Saturday, May 20, 2006

Downtown stadium in Vancouver

When checking out the Non-Partisan Canadian aggregator I've occasionally seen references to the new 15,000 seater soccer stadium in Vancouver for the Whitecaps, who play in a 5,700 seat stadium in Burnaby at present. One part of the plan is to build it over existing train tracks, which is interesting from an engineering standpoint.

While some in Vancouver are opposed to it as it seems to be linked to condo development, it seems far superior to the MLSE Toronto Exhibition Place publicly assisted one from a taxpayer point of view never mind a far more attractive land use than just train tracks. Think of the amount of linear park/walking/cycling track/playing field stretches that could be created in Toronto above the Lakeshore GO tracks just for starters. Here's some blog posts/web sites to get you started:
UPDATE: forgot to add a hat-tip to Crawl Across the Ocean from where I got some of the links above.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The referendum in Montenegro

I mentioned this vote some time ago in connection with Quebec secession but I caught a lengthy Financial Times article on the May 21 referendum itself when it popped up on Google News. A couple of interesting tidbits:
  • The 55% requirement with a 50% turnout was Javier Solana's idea, the same guy who thought leaving Serbia and Montenegro together was a good idea in the first place to the extent that the combined entities was nicknamed "Solania". Hmmm...
  • The Prime Minister of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, points out that while Serbia remains joined to any other part of former Yugoslavia, the dream of "Greater Serbia" remains alive in the minds of the extreme Serbs - the fact that Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić remain at large shows there's still quite a few of them.
  • Montenegro is already using the euro as its currency unlike EU member Slovenia, although this is not altogether unsurprising since the D-mark was the unofficial currency of Yugoslavia in the way the US dollar is in other developing economies, and the UN authorities in neighbouring Kosovo used D-marks and later Euros in their administration.
The piece opens by describing the airlifting of a Serbian church onto the summit of a Montenegrin hill with links to all the local religions traditions in a way not entirely unlike Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The church is seen by non-Serb Orthodox believers as an annexation. One local Serb hardliner is quoted later in the piece:
Srdja Trifkovic, a prolific Serb-nationalist pundit based in the US who attended the consecration on Mount Rumija, noted in an internet posting after the event: 'A thousand of us up there on that mountain can deal with a million Oprah-watching Big Mac eaters any time.'

Ignatieff's Yes vote

The left of centre blogosphere is apoplectic at the success of the Harper snap vote on the Afghan mission extension, not least because Harper approached and shook hands with Ignatieff after the vote - I can't understand the bile heaped on Ignatieff on that point, was he supposed to not shake Harper's hand? How petulant would that have looked?

The true failure of the Liberals was not Ignatieff's, after all he was one of the few that voted with their interim leader (and Minister of Defence during the Kandahar deployment approval). He also at least showed up, unlike Paul Martin, Ralph Goodale, John Godfrey, Irwin Cotler and others who failed to represent their constituents either way.

The real failure was Graham's, who as leader had a choice - vote for the deployment as a caucus or against. The vote against could have been premised with a plan agreed with BQ and NDP to strike a committee (they have the votes after all) to examine the existing deployment and recommend on an extension within a short timeframe, with the Chief of Staff testifying as to how much leadtime the Forces would need to get a go or no-go. It is difficult to see how Harper could have persisted with his "unilateral one year extension" plan given that the vote on the extension was probably part of the BQ budget deal.

The vote for could have been premised as merely endorsing the efforts of the existing missions to Kabul and Kandahar and the request of the Afghan government itself for an extension but the 75% No vote of those present and voting probably meant option 1 was more likely.

The split down the middle has compromised the Liberals as a caucus. For those who now want Ignatieff tarred and feathered remember this - look at the people who voted with him. Many are social conservative Liberal MPs who are in the buffer zone keeping 905 Tories out of the 416. Others like Karygiannis were absent. Lose them, and Harper gets a certain overall majority. Frankly many of them would be better off as Tories but I'm not a member of the Liberal party so I don't have to rub shoulders with them.

For the left of the Liberal party the Afghanistan extension is a disaster - but it is merely a pinprick compared to how they will feel in a Tory majority if the attitude of Harper with a minority is a guide. Volpe and the other no-voters will lead the Liberals into an election platform that will win the hearts of college students who don't vote anyway and of NOW magazine. Ignatieff can steal Tory votes, or at least stop the fleeing of centrist middle class votes.

If you love freedom, buy pizza

James Bow points me towards this Penn & Teller episode (on Google video) which describes the farce that is the World Trade Centre reconstruction, from the disastrous initial Libeskind design through to the hiding of the notes and photos family members left looking for their loved ones in an obscure back room. If you get the New York Times RSS feed it's no surprise that both the public interest and the families of the 9/11 victims are being shafted by Silverstein and the politicians but P&T tie it together very nicely. It's about half an hour long and the language is quite pungent in places so probably Not Suitable For Work.

