Sunday, February 28, 2010

If Judges had to directly live with their decisions

Then this wouldn't have had to have been legislated:

2 For 1 Credit Gone | News Talk 650 CKOM

What this comes down to is a matter of common sense and respect. Namely, that many justices that blindly followed this common practice in sentencing had neither.

I can understand when the practice was first utilized that prisons were pretty ugly places to be. I can also understand that it might make sense to compensate those people who wrongly had to spend time in pre-trial custody to make up for the fact that their life was taken away and that they were thrown in ugly conditions for a certain length of time.

What I CAN'T understand is why this practice was ever extended to convicted criminals. What could this practice possibly have done to help punish or rehabilitate the convict if they don't actually have to spend substantial time in custody to have the desire effect? When a person convicted of murder or manslaughter gets 7 years for a sentence and is credited 6 years for pre-trial custody, then it's pretty certain that nothing the system can do will rehab the con before they are released.

At some point in the past 20 years though, prisons became somewhat less than hostile to those in capitivity. They have computers and tvs and video games. They can do whatever they want with no problems. Because of this, pretrial has become somewhat less hostile than it used to be.

So here's my thought. Why don't we actually grant bail to those who may not be a danger to society? That way, pretrial confinement wouldn't be an issued because we're only keeping the ones that it's reasonably prudent to do so. With less pretrial confinement, why not institute a policy whereby only the first 6 months are doubled up. This should push more trials through the system faster as there is no longer an incentive to stretch the trial longer. Finally, if you're going to try to rehabilitate the convict, lengthen the sentence to a point where they may actually have to pay more attention to the therapist. All of these things should have a positive effect on the crime rates.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

David Akin: Tories hand out $75 billion worth of spending restraint

David Akin: Tories hand out $75 billion worth of spending restraint

Actually, I think it was more like "Tories hand out $75 billion worth of spending gun to their heads" but I get Akin's point. He doesn't like the deficit part of the last budget. As far as I can tell, he NEVER liked it, and as such, I can't fault him for writing about it in this way.

Come to think of it, I don't much like the deficit part of that budget either, but I understand it. I understand that had the Conservatives not done what they did, we would be living under a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition that would give more money to Quebec, more money to all their favourite special interest groups, and an even worse deficit for Canada.

I like it better this way... call me crazy. I would have preferred if the Conservatives had done a bunch of tax cuts for stimulus, but limited time infrastructure spending is the next best thing.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Vancouver Now - Emergency shipment of condoms headed to Olympic athletes - Post Sports

Vancouver Now - Emergency shipment of condoms headed to Olympic athletes - Post Sports

This was just too good not to share... I wonder if there'll be a mini-baby boom in November?

h/t Blair Necessities

Somewhere, Hedy Fry is warming up a microphone

Gosh, I'm glad this isn't a Conservative riding...

RCMP is considering hate-crime charges after a two-metre cross was

burned and racial slurs hurled outside the home of an interracial couple
in rural Hants County, N.S.

There really isn't much more to say on this other than that it is reprehensible and I hope that they catch the perpetrators.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

If Judges had to live with their decisions - Form change results in drunk driver acquittals

CBC News - Saskatchewan - Form change results in drunk driver acquittals

So let's see if I can get this straight:

A person caught driving drunk is taken back to the detachment (or police station) for a breath test administered. Presumably, the officer(s) have enough suspicion that the person is going to be proven to be drunk, which is why they are hauled back to the station. This story is telling me that the drunk driver can get off because they USED THE WRONG FRIGGIN' FORM?!?!?!?!?!?!

So whatever happened to the testimony of the arresting officer, saying "the subject looked, smelled and acted drunk. I administered 2 tests, 15 minutes apart and determined that the subject was, in fact, drunk"? I mean, I know that there has to be some documentation, but seriously? Someone can get off because there's no place on the form for the time of the second test?

Here's a thought. Maybe any judge that would consider letting a person off on this technicality should have to accompany this person to the bar every time they go for the following year - not necessarily to drink, just to ensure that they might be affected if this person drives drunk and injures something.

Or maybe another thought... Why don't breathalyzers have a built in clock that automatically timestamps the results of a test whenever it is administered? Then maybe you have no chance of someone getting off on a technicality like this.

