I no longer buy the financial arguments against a basic income.

I used to be somewhat skeptical we could afford, as either a province or a nation, to experiment with what a basic income would actually do. Mostly because I don’t like borrowing, and am fully aware that the more we borrow, the more we’ll be paying back through taxes–at least, if the government is borrowing responsibly. If the current global situation has done anything positive, if one wants to call it positive, it’s served to disabuse me of that idea. Mostly because we’ve spent more as a country in the last month or so than it was believed a federal basic income system would cost per year over 5 years. I’m an evidence guy. I’ve always said that. And as much as math and I are rarely on speaking terms, math is still evidence. And that evidence has me reevaluating how I understand social spending.

If the federal government wanted to implement a basic income system a la Ontario’s cancelled pilot (*), it would cost Canada as a whole about $80 billion a year, to keep it simple. Less if, as a part of that system the government cancelled other social safety net programs (not likely), or teamed up with the provinces (slightly less likely) to implement it. By contrast, it’s been a month and the federal government’s already earmarked $107 billion to keep people as close as possible to financially afloat while we try and flatten the curve. Again, math and I are rarely on speaking terms. But $107 billion in a month or so–with presumedly more coming besides–is a lot bigger than $80 billion over the course of a year. The government didn’t bat an eye at doing this, therefore in theory, it shouldn’t be batting an eye at looking at basic income when we get through the other side.

I’d like to say I’m all for it, but my skepticism involves a lot more than financial concerns–which is why the Ontario experiment the report above was based on should have been allowed to continue (thanks, Doug). Everyone knows someone on welfare or disability who easily couldn’t be, but would rather be there than actually do something. If you yourself are on welfare, you’re more likely to know someone who fits that description. In my case, I’m related to it by a former marriage (not mine). That doesn’t mean they’re the majority, or even a significant minority. But that does mean they exist. Say that number right now is 10%. Assuming a basic income system went live, it would apply to a lot of the same people. Would that number still be 10%? Would it drop? Would it increase? And in answering that question, we’d answer another–how many of these people are that way because they can’t afford not to be, versus this is an honest to goodness choice they’ve made? I’d have liked to see actual data to support one way or the other. There are studies that suggest it might have actually worked out that way if it was allowed to play out, and I’m liking what I see here. Which is why I’d also be perfectly okay with this experiment running federally–unless we’re running it right now, at which point screw it, we’re good.

Ontario’s experiment cost $150 million. If we skipped the experiment and just rolled it out federally, it would cost $80 billion. Clearly, we can afford it. And if we’d stop playing with the tax code to win elections, we might actually have less difficulty affording it than even the PBO report tries to point out. However we do it, if we do it, I don’t buy any longer the excuse that we can’t afford it. We’ve already spent this year’s basic income money and nearly half of next. If we don’t consider actually letting a basic income experiment play out so we have actual honest to goodness results to rely on, the reasons will be just about entirely political at this point. I know what an NDP voter will tell me re: a basic income. I know what a Liberal voter might tell me re: a basic income–depending on whether their second choice is Conservative or NDP. I know what a Conservative voter will tell me re: a basic income. When the dust settles, and we can all stop our heads from collectively spinning, it’s time to put up or shut up. If I know anything at all after all this, “we can’t afford it” no longer works. New arguments, please.

(*): If you voted for Ford based on his promise to not touch the basic income pilot, you no longer get to mock Trudeau voters for “this will be the last election under First Past the Post”. And if you voted for both of them, please stop. Just stop. You’re not helping.

Piss poor planning prevents proper performance. Or, this is not how you reduce a deficit, Ontario.

Cuts hurt. This is not news. It wasn’t news when Ontario was a Liberal province, and it’s even less so now that it’s trying to be a Conservative one–though not trying too hard, given we elected a guy who wouldn’t know what the word Conservative actually meant if you handed him a dictionary. And when you have to turn around and give 80% of the money you cut right back the next year, cuts hurt like hell. Enter our premier.

In last year’s budget, he knocked $25000000 off the health policy and research budget. Yesterday, he gave $20000000 of it back so the fine folks who know what they’re doing can hopefully find a vaccine for the mess we’re in. Because that’s apparently how we role in 2020.

Now, the argument could be made that they’re still $5000000 short of where they should be, but that’s not the argument I’m making. Because it’s not an argument. Let’s assume just for kicks that Ford used his head for more than a hat rack. Say he left that money untouched last year. OR reallocated it to some other health initiative–like, maybe, say, an initiative to make more masks and respirators available in hospitals so we’re not, you know, reusing. Basically, anything other than what we ended up doing. How much of a difference would that have made today?

If reducing the deficit was actually the goal here, ignoring the fact for a second that we’re still spending more under this government than we were the last one, we missed. Of all the cuts, that one has to sting the most. Too bad confidence is low they’re smart enough to feel it. So much for Ontario’s Conservative government. If you’re not going to help, at least give us something to show for it. This… is not that.

Marriage: Not just for people in love anymore.

Depending on who you ask, marriage hasn’t meant what it used to for years already. In Austrailia, if you’re one couple in particular, it means even less now.

