it down the toilet.  Third bit of news yesterday was news that Troy Davis had been executed.

The reactions to these events has left me puzzled.  The execution of Troy Davis has been almost unanimously (at least outside the US) decried as inhumane and barbaric; the detractors say that it puts the US in the same category as North Korea, Iran and the usual suspects.  The announcement that serial killer Clifford Olson is on his death-bed however, has been met with jubilation, with the suggestion that the more painful and drawn out his suffering in these last days, the better.  And, the last bit of news regarding "designer babies" has, for the most part, been met with a resounding indifference.

I find this interesting.  The opposition to Troy Davis' execution is not simply because there appears to be a reasonable doubt as to his guilt, but it stems further into a belief that capital punishment "period" is barbaric and cruel.  Is that why we chose not to execute Clifford Olson?  Is it more more civilized to lock someone in a cell for 30+ years or to end their life?  Is justice served by keeping a serial killer alive and allowing him, from time to time, to make headlines with news of appeals, requests for parole, letters to victims families?

Or, do we in Canada not subscribe to capital punishment because we value all life?  And, if we so highly value life, why are we willing to so easily subscribe to embryo testing whereby we get to decide who lives and who dies?  Or, is embryo life akin to the life of an ant whose life we can snuff out with the casual step of a foot?

If we are so keen to prevent the suffering (whose is the question) presented by the possibility of genetic abnormalities, why when they present themselves in the person of a Clifford Olson are we so opposed to dealing with them at that point?

What is it?  Is it "life" that we value?  Is that why we don't have capital punishment?  And, if so, why aren't we affording ALL life the same protection?  It's confusing to me how we celebrate the impending death of one criminal while condemning the practice of capital punishment for convicted criminals yet at the same time condoning capital punishment for human life under the guise of pre-implantation testing of genetic abnormalities. 

To throw another fly in the ointment, is it possible to value human life and still support capital punishment?  Often times, opponents of capital punishment mock those with such a view as being hypocritical.  Are they perhaps mistaking two competing values; the value of human life and the value of justice? 

If human life is important--are there different degrees?  If there aren't, then ALL life is important.  If there are, then would someone please explain to me how Clifford Olson's life is more valuable than that of an unborn baby full of potential?

This post is now up for discussion.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Corporate Sponsorship or Government Hand-outs: What Side of the Fence Are You On?

I am a fair weather person and had it been our typical Fall-type Saskatchewan weather, I probably wouldn't have ventured down to the Broadway Street Fair.  But, because it was sunny and warm, we (me, my wife, 4 1/2 year old daughter and 14 month old son and the neighbor and her 3 year old daughter) walked down and spent a couple of hours wandering the streets.  We initially went to see the belly-dancers--should have checked the schedule as we got to their venue just as they were year!!!

Our first stop was at a vendor who makes and sells hanging puppet stages.  As she was a friend and because I love Twitter, I took a photo and posted it.  Then (oh social media what would I do without you?), heard back on Facebook that a buddy was about to start playing with Stephen Maguire across from 7-11.  I suspect that the Stephen Maguire fan demographic is typically not 4 1/2 year old girls...but, my daughter has been a fan of his ever since he coached her soccer team last summer.  So, I had more than one reason to venture over to hear some of his set.

While there I noticed the signage on the back of the stage "PotashCorp" and I began to think of the frequency with which I've heard that name these past few months...and these past few days.  Frequently, there are notices of the donations made by PotashCorp.  They also sponsored a Fireworks Festival a couple of weeks ago and, here again, they were involved with the Broadway Street Festival.

Now, if it were up to some political factions in this province, they would see the taxation rate of PotashCorp increase.  Potash, they say, belongs to the people of this province and if any company wants to mine OUR resource, then they had better be prepared to compensate US--dammit.  And that may be true...but, let's think about the difference in values.

If you tax more to "give to the people" then you believe that government knows best and that money goes to the people the government decide need it.  Would it be given to everyone equally?  Or would it be given to those who are deemed to have less?  Good questions.