Just a couple thoughts.

Yes Danny, It WAS your choice

Yes, Danny, it IS your choice.

But to be frank, you have just gone against what you very publicly said in the past about health care. THAT is why people are upset about your decision. If this were a European country with a mix of public and private options and no wait lists, nobody would have cared about the decision that you made.

But the problem is, Danny, that you publicly advocated for a public only option, not only in your province, but for the whole country, only to jump ship the first time that public only option didn't give you what you wanted.

Don't get me wrong, Danny. I support a system with more competition. A system where I can choose the doctor or hospital that gets my money based on their level of service and competency. I support a health care system where I CAN pay someone in my own country to get diagnostics done quickly. I support a health care system where people suffering debilitating pain are not forced to suffer for years at a time. In short Danny, I would do exactly the same thing as you would do if I developed health problems, and quite frankly, I don't have the same amount of resources that you do to do so.

But the difference is Danny, that I have never publicly advocated for a public only, one-tier health care system. I know that there are problems in our current system... problems that are simple to fix if only we were allowed. But we aren't allowed, and you're one of the reasons why we aren't allowed.

THAT is why you are getting flak from your decision. I hope you live a long and healthy life from it.

Apparently his choice also comes out of our pockets. So much for single tiered health care.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

No new spending, tax measures in budget: Official

No new spending, tax measures in budget: Official

Some spending cuts coming: Stockwell Day

I'm not totally sure... Is the government throwing out trial balloons to see what the reaction will be to cuts, or are they throwing it out there so that people know that the cuts are coming.

What I do know is that come March 4th, there will be much anguish and gnashing of teeth, no matter how much of a cut is done. I also know that I look forward to seeing how quickly the Conservatives imagine that we're getting back to fiscal balance.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sorry Thomas...

I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to paraphrase a common refrain heard often from the sceptics:

I will take Climate Change seriously when those who are advocating the position start acting like it is serious.
Now let's start with yourself and Mr. Gore, buddy boy. Both of you have large mansions. Both houses use a multiple of the average person's utility bill to heat and light these houses, and that multiple is greater than 5. Does it bother you that Mr. Bush's house is more green, energy efficient than yours is, despite his being pilloried for being a buffoon?

How about Copenhagen/Poland/Bali/Nairobi (am I missing any over the last few years?) First off, I'd like to ask, why do these conferences need 20,000 people at them when all there should be are the heads of government of the world's countries? Isn't it a little environmentally unfriendly to fly to a warm climate in order to lobby/protest said government heads? Tell you what. Next climate change meeting, I want you guys to all gather at Alert, Nunavat, Canada for the next conference in December. I'm sure that the locals would be happy to put up temporary shelters and serve you their food just to get some attention paid to them. I guarantee that you won't care about Climate Change after you get out. Perhaps the following year, you can set up in Antarctica during August, and get a first hand look at how much melting takes place in those temperatures.

What I'm saying, Mr. Friedman, is that not all climate change will be bad, and not much more than a smidge of it is anthropogenic. The day you and your "true believers" understand this the better off we'll all be.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Canada vs. USA Hockey

Canada vs. USA Hockey

There's apparently a game in this sport at the Olympics tonight. Canada is the favorite. Which is awesome, because if the USA loses, no one in the USA will care. But if the USA wins, we'll get to laugh at the Canadians.
It's sad because it's true.

Dream dream dream

Whenever you want to, all you have to do is dream dream dream... (Sorry Everly Brothers)

So, Thomas Mulcair and the NDP want a few things from the government in order to support a spring budget. Let's go through the list point by point, ignoring the partisan sniping by reading the Globe's summary of the letter:

First point - the corporate tax cuts. There are two schools of thought on how to stimulate an economy. The first school of thought is to take more money from taxpayers and spend it on projects and services. The second school of thought is to leave more money in the hands of people who will use it to reinvest in things that they need, thus causing an increased expenditure level and stimulating the economy. Finance 101 says that a company has a target for after tax earnings which can then be allocated to shareholders and capital projects or debt reduction. If that company beats those targets, then likely 1 of 2 things happen - wages go up or capital expenditures go up - neither of which are bad for the Economy.