In my view the show is compelling viewing, not least for their interview with the owner of Majestic Pizza on Cortlandt Street which is going broke because of the continual delays in bringing people back to the Trade Centre area. Penn and Teller may not be making a WTC out of Majestic's pizza as they suggest at one point, but I hope they at least left a big tip.

Why does the TTC want my driver's licence number?

As the Tory transit tax credit draws near, I'm looking into getting a metropass. So I took one of the application forms from the subway car and read it en route to my stop. In addition to a (marked voluntary) section on my existing commuting habits and whether I have a car, there's a section which is not marked voluntary asking for my driver's licence number and my date of birth.

Now, this form is used for student and senior passes so in theory it could be linked to that but you can order multiple passes with one form so that's a no. The idea of a transit authority looking for a licence they are in theory supposed to replace at least in part bugged me so I decided to read the accompanying fine print.

The metropass is paid for with pre-authorised payment with penalties of $25 for having insufficient funds. However it seems the TTC also conducts credit checks:
12... (continues) The customer hereby consents to the TTC conducting credit checks and other financial verification directly and indirectly without further notice to the customer, as it deems fit.
This bugged me a bit but if the payment is after the pass is sent I guess I could see the point. This bit bugged me a lot more:
13. The customer consents to the use and disclosure to third parties by the TTC of information relating to his or her name, phone number, address and TTC metropass serial number for the purposes of verification that the customer is a Metropass Discount Plan holder and for the purpose of the customer being provided with third party value added product information and for the purpose of research for the product evaluation and improvements.
Excuse me? Where's the box I tick where I don't want the TTC having me participate in any business with third parties or have survey companies calling me? Not here. I'm not a tin foil hat privacy nut but I'm disappointed by this - not enough to give up my tax break, yet, but if I'm bombarded by third party crap I'm going to be very annoyed. If the TTC actually did call regarding improvements to metropass I wouldn't actually mind talking to them but I want the right to opt out if I want to and I don't seem to have an option to.

As for the driver's licence number, this seems to be the equivalent in Ontario of the much abused Social Security number in the U.S. Perhaps there's a need for a separate identification system for commercial transactions but I think government ID numbers of this kind should not be in corporate databases.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The right wing don't usually go this nuts when the Mounties get their man

Two members of the RCMP will marry in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia this June in that force's first same sex marriage. The right is already frothing at the mouth, claiming that the RCMP are being "corrupted", "politicised" yadda yadda.

Does the PMO fear a Canadian Colbert?

Apparently Stephen Harper may not attend the Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner. I think if the GG is game to go after last year, he should suck it up despite the hiding Colbert gave Bush at the American version. Did he use up all his jokes last year?

When Harper meets Blair

Maybe Harper can inquire how the British Forces can allow the BBC stream the arrival home of their service personnel killed in the recent crash of a Lynx helicopter in Iraq without a catastrophic loss of morale and without traumatising their families?

Maybe even Blair, well known as a control freak, has more real confidence in his electorate than the increasingly twitchy Harper has in the Canadian public?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


The Canadian mission to Afghanistan has been extended two more years, with the BQ/NDP opposed and the Liberals splitting enough (Graham and 29 others) to give Harper the needed votes.

In a way the Libs have handed a weapon to Harper with their extended leadership election, secure in the knowledge that the Tories will have to commit mass murder for the Libs to risk an election without a new leader so with every bump in the road comes a petulant "we're going to the polls if we don't get our way!"

If things keep going as they are and the Liberal candidates don't start whittling down soon, I'd say screw it and "go to the country" with Bill Graham the next time Harper needs a bailout.

The death of Captain Nichola Goodard is a tragedy for her family and her comrades, but I wish the media wouldn't keep harping on that she is the first female death in the CF mission to Afghanistan. What legitimate purpose is there in that distinction these days?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Is Carolyn Bennett wearing a wry smile today?

If she isn't she should. After all the berating she's taken recently, arising from an unwieldly remark she made comparing Tory prison policy and childcare policy from what My Blahg calls "mommy bloggers", the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health says working mothers are healthier in the long run. I expected some kind of vengeance-laden scream from Choice for Childcare but I doubt she can see the screen yet from the steam coming out of her ears.

I honestly think that there is never more patronising sanctimonious crap spouted in the world as there is with the raising of children, whether it be what pregnant women eat or shouldn't, whether they deliver naturally, breastfeed, have day care etc. etc. etc. Why can't it just be okay to raise your kid the way you want without sticking your oar into what the next family's doing? Why does every government insist on favouring one way over the others, usually reversing whatever the last people did?