If you believe that we should leave profits with the companies then you have what we've seen this summer.  Fireworks Festival and Broadway Street Fair--now, in the case of the Broadway Street Fair, it may have happened without corporate sponsorship or not due to the involvement of the Broadway Business Improvement District...I don't know...but with the Fireworks Festival...well, if there was higher taxation, would PotashCorp have spent that money?  How much better is the Broadway Street Fair when corporations have money to kick in to attract top notch entertainment?

To be fair, when I first heard the booming fireworks I thought, well looks like someone is making a bunch of cash...must be nice to frivolously spend like that.  But, upon further reflection, in addition to the civic pride that it gives I began to think--how many folks were out that evening spending money?  And, in the case of the Broadway Street Fair--how many self-employed folks had the opportunity to showcase their wares:  art, crafts, music, food?

For the record, no one in our party ended up buying the puppet stage, but we did get a couple of hand-made bracelets, a headband, some popcorn and a couple of Smokies from the Bulk Cheese Warehouse.  I believe there are folks who generally need a helping hand, but I applaud every person out making a living this past weekend.  I am happy to spend money locally in this manner and I am happy to see corporations spend their money sponsoring these events.  I hope the next years in Saskatoon see many more summers full of fireworks.

The economic benefits of lower taxation affords the opportunity to self-starters--to those who are already trying to make a go of it--artisans, musicians, restauranteers, entrepreneurs.  Higher taxation ensures that "the poor" will receive funding for being "poor" which continues the cycle of government dependency.  Don't we want to foster independence, creativity, entrepreneurial spirit?  What does that better--government handouts, or additional business sponsored events that give venues and opportunities to additional "spin-off" businesses?

This post is up for discussion.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Unions: Past their Expiry Date?

Why do we have unions?  I mean really--in Canada, are people oppressed?  Are workers being exploited?  Is the life-expectancy of the proletariat lower than the bourgeoisie?

The Saskatchewan Government Employees Union (SGEU) rejected SIAST (Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology) latest offer.  They walked away from the table and rather than find a settlement, decided to strike.  Rather than look at who is right/wrong in this specific instance, I would like to look at the larger issue of--are unions still relevant.

Over the course of this strike, I commented to one person that it seemed that the instructors--compared to their counterparts in Western Canada, were adequately compensated, so why the need to strike.  The reply was "To keep it that way."  And, I suppose that is the main reason that unions exist.  The utter distrust in the free market.  And, to a certain degree, I would agree that left completely unchecked we will see serious abuses--people are greedy and corporations sometimes do evil things that affect their employees.

HOWEVER, what we are talking about in this case is a union in the public sector (and most strikes recently have been from unions in the public sector).  These are unions whose members are paid from our tax dollars.  These are not evil corporations looking to squeeze every last dime of profit out of labour.  These are elected governments who are trying to maximize our tax dollars while providing the best service possible.

Additionally, we are not talking about unskilled labour.  We are, for the most part, talking about instructors with specialized fields of training.  Much like nurses and doctors, these folks have options.  No longer is Saskatchewan faced with the "Brain Drain" of the 80's and 90's.  Our public sector employees now choose to stay in Saskatchewan because the pay IS equitable.  If it were not, they would simply indicate so--as they did in the past--by moving.

Now, if SGEU were striking for reasons other than "pay" then I might have sympathy.  If their members were facing unbearable working conditions or were being phased out early...but, of course, we now have Labour Standards enshrined in The Canada Labour Code (thanks to our union brethren) and none of those things are possible because we've already achieved pretty fair working conditions...but they are striking for "pay."

But, they refuse to negotiate.  Generally,  in cases where "pay" is involved...the worker doesn't benefit.  The negotiated settlement will be so small that the back pay will not be enough to cover off the lost wages of the workers while they're on strike.  So, the union MAY prove a point, but the worker WILL pay the price.

No, don't be fooled.  Unions don't strike for "pay" they strike for "power."  This is all about who calls the shots.  And, in the game of power--victims be damned.  So sorry students, but your future might just have to go on hold for a few years because this union wants to flex its muscles.

This strike is not about making enough money to feed a family.  This strike is not about decreasing the work week to 40 hours.  Unions already did that.  And, we all THANK you for that.  I wish for once, unions would simply acknowledge that things are pretty good here right now and just be content.  But, no...this is about power.  They don't have it right now...and they want it.