Second point - enriching the CPP - sure, but only if the increased benefits accrued to THOSE THAT ACTUALLY PAY FOR THEM. I've said it once, and I'll say it again - if current retirees enjoy increased benefits while my CPP contribution rates increase, then I will do everything in my power to ensure that myself and everyone I work with do not pay into the system. At present, I would estimate that this amounts to more than $200,000 per year that does not go into the CPP system. Even Mr. Mulcair and the NDP should understand that nobody likes paying into a system they don't benefit from.

Third point - deficit reduction. The NDP wants a deficit to GDP ratio of 1%, with a debt to GDP ratio of 30% within 5 years. Currently the debt to GDP will peak at around 35%. Now, I may be misreading this, but one of the same parties that has been beating up the Conservatives over the past year for having deficits at all is NOW PROPOSING A PERMANENT DEFICIT. They couch it in obscure language, but what it comes down to, is a deficit to GDP ratio of greater than 0 with no timeline to balance the books = permanent deficit of somewhere in the $15 to 20 Billion range. I think that this speaks for itself.

Fourth point - enrich the GIS. If you REALLY want the GIS system to work as intended, change the rules to a needs based system based on overall net worth and not income based. Then, take all of the money saved from the people that drop off the rolls, and add to the benefits of the remaining people who truly may need the money. In my position, the manipulation that I have seen, and the expectation that I've seen in people planning to maximize their OAS benefits would sicken most people. When it comes down to it, people make very stupid decisions in order to maximize their GIS, leaving hundreds of thousands in a no-interest chequing account so that they don't show interest income on their returns.

As for the last point about women and children (and I notice that the Globe didn't mention anything about enhancing benefits to First Nations that Mulcair did), I think I already wrote about a solution here.

Long story short, I think the NDP should decide whether it will advocate for new spending or complain about deficits. I don't think it should be able to get away with doing both.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Matt Gurney: Court affirms right to be dumb online. Just dont be a bully

Matt Gurney: Court affirms right to be dumb online. Just dont be a bully

So that's great... I don't have to worry about being sued anymore... assuming that I say something to offend someone in the United States.

But really, you have to wonder about laws that force something like this into the court system in the first place, and the nanny state's need to punish those that are lashing out though they are doing so outside of their jurisdiction. Like a school principal suspending a student for posting a derogatory page about one of her teachers outside of school hours, and with her own equipment.

I don't know what cyber-bullying is, but I can only wonder how low your self-esteem really has to be to feel bullied by someone online. If someone should happen to actually BE bullied on line, then I sincerely hope that the appropriate steps are taken to stop the bullying. However, it isn't the school's place to stop bullying when it happens off of school property, and it's questionable whether the actions were in fact bullying. What I do know is that the teacher and the school should grow a thicker skin.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

World doesn't care for Canada's new attitude

World doesn't care for Canada's new attitude

But Alex Bilodeau, the moguls skier who in Vancouver became the first Canadian to win a gold medal at a home Olympics, during a telephone interview with the Times Colonist shot back at critics of the brasher Canadian approach: "The Germans and others aren't here to finish second. That's the way sports is. It's competition. Own the Podium brings the best out of athletes."
... and that's what it's all about. The world loves to love the underdog, the lovable loser, the person that doesn't threaten them. But in the end, it isn't the non-threatening lovable loser that doesn't want to upset the apple cart, that gets things done and earns respect.

That's what this is all about. In WWI, the world respected Canada because it had one of the world's largest armies. In WWII, the world respected Canada because it not only had one of the largest armies in the field, but one of the largest navies on the seas. We punched above our weight, and acted according to shared principles. Principles that promoted freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, democracy, and the peaceful transfer of power between opponents. THESE are the principles that we stood up for, and as a result, tyranny and totalitarianism were defeated in part due to our sacrifice.

After that time, the world started getting used to a Canada that said that it was punching above it's weight, but was rarely doing so. For those last 40 plus years, Canada was always the girl on the edge of the circle, trying to get her opinion noticed while everyone else is discussing and deciding.