Too bad I've already switched to iTunes

Because Windows Media Player 11 Beta (build 4826) looks very nice... found via Softpedia

Monday, May 15, 2006

Ontario casinos butt out

Even the ones run by First Nations will do so. This is good news as there was probably some fear that the two First Nations casinos would attract customers who preferred to smoke from Provincial casinos. The effect on cross border traffic from Windsor will be interesting, seeing that during the Detroit Superbowl so much attention focused on the strippers, Cuban cigars and gambling so readily available.

Meanwhile a First Nation cigarette manufacturer is going out of business because of smuggling which the RCMP don't seem to have the appetite to deal with firmly. (Although a cigarette firm going out of business isn't usually the kind of thing that bothers me)

Two more years in the 'Stan?

The Tories have proposed a two year extension to the Afghanistan mission, to be voted on by the House on Wednesday - which I suspect was a concession to the Bloc who have wanted this (a vote on future commitments) for a while.

It will be interesting to see how the debate and more to the point the vote goes. I find Layton's position, that we would exit Afghanistan for Darfur, to be tenable only in that he and Olivia were together on their Ottawa couch watching recent episodes of ER and got all teary and "we must do something". In terms of capacity to be a tarpit Darfur is no slouch. Foreigners are being beheaded. There are geo-political repercussions at work, and Chinese companies piling into Sudanese resources as fast as "ethical funds" are forcing companies like Talisman out so the Sudanese government and their janjaweed lackeys won't be short of money.

In other news, the Canadian Forces water purification in Kashechewan turned out to be little more than a badly planned PR stunt.

Run Royson run?

So the election campaign for Mayor of Toronto is under way and so far Pitfield has yet to dent Miller, since she has her own troubles (her base would prefer Dennis Mills) and has had an embarrassing fumble over the demolition of the Inn on the Park.

Rob Ford has (thankfully) shot himself in the foot and Julian Fantino has wisely decided to keep collecting Dalton McGuinty's paycheque and not bother moving into the City from Vaughan, which he never bothered doing while Police Chief. John Tory has moved on to the PCs since the last outing. To the horror of those like myself who liked his mayoral run and thought he might keep the Ontario Tories "progressive", he has allowed Harper to slobber all over him and that won't wipe off any time soon.

So who does that leave who will do more than Miller would in bringing reality to city contracts, accelerate the process of rationalising city bylaws and truly clean house? Someone other than Miller and Pitfield (and myself) who complexion-wise between the three of us could advertise for bleach? Step forward Royson James, Miller's most pointed critic outside City Hall (no competition within, they are all butter knives in the Council Chamber).

UPDATE: So it turns out that I completely misspelled Mr. James' name - and never noticed for thirteen months. The depressing part is nobody else seems to have either. Since the Star has been redesigned since that post, his new page at the Star is here.

Good news, bad news for Irish transport interests

If you had an ear to the ground on the various transit bulletin boards in Ireland such as, Irish Railway News or Platform 11, the unofficial protest of the new intercity trains was entirely unsurprising as the wardrums were beating for weeks now. What was surprising is how the media seem to have been blindsided by it. I also find it odd that so few Irish bloggers found the strike worth talking about with a few exceptions like the Limerick Blogger and Planet Potato. Most interesting of all is that Phil Flynn seems to be back making money at the mediation trough. What's a pen gun between friends?

The good news is Aer Arann's order for 10 new ATR72-500s to partly replace its existing ATR72-200s and partly as an expansion to increase routes from 45 to 75 including flights wholly within the UK and Continental Europe. Aer Arann has played a cute game, ducking and diving into and out of routes, following the profit (and cleaning up on the subsidies) but always with an eye to expansion, most recently picking up the pieces in Cardiff when Ryanair and Air Wales departed within days of each other through cutback and shutdown respectively. Bombardier did pitch their Q400 to Aer Arann but as an existing customer the order was ATRs to lose.

Meanwhile another Irish investor in aviation looks like striking it big - Dermot Desmond is rumoured to be close to selling London City Airport for EUR600m (C$900m). (rego required)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Here's a job for Peter MacKay

The job is: stop faffing around in Kandahar and get over to Beijing smartly to propose and sign a bilateral agreement with the Chinese, the effect of which would void double jeopardy for citizens deported after completing their sentences. The Star brings up something I had wondered about on the Globe and Mail's "conversations"- what if China decided to execute Min Chen as a punishment for crimes committed abroad.

I learned from the Star article that the Supreme Court already forbids this explicitly, but has not spoken on lesser punishments. Should Chen be unable to be deported then having completed his sentence it would be difficult to avoid releasing him.

We should not wait until Chen is released in 2019 to make him another Karla Homolka, with whatever opportunist successor to Michael Bryant there is as AG in Ontario wailing on about the consequences of a plea bargain. We should have an assurance that Chen will leave federal prison in transportation that puts him on the next flight out, and if that means securing a legal agreement from China to do it, that's just what should happen.