Maybe unions will realize that change is good.  They will have to reinvent themselves to remain relevant.  If they don't, then hopefully we the public will realize that the harm they do exceeds the benefits they provide.  That's what happens when you use something that has passed its expiry date.
This post is now up for discussion.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sim City: Election Time

Surprise, surprise, next year is election year so city council (my city--but it could be your city; for the purpose of this blogpost, it doesn't entirely matter) is undertaking a review of its operational expenses.  The population is growing (a good thing if your Sim Mayor) but unhappy due to high taxes and poor road conditions.  You've tried to quell the growing unrest by building a better Police Station and buying a new Art Gallery but discussions around getting the budget under control by moving to 2-week intervals for garbage collection and terminating the Christmas Lights expenditures have gone poorly.

Everything is on the table.

How do you cut out $7M from your Operating Budget so the citizenry doesn't face yet another increase in their property taxes?  For a detailed analysis go here.

After some healthy discussion, I'll give you my approach.

This post is now up for discussion.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Love Revolution

Ever since I started this blog, I knew eventually I would have to talk about "religion" at some point.  You can't start a blog that purports to put forward ideas and opinions for discussion and then not talk about "religion."  I've talked about politics, abortion, drugs...and now "religion."

Only how to talk about "religion" without fighting?  You see, "religion" is supposed to be about finding God. Which is why I guess I don't care too much for "religion."  I mean, if there is a God so amazing, so unfathomable, so on earth are we little humans supposed to think we could ever conceive of such a being...yet alone devise a way to find this Being.

But, I do believe in God.  And, I do believe in the possibility of knowing God.  And, at the same time, I reject "religion."  I think, religion over the centuries has done a great disservice to God.  The god of "religion" is not the God I know.

Now, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone that I am what you would call a "Christian".  As a Caucasian Canadian interested in "religion" there was a pretty good chance that I would fall in that camp.  But, let me tell you what it means to me when I say, "Christian."  In fact, I hesitate to say I am a "Christian" because of the cultural perceptions, and preconceived notions that puts into most people's minds.  So, let me redefine that term and then throw it out completely in favour of a better term.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of playing the role of Jesus for a Good Friday sketch at church.  We were able to use a scene from The Badlands Passion Play (which, if you ever have the chance to see--TAKE IT).  The scene starts just before Christ's crucifixion and, because of "The Passion of The Christ,"  has a renewed sense of familiarity.  In the scene Jesus addresses his disciples for the last time.  His words are recorded in John 13:34-35, "A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

The importance of these lines is paramount to Jesus' mission.  Jesus is not unaware of the events that are unfolding.  These are His marching orders--His last commands--His last will and testament.  "Guys," He is saying, "if you forget everything else, remember this, LOVE ONE ANOTHER."  He doesn't say, "Gays are going to hell."  He doesn't say, "shun the teenage single mom."  He doesnt' say, "Win the war on drugs at all cost."  He doesn't say, "God helps those who help themselves."  He says something altogether more difficult and more messy.  He says, "Love one another."

So, what is a "Christian"?  According to Jesus Christ (after whom we get the term Christian supposedly), it is a disciple who loves other disciples.  How do you know a disciple?  One who loves like Jesus loved.

I find it interesting that Jesus was despised by the religious people of his day.  With a message of love, why would the religious elite hate Jesus so much they wanted to see Him dead?  I think it is because loving like Jesus loved is revolutionary.  Jesus came to show us that God loves us and ANYONE can know God and you don't need a pastor or a priest to do it.  You just need to believe Jesus.  Jesus said that we could know God only through Himself, because He came from God--Jesus claimed to be God.

Well, if you're a religious leader your whole livelihood is now in question.  Anyone can come to God?  Simply by believing Jesus?  "Absurd."  "Nonsense."  Maybe Jesus still bugs religious leaders today. Could that be why there are so many "brands" denominations each with a different take that makes them better than the next "brand" (I think the development of denominations is slightly more historically complex, but I don't think the average non-churched person cares much for the mostly irrelevant nuances).  AND, I think Jesus would say, "Hogwash."  You are MY each other.