So in short, I really couldn't care less if the world doesn't care for this new Canadian attitude. I really couldn't care less if many CANADIANS don't care for this new attitude. What I do care about is that Canada isn't competing just to get a participation medal. It's competing to win, and that's all that should matter.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

From the CAVE dwellers

CBC News - Saskatchewan - Sask. power plant proposal generating controversy

So just reading the above article, and I get the impression that it isn't the proposal for a power plant itself that is generating a controversy, it's the fact that the power plant will not be run by Saskpower where the stink is being raise. So who is raising the stink? Union affiliated organizations. Why is it being raised? Because any new power plant built outside of Saskpower would have to be unionized when it comes on line, and the unionization has to come under the new rules of 50% of cards signed plus a secret ballot vote to actually certify the union - both requirements that force unions to work harder to organize and scare the hell out of them when the workers have had enough.

Let's take a look at the proposal on the surface. This group seeks to invest their money in the province by way of building and operating a power plant and selling the electricity to SaskPower for the grid. The objection to this is that it is seeking to privatize some of the functions of a crown corporation (hence privatize it) and for risking $700 million of their own money, the group gets to *gasp* earn a profit from their investment.

For any normal person, it would be expected that profit would be a goal. For groups like SOS Crowns (clever that they came up with an untenable set of words so that they could shorten it to that), profit is a dirty word, and profit without union involvement is even worse. Questions have been asked as to why Saskpower can't do this themselves, and the answer is that with "green renewable" investments and replacement of coal fire power plants, SaskPower has to spend enough as it is to maintain what they have never mind expanding.

What these groups don't seem to understand is that the group seeking to build and operate this plant are taking a tremendous risk. First, SaskPower dictates rates, it isn't dictated to - by letting this group build and maintain a plant, it is locking in its cost of production on a portion of their electricity over a long period of time. Second, the group is taking a risk that the Natural Gas prices stay relatively cheap over the next 20 years. By taking these risks the company should reasonably expect to be compensated for those risks.

If you ask me, there is no down side to this project... but then again, I didn't see a down side to the Bruce Power nuke plant that was being studied either.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Another sky is blue moment

While I can empathize with the workers of Vale Inco on some level, there is apparently something that they didn't count on when they went on strike 7 months ago.

What happens if management and the company decides (or realizes) that they lose less money by shutting down operations than they do by continuing to operate under a contract with its employees that is too expensive. Couple that with an attitude like this:

Workers complain that they shouldn't have to give concessions to a company whose parent, Brazil-based Vale S.A., earned US$5.35 billion in 2009. This frustration was exacerbated when the other major mining company with operations in the Sudbury area, Xstrata Nickel, reached a labour agreement with its workers recently without having to resort to a strike.

and you have a long standing strike that has no hope of being resolved any time soon. The CEP website is rife with similar sentiments from the union regarding many companies in several industries, but what it comes down to is that it is not enough for the company as a whole to be profitable, each division needs to be profitable on its own or it doesn't last very long:

But Ball said Vale's Sudbury operations - formerly owned by Inco before it was bought by Vale for $19 billion in 2006 - need to be profitable without the help of its parent company, otherwise they could be shut down. The cost of keeping up with increasingly stringent environmental regulations and maintaining aging infrastructure means the company needs all the help it can get to stay profitable, he added.

"We have to generate that money here. Vale is not going to bail us out. That's got to come out of the ground, and if we don't increase our profit margins and get more efficient in order to generate that money, it's not coming from anywhere else," Ball said.

So a company *gasp* actually expects that it should make a profit in each of its divisions in order for those divisions to be sustainable, while the group of workers expects that the company should subsidize operations in Canada by making more of a profit in its other operations. Come to think of it, doesn't that violate not one, but two of a union's basic premises - that of sustainable development and fairness. It also seems to be a case where the union expects the company to exploit workers in another country who may not be as well paid or have working conditions that are as good in order to cover their increased wages and benefits. Ironic, don't you think?

The last quote in the article really brings home the point, however:

"If we're not successful, there is a real possibility that we will not be able to attract investment here in the next 10 years and we will see this operation slowly wind down, because one way to reduce emissions is to cut back production," he(Ball) added.