Apparently there is a chance that China could refuse to accept Chen's return - this should also be ruled out by the treaty. We have a chance to demand this of China because of their rapacious demands for Canadian mineral resources and should use it.

Who can figure the mind of a Toronto bureaucrat?

A quote from Michael Hackenberger, owner of Bowmanville Zoo, in response to Toronto City's charges in respect of bringing elephants downtown. Not the first time a resident of this city has asked that particular question.

Apparently if you are making a movie bringing animals downtown is fine, but not if you're trying to raise money to keep the zoo open. Fortunately, the pit-bull defender (the dog mind, not a description of the eminent counsel) Clayton Ruby is on the case and perhaps the nine ermined souls in Ottawa will yet hear of this - Ruby thinks this one is up there with the flying squirrel.

Ruth Kelly revisited

Richard Waghorne responded to my previous post. Rather than update the previous one which was quite lengthy I will merely link to my response on his blog comments.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Making equality happen

These days, we generally rely on the Legislature or the Courts or Human Rights Commissions to deliver equality. As I noted in my post on Ruth Kelly, sometimes we can't rely on the institutions of the State. In Cleveland, Ohio, a new film documents how citizens decided to go out and get it for themselves. (Seen at The Cylinder)

This time a GOP-whacker?

John Edwards' inching campaign towards another White House run is profiled here. Personally I hope he does - he said a lot of good things last time out, things which are even more pertinent this time. Not sure I want him to win yet, and besides he has to get past the Junior Senator from New York first. That said, a ticket of those two would probably unite the Dems effectively and attract Reagan Democrats - but who would be on which side of the ticket? (seen at the Cylinder)

Canada asks too little, or Ireland too much?

We filled in our 2006 Statistics Canada Census this weekend. It took a lot less time than I anticipated, with memories of a lot more questions when I filled out the census in Cork back in 2002. Our form for the two of us was only 22 questions as opposed to a possible 75 on the Irish form. Visiting the StatsCan website, it turns out only one in five households get the 53 question Census long form.

Same sex marriage being legal for this census means StatsCan are still trying to figure out a reliable way of indicating this on their forms. Egale are not happy with what they came up with.

Religion is only sampled every other census (10 years) so I didn't have a chance to put "Jedi" this time out.

There is disquiet in the blogosphere about Lockheed-Martin's involvement in processing the Census. This is because of alleged possible repatriation of data under the US Patriot Act but also in respect of Guantanamo Bay yadda yadda. While I feel having L-M or any other US company involved in the census was a stupid idea I can't help feeling an instinctive reaction to yell "ah don't be such a child" at the "spill coffee on the form" crowd. Don't know why - I just do.

Nice to see StatsCan stopped blocking Linux users from the online option for those of us who are busy collaborating with the military-industrial-bureaucratical complex.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Taking a bore for Team RC

Richard Waghorne posts that Ruth Kelly is being "bored to death" by calls for her to make her position clear in respect of matters which the Roman Catholic church, of which she is a member, has declared to be immoral. This may not seem interesting at first blush if you didn't know that Ms. Kelly is the current Minister for Equality in the United Kingdom's Labour Government, and that in recent years the Catholic Church has re-affirmed the duty of opposition to laws legalising and facilitating such matters as abortion and gay unions.

In 2004, the Vatican told U.S. bishops to refuse communion to pro-choice legislators, which caused a controversy involving John Kerry during his bid for the presidency. Controversy in respect of Catholic politicians is recurrent in Canada, not least because of the number of Prime Ministers from the heavily Catholic province of Quebec such as the two most recent holders. In the same year, Paul Martin was accused of moral incoherence by the Bishop of Calgary, Fred Henry. (Although for a Prime Minister labelled "Mr. Dithers" by the Economist, incoherence may not be a surprising trait). Henry had said in 2003 he would refuse communion to Jean Chretien and that his soul was in jeopardy.

Henry alluded in his pastoral letter on Martin to the Vatican's Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, a document which while declaring that the objective was not for Catholic legislators to impose a sort of sharia, that support of laws legalising or facilitating practices which the church had deemed to be wrong in all circumstances was not tenable.
"no Catholic can appeal to the principle of pluralism or to the autonomy of lay involvement in political life to support policies affecting the common good which compromise or undermine fundamental ethical requirements." (at III/5)
Henry says Martin should have emulated Thomas More, and be "God's first". Henry in his turn was merely emulating Innocent X who declared the Treaty of Westphalia, which moved Europe away from religious states toward nation states, to be
null, void, invalid, iniquitous, unjust, damnable, reprobate, inane, empty of meaning and effect for all time
One of these "morally settled issues" in the mind of the Vatican is gay marriage/unions. Considerations Regarding Proposals To Give Legal Recognition To Unions Between Homosexual Persons states:
Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth, which is contradicted both by approval of homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons.
(my emphasis) and
In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.
(both from II/5).