Loving like Jesus means being prepared to lay everything we think matters--everything that in fact we hold precious (denomination, ethnicity, culture, sexuality, comfort),--aside for the greater good of making sure that every person knows that God loves them.  In Jesus' economy what you were before meeting Jesus becomes irrelevant.  Because once you encounter Jesus you become His disciple.

And because love like that is so hard to master, most don't.  It is much easier to make a mold of what we think a "Christian" should look like and then fit everyone in it.  And, if you don't fit...well then, you musn't be a very good "Christian."  In fact, maybe you aren't a "Christian."  Just like that we go from love to judgement.  Just like that we water down Jesus to make him more palatable.  Just like that, we find "religion."

Religion judges and sets the limits of "who's in" and "who's out."  It's not the revolution that Jesus intended, but it is easier than unconditional love.  Revolutions are messy.  Much easier to give you a rule-book and let you carry on with your life.

Jesus never told any of His disciples to carry on with their lives.  He said, "follow me." Most of his original twelve disciples were martyred.  But, they were amazed along the way.  They knew God.  That's why Jesus came.  He showed His disciples how to know God through Him.  He told his disciples to love others because God is love.  Somehow, we've lost that love.

Know God, Know Love.  Maybe that's why I don't talk about religion...I know how far from the mark I really am.

God, I want a revolution.

This post is now up for discussion.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Living Large--A Review

For the past couple of weeks, I've had the opportunity to test drive a Ford F-150 EcoBoost.  Basically it's your regular standard 1/2 ton but instead of an 8 cylinder engine it's got a turbo-boosted 6 cylinder engine.  I honestly couldn't tell you if there's much of a difference between that and the 8 cylinder engine as my Kia Magentis is a 4-cylinder sedan.  For an informed review go here

It had been a while since I'd driven a big truck.  The last time I'd been in a Ford truck was in my tree planting days.  We had the V-10 Triton F-350's back then because we needed that power for all the off-roading with full loads required in the bush.  The EcoBoost I've been driving for the past week or so is a far cry from the utility vehicle we drove tree planting.  Fully leather heated/cooled seats with dual passenger air-conditioning; satellite radio, GPS, 6-directions to adjust your seat, adjustable steering wheel.  My biggest complaint is that in the truck I have, it doesn't look like the volume control/tuning device works from the steering wheel, so I actually have to adjust manually.  Woe is me.

The main difference I noticed between the F-150 EcoBoost and my Kia is the gas mileage.  Although the gas mileage is probably better than other similar 1/2 tons, it's still lower than what you would get out of a sedan.  But, if you need a bigger vehicle, then a sedan isn't going to cut it.

Later this week, I'll be taking my daughter on a roadtrip to the dump in the truck...she's been dying to go for a ride.  I'll let you know how easy it is to put in the child seats in the back...although, with the thought that appears to have gone into this vehicle, I don't expect too many issues with that.

All in all, the past couple of weeks have been fun.

I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on a couple of issues: 
  1. Do you drive a truck? 
  2. Would you ever drive a truck?  Why or why not?
Lastly, I got the opportunity to drive this vehicle in exchange for a review here.  What are your thoughts on social media (blogs) being used as a marketing tool?  Although, I have free reign to write what I want--in the end, I do use my platform to talk about a vehicle I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to drive.  Is there an opportunity to do this (review vehicles) and still maintain the integrity of the blog--discussing/debating the larger questions?

This blog is now up for discussion

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ethical Oil--Up in Smoke

The argument of "ethical oil" goes something like this:  Canada has a better human-rights record than nations such as Saudi Arabia or Iran; we have women's rights.  We have freedom and liberty.  So, Canadian oil is "better" than oil produced in these other countries.  The suspicion is that the only reason this argument exists is to make folks forget about the fact that tarsands oil production is very harmful to the environment.

This argument has been getting traction, but today, on Twitter, the creator of the notion of ethical oil, tweeted something that completely obliterates the entire ethical oil argument.  Ezra Levant, author of "Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada's Oil Sands", in response to the question of whether he advocated boycotting Saudi oil--it is after all unethical oil--answered, "Impossible to do: they have too big a % of world supply & reserves. plus price would double."