I think that these people need to give a few inches - they aren't just fighting for their wage tomorrow, they're fighting against losing their job in a few years. That in itself should give incentive to get back to the table and give a little.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Station 20 West raises money

CBC News - Saskatchewan - Core development project receives citywide support

When reading the above article, I have to admit that the writing almost had me shouting at my computer screen. We won't get into the root causes of poverty, I've already done a post like that this week. What I will get into is the sneering attitude of the author of the article.

The dream of a grocery store for Saskatoon's core neighbourhoods has moved one step closer to reality, despite the lack of provincial support.

Organizers said a fundraising concert featuring local artists last weekend raised $53,000 for Station 20 West, which, according to its website, is a proposed 29,000-square-foot service centre that will include Good Food Junction, a locally owned food co-operative.

It would be located on 20th Street West between Avenues K and L, a location accessible to residents of five core neighbourhoods: Riversdale, King George, Pleasant Hill, Caswell Hill and Westmount.

Though the money raised is but a fraction of the $6 million needed to complete the project, the money the event raised was more than expected.

"We probably netted around $15,000 after our expenses for ticket sales," said Brenda Baker, the event organizer. "And then the rest of that is all donations that came in that evening thanks to the generosity of people in the audience."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

CEOs unite for a GST hike

Terence Corcoran: CEOs unite for GST hike

Apparently the CEO of the TD Bank has stated that virtually all CEOs of large corporations have said "raise the GST, get rid of the deficit".

Mr. Corcoran focused on the fact that this is the last thing that a Conservative finance minister is going to do. I would go further on that point, but there's something else that I would like to point out...


I'm going to say that again to emphasize the point - Corporations do not necessarily pay GST. The only time that a corporation actually pays GST is if their income is GST-exempt (not-zero rated). The few corporations that offer GST exempt services are mainly banks and insurance companies.

So of course they're going to say "raise the GST". They won't be affected by the increase. That's like me saying that the Saskatchewan government should fully tax cigarettes purchased by aboriginals - that doesn't affect me either, but it gets my government more money... an argument for another time, perhaps.

Now, let's get back to the elephant in the room. The CEOs in question are suggesting solutions to the budget deficit problem that our federal government is stuck in the middle of. I would suggest that Maxime Bernier has already offered a feasible solution:

read the National Post's coverage or read and view the whole speech here.

What it boils down to is to put into force the rest of the thinking that put us into a large federal government debt in the first place. Don't know what I'm talking about? Here's the idea:

In the 1960s, when large social programs were being introduced, the thinking was that it was okay to go into deficit in the first few years, or indeed once or twice, because the time value of money and inflation would work to reduce the ACTUAL cost of the program to something which could be easily paid in future dollars. For example, "If we take a $1 billion deficit today, 30 years from now, it would only cost the 1960s equivalent of $250 million to pay off the deficit." Interesting theory, the problem is that the government eventually has to stop spending in order to make it work. The government also has to limit doing this to one time projects - the Trans Canada Highway, the Transcontinental Rail Lines, the water and sewer systems of a town or city, sports stadiums, things of this nature. It DOESN'T work on ongoing programs, like the CPP, National Day Care, Equalization, Economic Development, Education and the like.

Now, as I said, deficit spending might work on one-off payments (read: stimulus payments). It doesn't work on ongoing programs. The idea that Mr. Bernier has in a nutshell, is to permanently seek to limit government spending, and in doing so, consistently reduce the size of government over time. The Harper government has increased spending in the order of about $60 Billion over its 4 budgets, but the majority of this increase has to do with Equalization (2008) and stimulus spending (2009). What Mr. Bernier is suggesting is that if government spending were frozen, then not only would the private sector outgrow the government (to the tune of approximately 2.5% on average), but it would limit the capacity of the federal government to stick its nose where it doesn't belong. Within 20 years, the economy would grow by about 60%, while the government spending portion doesn't budge at all, meaning that any increased revenues could go towards debt repayment or tax cuts. Assuming that a law would be in place to ensure that no future government could exceed the $250 Billion spending cap, then it would be okay to have the federal government keep surpluses for a few years into order to generate enough to pay off the national debt, and then put the remainder to full tax cuts.

In time, Canada could become one of those low-tax havens that we keep reading about and the growth from that will be as good as gold in the future.