Clearly, this has an effect not merely on legislation proposed but also current law. Richard claims Kelly has not taken a position at all, but she is recorded as having voted with the DUP and Tories to restrict gay unmarried couples from adopting in circumstances where straight couples can - a straightforward matter of equality.

Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster Cormac Murphy-O'Connor's letter to The Times defending Ms. Kelly would be music to the ear of "a la carte Catholics" like myself but plainly in contrast to the Vatican documents cited above. How can this be reconciled without calling His Eminence a liar, a heretic or both?

That Kelly is alleged to have links to Opus Dei is not something I'm going to get into here beyond noting the frequent speculation. That is one organisation I have no idea what to make of.

Does this mean all this mean Kelly should not be an MP? That is a matter for her electors, not for regulation - although certain positions defined in the Catholic Relief Act 1829 may still be excluded. However, she should have refused Tony Blair's invitation to be Minister for Equality when she could not be fully supportive of the brief. Not only does her previous record indicate this, but already groups such as Stonewall are not being invited to sessions with equality agencies and the Department. Her previous post, Education, has been a historical battleground on rights issues in matters of religion and in respect of the Thatcher era Section 28 forbidding "promoting homosexuality" - and when that latter law was repealed, she was absent. Here's Colin Richardson in the Guardian:
What we need, what we're crying out for, is someone in government who is an active champion of lesbian and gay equality. Not some Catholic technocrat who holds her nose while implementing policies she loathes, but a true believer.
Perhaps she would do better in the Iranian Cabinet, given their President's recent declaration that the religious state is on the way back.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The US ethanol tariff

In the US, imported ethanol attracts both a 2.5% tariff and a 54 cent/gallon tariff. If it did not, Brazil could be a substantial exporter to the US since their sugarcane derived ethanol is more efficiently produced than processes using corn. (NY Times, rego may be required). Ethanol is useful as a partial gasoline substitute but also as a replacement for the additive MTBE which contaminates groundwater.

Even President Bush is now talking about dropping the tariff, a sign that he has finally read the 22nd amendment and has realised he doesn't have to suck up to Iowa corn growers before primaries any more. This article claims five million US vehicles are ethanol ready although their manufacturers never publicised it. The Wall Street Journal recently called for the tariff's abolition - the original is now behind the paywall but an excerpt is here.

However, I wonder if hidden in the vastness of the midwestern corn lobby effort is a fear that Cuba, a major cane producer, could get in the ethanol business and somehow make money out of the US ethanol market via third countries, thus enraging the antiCastroites that cling on in Florida in an equally unlikely fashion as does Castro himself.

The wrong priorities

The Ontario Liberals are playing a dangerous game with the electorate. Dwight Duncan reckons Ontario can build the subway to nowhere II: revenge of the 905ers (subway to nowhere I was "Lastman's folly") without federal money.

A more sensible approach would have been to forget the grossly premature extension into Vaughan, at least until the Tories were strongarmed into giving up some dosh by their prospective candidates in Vaughan and build the bit that has an Environmental Assessment already complete. Busways and LRT, being far cheaper, will more than provide for commuters into York from the north and commuting into the core would be far more efficient by expanding GO service in addition to providing the better connectivity to York/Steeles. Even the Downsview-Steeles extension would be more than Steve Munro would go for, although I think that's excessively hairshirted.

Since it goes past the 407ETR maybe they could help fund it, then subway fares could go up and mysteriously neither Ontario or Toronto could do anything because "it was in the contract".

The danger is in talking as if there is loads of money in a week when the Liberals are coming ever closer to two-tier health care. The Liberals have floated allowing patients who can afford it access in Ontario to bleeding-edge drugs while poorer patients get the old ineffective ones. They have already introduced the Ontario Health Tax without re-instating a single one of their OHIP cuts, despite evidence that eye and dental tests are useful indicators of other medical problems.

The Liberals are merely building on the naked electioneering that the Vaughan subway is combined with the creation of a "fake deficit" this year to be "eliminated" next year. Now Duncan says, no problem - we have contingency funds we can spend on it. How about eliminating the deficit with those Dwight? Maybe they think that John Tory's shocking lurch to the right since he became leader of the Ontario PCs and his consorting with Harper will save them from any stupidity they try out.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Making Quebec richer

Jeffrey Simpson has an interesting article in the Globe and Mail on Quebec's relative economic laggardness and their addiction to living beyond their means (thus requiring equalisation to fulfill it). The link goes to Google, click on their link to evade the Globe's paywall. Here's a taste:

Quebec, for example, has made social choices to keep university fees the lowest in North America, give families $7-a-day child-care spaces, provide a provincial drug plan, subsidize many industries, keep hydro rates well below North American market costs, and have a large public service.