So, ethical oil is a false dichotomy.  The only way oil could possibly be ethical would be if it were possible to eliminate unethical oil.  Simply naming Canadian oil "ethical" does nothing to suggest that Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Sudan, Iraq, Nigeria, Libya or Russia will anytime soon become human-rights honouring, democratic bastions of liberty.  Unless and until Canada completely eliminates imports of oil from the aforementioned "dirty" countries, we have absolutely no moral superiority on which to stand.

If we think for a moment, that we have something better to offer, the best way to do it is not to label another country "unethical" but to acknowledge our own weaknesses and work to improve them.  Canada has much greatness to offer.  That we have stooped to make ourselves look good by making someone else look bad is childish.  It's the worst form of bullying.  Every parent tells their kids that when you make someone look bad to make yourself look good you just end up looking bad yourself.

This is what Canada has done with ethical oil.  We have a problem.  It's pollution.  And, in order to make ourselves feel better (and to make ourselves more appealing to our largest trading partner--the United States) we decided that rather than address our problem, we would look for someone worse than us and point out how bad they are; thereby making us look good.

Shame on us.  When did we become a bully?  Is this how we want to contribute to healing our world?

Without the oil from all of the "evil" countries, our industrial complex would completely shut down.  So, we need their oil; ours is no more ethical.  It's just oil.  One day every government will have to find alternatives to oil.  If Canada were to provide an alternative to oil right now, then THAT would be ethical.  Until that time, wouldn't Canada be better served to foster good relationships with all our global partners.

One day, we may not be the top kid on the block.  When that day comes, how will the unethical Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Venezuela remember us?  Will they remember us as the bully who pushed their face in the mud?  Or will we be the ones who always sought to foster open lines of communication?  Will we be the ones who address our own issues--until we do that, we have no moral superiority.

Scandalous Saturday--Joey Barton and Breasts

Recently, I asked my Facebook friends if there were any topics that they would like to see "Up For Discussion."  Two topics were given that, at first glance, seem unrelated.  However, upon further investigation, a linkage has been found.

Joey Barton is seldom confused with his namesake Joe Barton. Until now.  If you examine the dates closely, you will notice that only two years prior to Joe Barton being elected to the United States Congress, Joey Barton was born.  Where was Joe at that time?  Well, Wikipedia doesn't say, but if you examine the WikiLeaks papers you will see that Joe spent a significant period of time in England during this time.

What else could possible account for the violent behaviour of Joey Barton except the knowledge that your birth-father abandoned you to a life of fame and fortune as a footballer only to become a card-carrying Tea Party member.  What else you ask?  One other little known fact.

Joey Barton has, by all accounts, an aversion to breasts.  Specifically breasts being used to give life to infants. A little known fact about every altercation he's been in is that in the stands, at the very time he lashes out at fans and players alike, there has been a mother innocently breastfeeding her newborn.  What a mother is doing with a newborn at a rowdy football match is a subject for another day--but, this outrage, combined with the unfortunate fact that Joey's never gotten over being abandoned by Joe, has led to countless violent outbursts.

If time permits, we'll go into further detail about the correlation between these events--as well as the growing suspicion that breastfeeding in general is a causal agent of road-rage.  Evidence of this is the numerous accidents caused by male drivers gawking at women breastfeeding their babies on sidewalk benches.  If only these mothers would cover up so that the only accidents occuring would be those caused by the mini-mini or the disappearing top.

So, thank you loyal readers for enlightening me to the hitherto unknown relation of Joe, Joey and breastfeeding in public and allowing this hidden taboo to be brought "Up For Discussion."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I'll See Your Sham-Wow and Raise You an Ionic Foot Bath

The Ex is on in Saskatoon this week.  We only call it the Ex because we don't actually know how to spell "exhibition" anymore.  I digress, and I haven't even started yet.

As you go to the Ex this week, you will inevitably walk through the halls of various folks selling everything from full on spa's, motorhomes to tasty treats.  Until last year, I primarily viewed the voyage from entrance to rides that passes through this area as nothing more than a nuisance.  Don't veer to the left or the right, head straight to the rides.  Not so this year.