Friday, February 12, 2010

In other news, the sky is blue

Newstalk had a story on their site about the Federal NDP demanding that funding for FNUC be restored. Newstalk paraphrased:

She argues the Tory government is using the problems at the school as an excuse to get out of delivering aboriginal post-secondary education, and to make cuts in the face of a growing budget deficit.
Interestingly enough, both the province and the federal government have said that they will take the funding and reallocate to other aboriginal educational programs. As Mr Wall stated:

“I don’t think anything should be ruled out at this point, except the status quo, because it hasn’t worked. Here’s the bottom line — we want the dollars for education to be maximized for education and not to be diluted by administration and the kinds of unfortunate things that we’ve seen over the years (at First Nations University).”
Now, I have no doubt that the NDP wants funding restored. I question a couple of things in this matter. The first question is why they feel that FNUC should not be accountable to it's students and to its funding partners. The second question is to wonder why this is coming out on the same day that FSIN has stepped back from FNUC, paving the way for a new deal with the U of R to allow it to become an integrated college of the University, much like Campion or Luther colleges.

When I first heard about the story, the general media and First Nations reaction was to be angry that a government would do such a thing. As the facts were being summarized (a very good summary and timeline of prior actions here) it appeared that the funding pulled was long overdue. The timeline since the story broke fell this way:

  • The Province removed funding from FNUC
  • Students met with FSIN to discuss the funding cut
  • FSIN denounced province's funding cut
  • FSIN suspends Board and upper management of FNUC
  • Everybody expects province's funding to be restored.
  • Province stands firm. Federal government cuts funding
  • Email goes out from Charles Pratt (President of FNUC) regarding the Board and Murray Westerlund, CFO.
  • New FNUC Board is appointed (many not even aware that they have become Directors).
  • Old FNUC Board continues to meet.
  • Government expresses non-confidence in new Board.
  • FSIN removes itself from FNUC governance paving the way for the U of R to step in.
Now, for my personal thoughts...

Do I want First Nations to become educated? Yes. Do I want First Nations to take responsibility for their own actions? Absolutely. Do I care if they have their own university to go to? Not particularly, especially given the troubles that FNUC has displayed. Do the First Nations deserve their own University? Not if they act like this.

It's as simple as that. I like the idea of FNUC becoming an integrated college of the U of R - the U of R was issuing their degrees anyways. I like the idea of education being provided without having the funding going towards administration, or trips to Vegas, conferences in Hawaii (need I go on?). Hopefully THAT deal gets done so that the students can complete their education. If it doesn't get done, I'm sure that all of the students will be able to complete their education anyways, it just may not be in a way that provides an Aboriginal focus or jobs for Aboriginal teachers.

Some Politically incorrect things about poverty in North America

Some politically incorrect information about poverty.

Basically, he boils it down to poverty in the United States being a heck of a lot more comfortable than it has been in the past, as well as more comfortable than many other places on earth, including most of Europe. He blames it on an overabundance of workers (illegal immigration) and a welfare system that does not encourage people to join the workforce.

I couldn't disagree with many of the things that he presented. It was definitely an interesting read.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why they didn't buy you a person's story

These two guys may actually be on to something, leading up to Valentine's weekend.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why judges should be forced to live with their decisions - directly

Mr. Saini was a 21-year-old member of the militant All India Sikh Student Federation when he led a team of hijackers that seized an Air India flight with 264 passengers and crew on board.

The hijackers forced the plane to land in Pakistan and demanded the release of Sikh militants, asylum and $23-million. They threatened to kill their hostages but surrendered after 20 hours. Two passengers and a crew member were injured.

A Pakistani court sentenced Mr. Saini to life but he was released after serving 10 years. He fled to Canada, claiming to be an Afghan named "Balbir Singh," but when Canadian authorities discovered his real identity, they ordered him to leave the country.

While he fought his deportation through the courts, Mr. Saini obtained a law degree from the University of Windsor. In January, the Law Society of Upper Canada ruled him ineligible to practice law because he was not of good character.

Now here's the money quote:

"This is just harassment," said Tejinder Singh, Mr. Saini's brother and a Mississauga immigration consultant. "This is what they do with the Sikhs over there."