No other equalization-receiving province can afford these kinds of choices, but they are part of the "Quebec model" and, therefore, are apparently difficult to change. The "Quebec model" contributes to the gap between spending and taxes that the Quebec political class believes is due to the "fiscal imbalance" rather than the province's own choices.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Ruud-Van-Nis-tel-rooy, ta-ra ta-ra ta-ra?

Not content with pushing Roy Keane out of Old Trafford, Ferguson seems to be pushing Ruud out too. Time for the Wizard to retire because between this and the Glazer-love he is rapidly losing the respect he built up over all those glory years. And to think of how long and hard Fergie waited to get RVN with his knee troubles and is now criticising him while carrying passengers like Fortune and Silvestre for years.

With Saha and Rooney and RVN United were starting to look like a championship winning front line with little behind - it seems the Glazers are evening things out by making the front crap too.

Stopping the clock to finish the schooling

Two local illegal immigrants are seeking to remain in Canada to finish their school year. Some shades of a similar situation in Ireland, where a Nigerian denied refugee status and deported was returned from Nigeria following a hue and cry, where he promptly overstayed his visa and committed road traffic offences (not the first either). It is not a truly parallel case, as he came to Ireland without his parents and at an older age. He is now seeking to stay by virtue of fathering a child with a Irish citizen, judgement on which has been reserved at time of writing.

At least in this current case of the Costa Ricans, two local Liberal MPs are putting up bonds - this is the kind of case where putting money where your mouth is shows your belief in their intentions. I see Olivia Chow showed up at the detention centre but so far I haven't heard of any money being put up by her - it may not have been reported.

Meanwhile Stockwell Day was a bit mealymouthed about the other case where CBSA were essentially using kids as hostages - he should have been more blunt and said it was wrong to do it rather than go on about policies and how the Libs didn't have them. The best criticism of the justice structures comes from their usual defenders, in the same way the Left is usually toughest of all on unions.

Is the PMO's hold on the mad dogs slackening?

The true colours are beginning to show on the Tory back bench, as Tory MP Maurice Vellacott attacks the Supreme Court and Chief Justice MacLachlin. But he's not speaking for the government, so that's all right then... The Star reports:
"Beverley McLachlin herself actually said that when they step into this role all of a sudden there's some mystical kind of power comes over them by which everything that they ever decree then is not to be questioned," he told CBC-TV, referring to the chief justice of the Supreme Court. "They take on these almost god-like powers. And (McLachlin) said that herself. I didn't say that."
A charge against abortion and same sex marriage is probably not far behind I guess.

South Africa disappoints a little more every day

You can just imagine some of the far-right white nutbars plotting another Trek when the likes of this happens. The pathetic spectacle of Thabo Mbeki's ostrich-like approach to AIDS and his support of the maniac in Zimbabwe is now joined by Jacob Zuma's acquittal on rape charges.

Zuma's own testimony drew controversy. He testified that the woman's decision to wear a knee-length skirt and later a kanga, a traditional Africa wrap, showed she wanted to have sex with him.

Many were shocked when Zuma, the former head of the South African National AIDS Council, said there was little danger of him contracting HIV from having unprotected sex with the woman. He also said that taking a shower after sex reduced the risk of getting the virus.

The New York Times adds:
Seeking to cast himself as the model of a traditional Zulu man, Mr. Zuma said that he was, in fact, obliged to have sex with the woman because she so clearly wanted intercourse, and that to refuse would have been a violation of her own rights.
And the reaction of his peers?
"I just got off a plane," Professor Leclerc-Madlala said, "and at the Durban airport, people were singing and the street, in the shops," over Mr. Zuma's acquittal. "Porters in the airport; even the women cleaners. People love him."

What a load of bol-ognese.

I've been given an award. I almost missed it because I fell for the rumour that Rightwing Richard had followed Mental Fiona out of the blog o'sphere and removed him from my Bloglines. Now frankly as awards go it's not the one I'd have gone for. Given the choice I'd have taken Manuel Estimulo's "Benedict XVI Fake Pope Award" or Twenty Major's "Damien Rice Waste of Skin Prize" or The Bouncer's "Guido of the Week". Why not Far and Wide's "Stephen Harper Threat To The Human Race and Possibly The Galaxy Trophy" or Anonymous Lawyer's "Sacrificial Associate Honour Roll" (except he would probably spell Honour wrongly, being American).

It could have been worse though - given the name and the petty manner with which it was granted, at first glance I thought it was the Sicilian Notes Eddie Hobbs Prize.