This past January, I lost my comfortable salary when I was laid off from a management role with a national company.  For me, going on EI was not an option, as living off 55% of my salary would not pay any bills, so I took a job as a "pitchman."  In truth, it wasn't completely foreign to me.  One of my first jobs was selling 2 for 1 coupons door to door for Moon Lake Golf Course.  That job eventually led to me selling coupons door-to-door for Firestone in Miami, Florida.  So, in some ways this was a return to my roots.

What I didn't know was the tour world of the pitchmen.  Pitchmen are paid to sell whatever product is the "hot commodity" at the time.  Correction.  Pitchmen are paid "if" they sell whatever product is hot at the time. Every pitchman/woman works for 100% commission.  Most of the time they are making between 20-30% of whatever it is that they are selling.  This is either highly lucrative or incredibly frustrating.

Imagine you are the fellow selling the Ionic Foot Bath for $1600.  Sure, you only need to sell a couple a day...but there's a few things against you from the start.  The questionable science behind the product or the fact that, in this case, apparently if you look hard enough you can apparently buy the product direct from the US for a fraction of the cost of buying it at a Home Show (that's what Frank told me a few folks had informed him at the Home Show in Edmonton).

As a pitchman though, you don't have a say as to what product you are selling.  You get put on a product and you sell it until the company decides to put you on another product...or you quit and move to another company.  Last I saw Frank, he wasn't selling the Ionic Foot Bath anymore, he was selling kids toys and lighters at the St. Albert Rainmaker Rodeo.  Next stop for Frank--Okanagan Fresh Fruit sales.

Some pitchmen though, do very well for themselves.  The Sham-wow guy went from the "circuit" to infomercial (the Promised Land of the pitchman).  A friend of mine from my coupon selling days, now has his own it can be done.  Although, not every super successful pitchman needs an infomercial.

But, the reality is that for every one success story there are literally hundreds, if not thousands that leave penniless.  It's not an easy living.  From Ex to Ex in the summer...Home Show to Home Show in the winter.  Weeks on the road at a time living in cheap hotels working 10-12 hour days...when the money is good, it's really good...and when it's bad...well, hope you saved.

So, this week, as you walk through Hall E on your way to the rides; look around, if you find something you like...spend some extra money and help keep someone's dream alive.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Canada Has No Abortion Laws...what?

As I was thinking about how to write my follow up to the previous post, I figured it might be best to include some stats and some history.  I assumed that our history must have mirrored the US in some capacity.  There must have been some great legal battle in which the right to abortion was forever enshrined in the constitution or something.  So, it came as a great shock to me to learn that we have no laws about abortion whatsoever.  It is as legal in Canada to have an abortion in the first month as it is in the 9th month.  There appear to be no age restrictions; no need for parental consent for anyone under is a wasteland of no law whatsoever.  For a very good discussion of how this came to be I recommend Andrew Coyne's article "It's time to talk about abortion".

I am not interested in rehashing the arguments about the legalization of abortion.  I believe that many of the claims of the pro-abortion (they prefer pro-choice...and you've just gained a glimpse into my leanings) side are probably true.  For that side of the argument please read this article: "Canada Does Not Need an Abortion Law".  What I am interested in is examining the difference between legality and morality.

The abortion argument has so far centered around its legality.  Andrew Coyne argues persuasively that the lack of a law--or better yet, the reluctance to debate the issue detracts from our democratic society.  The author of the pro-abortion article argues that we do not need a law because our history is different than the rest of the western world and that the statistics of the numbers of abortions performed is similar or better than those countries.

What are those statistics? 14.1 women out of 1,000 have abortions every year.  How many abortions is that? Well, the last year I could find numbers for was 2005 in which 96,815 abortions were performed, which was down from the all time high of 111,526 in 1997.  Statistically this is better than the US and only slightly worse that Western Europe AND, apparently the majority of abortions occur prior to 20 weeks.  In fact, only .3% of abortions occur after 20 weeks.