In any case, it was wrong and lazy of me to assume that someone who would do the world's poor out of development aid to bring down their tax bands would be a member of the Freedom Institute. It turns out not all Irish Shrubonomics devotees are writing for Magoo! Who would have thought.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

On privatising development aid

Wulfbeorn Watching, one of the neo-con "Freedom Institute" types, posts today on development aid and charity. He cites this Scotland on Sunday article, but I bet he has one eye on Dick Cheney's tax return as well. The problem with unlimited tax refundable charitable giving is essentially it allows rich people to avoid income redistribution to poor people by aiding organisations which prinicipally cater to rich people - think of all the museums, ivy league universities and symphonies in the US with huge subscription fees and boards stuffed with socialites. In Cheney's case, US$8.8m was reduced to $2m taxable income.

Even if Wulfbeorn's idea was adopted, the total US ODA possible is only 0.35% of GDP (0.16% govt and the rest private), which would barely reach the EU average of government only aid cited in the article. Bill Gates' foundation alone is overshadowing the entire federal government aid programme.

In Ireland, the most obvious problem in encouraging private gifts is the requirement to give 250 Euros before tax relief is given. In Canada, you can get tax relief on a C$5 (3 Euro) donation if you get a tax receipt. In Ireland, the beneficiary is the organisation donated to, which I suppose is better as it stops people patting themselves on the back for giving $1000 when they are getting maybe $300 of that back in their tax return.

So here's my prescription: for private donations, make everything above, say, 10 Euros at a time earn a tax credit at the lowest tax rate. This would mean fundraising for local schools and hospitals would become tax deductible and would be a boost for University alumni funds from recent graduates who don't have much disposable income because of paying off student loans. This encourages philanthropy, especially at the most local level, without seriously damaging the tax net.

By encouraging this kind of giving and getting away from the "bucket at the traffic lights" you are probably helping prevent road rage and traffic congestion. Instead of buckets and annoying schoolies yelling "Support SHARE pleeze!" on Cork's Patrick Street they could have stands at appropriate intervals with a bucket on it but tax forms as well.

Wulfbeorn is critical of those charities who declare their income in a way that funding costs are divided so government money is devoted to projects while private donations fund running costs. I actually have no problem with that, as private donors are far more likely to exert workable pressure on running costs than grant awarding bureaucrats. Perhaps such charities could be required to print their income/expense account for the previous year on the back of their tax forms.

As for government development aid, many immigrants to Canada speak of schools set up in their home countries with Canadian government money. Ireland should never go down the road of those countries who demand reciprocal agreements such as power dams or arms sales in return for its money, but it should require all projects funded via Government money directly as well as via NGOs to carry a plaque noting Irish taxpayer participation, just as our roads are festooned with 12 stars on a blue background, building. Here's the Canadian logo which usually plastered all over Canadian movies and the Montreal Grand Prix - I would have uploaded it but I didn't want to get a cease and desist letter from Treasury Board.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

So Cindy Sheehan's in town.

Once again it's that time of year when Torontonians prostrate ourselves in front of an nominally liberal American who's telling us what to do. Last year it was Robert Kennedy, now it's Cindy Sheehan telling us what our refugee policy should be. She blames Harper for the denials of status to Hinzman and others when most of those cases were heard under Martin's regime. It's really funny in a way to have Americans lecture Canadians on human rights and the environment.

Unlike the US where recruiters are under tremendous pressure to meet targets the Canadian Forces is ahead of their recruiting targets, hardly the sign of a military that has lost the trust of its citizens.

As I have noted before
, nobody forced these guys to join the army - it was a choice. That education in the US is inadequate at some economic levels without joining the army is a disgrace. That American soldiers are required to obey orders of dubious legality is a disgrace. But hiding out in Canada will change neither of these things. Other people will go to Leavenworth and elsewhere in time to make change happen, and when they come out I would welcome them to Canada as people of principle.

Some people of principle are already standing up - Maple Leaf Politics links to Rumsfeld being nailed by a CIA veteran as a liar.

Ah, diddums, did they take your music?

I can only hope this is one of those classic "post on internet while drunk moments". Bassist Flea wrote on the Peppers' website that their latest CD had been posted on the internet and that fans shouldn't download it as the lower quality would ruin the effort put into it. I guess that's why VH1 are streaming it ahead of release?
it is a painful pill for us to swallow
let me tell you
this bums all of us out
and i know that, as sensitive as john frusciante is about sound
the idea of anyone getting and hearing this thing that way
will devastate him
for people to not hear the work the way we meant it to be
will really hurt him deep inside
and all of us will hurt

Uh-huh. Your annoying sentence structure and lack of capitalisation makes me hurt. I see you have no lack of capitalism though, since Apple will be selling it on iTunes, whoring yourself out to the Man is fine. Not only this, but the Peppers have encouraged bootlegging so it's easy to see how people were confused.

Canada Border Services jails Parkinson's sufferer as "junkie"

Saw this via Saskboy. If this is how CBSA are acting now, can we hope for any better after Harper has given them their new marching orders?

Belfast Telegraph:
An Ulster man with Parkinson's disease last night spoke of his anger at being deported from Canada after an immigration official suspected him of being a junkie.

Father-of-six Trevor Hamilton (43), who lives in Omagh, was detained at Calgary Airport when an immigration official noticed his tremors, typical of the disease.

He was handcuffed and driven to a jail where he was strip searched, showered and held until he could be sent home the following day.

BBC News:
"I was marched down a hall, I had to strip completely, my own clothes taken off me," Mr Hamilton said.

"I was put under a cold shower - I mean cold now, ice cold.

"When I came out of the shower I was handed a towel and a blue overall and walked down to a cell.

"I was kept there until the following day."
I can only hope someone is going to be fired over this.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Tax deductible transit

Much criticism has been levelled at the Tory Government's decision to use climate change money for the tax credit on monthly fare passes. Some would prefer this money to go directly to the transit authorities. There are however reasons tax deductible transit is a good idea.
  1. In Toronto, Metropass use is now cheaper than bulk tokens for a Monday - Friday commuter. For GO Transit users this is already true.
  2. Now you've actually got a Metropass, this means you might use it when otherwise the choice is a taxi or car - now there's no incremental cost and it's more responsible in climate terms.
  3. If you don't use Metropass out of commute, you are giving TTC about $7 more a month (yearly plan) or $15.75 more with the booth purchased pass than you used to, assuming 40 tokens/month @ 2.10 each bulk price. In the yearly plan, the $91 the TTC gets is actually only about $77 from the commuter and $14 from government which is returned to the commuter at the year end.
  4. The more people using passes, the easier it will be to transition to smart cards as people are already used to it.
The system still needs capital investment outside of this but encouraging off peak use improves load factors throughout the system but doesn't really funnel too many into the peak - if you didn't like public commuting before (and can afford downtown parking) it's probable this tax cut isn't enough to change your mind. As for GO Transit, hopefully some better off-peak/weekend service will arrive before too long, and some money to extend GO further into the Tory heartland would be useful too (and good politics).

Federal budget 2006

A lot of the reaction to the budget has centred on the politics of it - this surprised me as I was not aware that there were apolitical budgets but with an election possible whenever Gilles Duceppe gets tired of propping up Harper this one has some extra edge.

The Tory fiddling with taxes and bands target middle income households with hockey playing kids and stay home parents where the provider gets the suburban commuter train - the base which the Libs have eaten into during the Chretien-Martin years. Indeed, with his attendance at his kids hockey practices Harper has claimed kinship to that base in a way previous Tory grandees would find very difficult.

Those who expected the Tories to do more for the poor are obviously expecting the sun to rise up at midnight - the poor don't vote Tory. Neither do city folk or aboriginals. I imagine a lot of it is proforma - the minute the election results starting looking Blue everyone knew what was going to happen next.

The transit pass is an incentive for middle income people to take transit at weekends - it doesn't help the poor as they probably can't pay monthly and even if they did they wouldn't pay tax to get a refund. However, the alternative as floated in the campaign would have been crazy (rebating individual fares). I will discuss separately the assertion by the likes of Howard Moscoe that the credit means no new money for TTC. GO Transit users appear to be the real winner - their passes are more expensive and will attract higher refunds, and unlike TTC pass buyers come out ahead on a Monday-Friday basis and will be further ahead now.

Then there's the new Canada Employment Credit - at first I thought based on the media coverage that it was something you claimed based on expenses but it's just another personal allowance, something Irish readers would be familiar with as the PAYE allowance since it related only to income from employment.

Cutting the Landing Fee for immigrants seems nice but that money could have gone toward improving the entry process. With 800K people in the queue and 250K processed annually it doesn't sound like the fee is a disincentive. Instead making all immigrant related expenses tax deductible would be a good idea, too late for me though on both counts.

The left wing will scorn any of the extra military spending (and the new B.C. base is in an odd location which speaks more to porkbarrel than policy from what I hear) but in some ways the uptick is surprisingly small and does not cover much of what was promised during the campaign. I suspect Flaherty realised that surrending all of the income tax cuts would be suicide and something had to give - HMCS Chicoutimi (the submarine which had an onboard fire) has had its refit pushed back to 2012 and the word is that the Navy were told they had to do without something and this seems to be it.

Lastly, the wringing of hands over the debt puzzles me. In Ireland we took exactly the course Harper is doing - reduce tax, go for growth. Manage the debt figure as such and concentrate on increasing economic activity to make the debt a smaller part of the overall picture, especially during low-ish interest rates. Alberta has paid off its debts but as the people are finding out, this has been at a cost - no improvement in services at a time when they have an net inward migration and meanwhile Ralph is throwing cheques at them.

Overall - a bit of a curate's egg - good in parts but retaining enough smell to be offputting.