What is the significance of 20 weeks?  That is when the baby (fetus as some would like to say) would be able to live outside the womb; in medical speak "it is when the fetus becomes viable.  So, almost 99% of abortions happen prior to then.  In Canada, prior to 1988, it used to be that if you wanted an abortion a panel of three doctors had to agree that carrying to term would endanger the mother's life and health.  That law was struck down because not every hospital had a panel.  No law replaced it and so the fact is that in Canada, if you want an abortion at 15 weeks you can have it.  24 weeks?  No problem.  36 weeks?  Just ask.  Ah, but only .3% have them after 20 weeks.  In real numbers, of the estimated 3 million babies that have been aborted since 1969 that equates to 900 babies.

Now, without inflating the rhetoric any further, I would like to move the discussion from the realm of the legal into the moral for just a moment.  I do this because if I begin to ruminate on how we as a society can allow for the deaths of 900 (let alone the 2.99 million that had not yet reached 20 weeks) of our would-be citizens, I will lose those readers who as of yet do not view these fetuses as lives but rather as solely fecal matter.  And so it is expedient to move into the realm of morality.  Even if Canada at some point in the future decides to join the rest of the modern world and give guidelines on how to administer abortions, there will no doubt be no consensus.  Even if we decide, like all the rest of the modern world, to make abortions illegal in the 3rd trimester, there will still surely be some who disagree.  For this reason, I agree to some extent with the pro-abortion camp.  Regardless of the law, people will do what people will do.  If there is enough perceived gain in having an abortion then an abortion will be had.

So, what is the gain in Canada of having an abortion?  Let's eliminate for a moment the cases where the mother's life is in danger (approximately 2.8%).  In those cases, there is almost unanimous agreement that an abortion is acceptable. Let's also eliminate the cases where the pregnancy is a result of rape (approximately 4.7%).  That leaves us with approximately 92.5% of abortions that are performed for a variety of other reasons.  Of the 96,815 abortions performed in Canada in 2005 that is 89,554 abortions that were chosen out of convenience.  So, from a moral perspective it does come down to choice.  Do you live by the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do to you"? Or, do you live by the "me first" axiom of our modern generation.  That's your choice.

So what is the point of all this?  My goal here is two-fold.  It is not to force anyone to keep a baby that they don't want to keep.  Although I personally believe a baby is alive from the point of conception, I realize that many highly intelligent, well-meaning folks reading this will disagree.  And, our government doesn't legislate morality.  When was the last time we had a law about adultery?  So, should we legislate abortion?  Maybe.  But, as the pro-abortionists point out, a law against abortion is no guarantee that abortion rates will decline and, although I could point out numerous differences between Canada and Africa (the place with the highest number of abortions) that's a rabbit-hole for another day.

My contention is the following: in the absence of a law regarding abortion, (excepting the cases where the mothers life is in danger and even those cases where rape is involved), why are these voluntary procedures covered by Medicare?  No government has ever released the actual costs of performing abortions but the estimates are that each abortion costs roughly $800.  Why are the folks receiving the elective procedures not footing the bills themselves?  The total amount the taxpayer spends on abortion is roughly $80M/year.  $80,000,000 every year on abortion.What is the difference between this electoral procedure and plastic surgery for example?  If folks must have abortions--why do I have to pay for them?

And again, lest you think I am heartless and would force these women to become mothers.  Adoption is and always has been an option.  Many of the pro-life camp have done life a disservice by attempting to threaten and intimidate women into not having abortions rather than empathizing with them and providing them with viable alternatives...I do NOT condone firebombing or any form of violence.  If governments won't fund adoption, pro-life groups MUST come up with ways of caring for the lives of not just the unborn, but also the traumatized pregnant mothers who see no options.  Both lives are important.

Legally, it would be nice if we could democratically decide what we want to do in terms of reproductive issues.  Morally, we'll never all agree and it isn't my intent to force my beliefs on anyone.  But, pragmatically, I ask, why is the taxpayer footing the bill to provide elective surgeries that provide no overarching societal benefit?  I can't walk into any drugstore in this country and get any type of contraceptive that I want--and yet, we still allow publicly-funded abortions to be used as a form of contraception.  Why is that?

This topic is "Up For Discussion."