You may or may not be aware that same-sex marriage is a thing. In Austrailia they’re becoming aware of that. And as a result, at least one “traditional” couple has decided if same-sex marriage becomes legal, they will become divorced. Because nothing quite defines your own marriage like someone else’s definition.

I’m hardly one to compare opinions on marriage of any kind–I’ve always seen it as just a piece of paper, really, entitling you to no more benefit than if you’d spent the rest of your lives living together without the whole deal–the difference between a legal marriage and not, in most cases, is the ability for one of you (usually the one who earns more) to claim the other on your taxes. I don’t need that piece of paper to prove I plan on sticking around a while any more than I expect that piece of paper to be a reason to stick around longer than I would otherwise. But if you’re going to go through the whole deal, it might not be the worst idea in the world if you meant it. I’m pretty sure whatever the traditional meaning of marriage–between either sex (or sexes) was, it did not include phrasing to the effect of “unless political expediency requires otherwise”.

I’m not saying marriage–of either kind–is wrong. I wouldn’t necessarily do it, but that’s either personal preference or a fantastic misunderstanding of the legal definition of marriage (I’m pointedly ignoring the religious one). But if you’re going to go through it, mean it. And if you’re going to mean it, keep it away from politics–especially *that* politics. Doing otherwise guarantees whatever value marriage–either the “traditional” or “modern” type–had is lost in the argument. As for this couple, whether or not the divorce actually happens, they’ve just proved the point to those of us who don’t see the idea of going through with it–it’s not just for people in love anymore. But then, perhaps legally, it never really was.

Congratulations on the new government, Canada. I give it 6 months.

It should be said right up front that if someone had told me a couple years ago I’d be referring to a Prime Minister Trudeau in the present tense I’d be questioning their sanity. But, here he is and here we are. So sure, that plus the fact the liberals went from third to first in the span of an election is impressive. Sadly for Canada, though, the Trudeau fandom won’t last longer than about 6 months–and for many of the reasons, I suspect, that it was apparently extremely necessary to give Harper the boot in equally impressive fashion. Politics just doesn’t know how to do anything else, and neither do most politicians–including, as we’re about to find out, Trudeau.

Let’s start with the most obvious, because why not. Bill C-51 is, if you ask some people, the culmination of everything that was wrong with the conservative government. Shoved through with little debate, probably unconstitutional, treats dual-citizens as second class, yada yada we’ve heard it all a million times now. The vote for Trudeau–or, to put it in rather more appropriate context, the vote against Harper–was supposed to be a rejection of C-51. And it probably would be, if Trudeau hadn’t already decided he supported it. So, awesome. We ditch the bill’s authors, but we’re keeping the bill–at least until the eventual supreme court challenge, at which point we’ll see. Majority rules, and all that.

Slightly less obvious, unless you’ve had your ear to the political ground for a while, was another something Trudeau–and Mulcair, for what that was worth–used to beat Harper over the head with. Openness/accountability in government. To contrast himself with how Harper ran things, Trudeau flat out said he’d let each riding handle their own nomination process and his people would stay out of it. And then, his people got involved and there went the open nomination promise. He could have explained himself. He should have explained himself. He blamed the other guy. And there just went accountability.

Less into the politically obscure and more into the mainstream conversation, ask anyone who voted against the conservatives why they voted against the conservatives. I’d put money on one of the reasons for it being the conservatives are in bed with big oil–if I had money, anyway. Whatever the expansion, it was always assumed the conservatives would shove through any legislation that was required to approve the thing and damn the consequences. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if folks in some corners accused the conservatives of taking their legislation straight from the mouthes of the oil execs. They might even be right for all I know–I’ve never had the influence or a reason to know one way or the other. But one thing I can about guarantee is if one of Harper’s advisors had been found giving advice to the oil companies, there’d be screaming from all corners demanding to know what Harper knew, when he knew it, and why the advisor wasn’t outright fired on the spot. And somebody would probably be calling up the RCMP this morning. Not so much for Trudeau.

I’m no fan of Stephen Harper, by any means. Well, if I’m being completely honest I’m no fan of the whole damn mess, but let’s put that out there up front. But I’ve been around long enough to know how this usually ends up going. The liberals held office for 13 years, until people got tired of them and then they didn’t. Harper got himself elected on a platform of openness, accountability, transparency, and generally not sucking–and then proceeded to forget about 90% of that platform. He’s just an MP from Alberta, now. Trudeau promised to be, escentially, not Harper–and then proceeded to borrow some of Harper’s tactics before he even won the election. Aside from that, this election in particular, the platforms weren’t entirely all that radically different from each other. They both treat the supposed middle class as something delicate and special without actually defining what the middle class actually is–I still don’t know, for instance, if I’d fall into that category (though probably not, for myriad reasons). both are all about tax breaks for the middle class. Both are all about fiddling with tax rates for other people–the conservatives, supposedly, lowering corporate tax rates and the liberals increasing taxes on people who make enough money to actually get ahead in a crap economy. Neither is willing to go into a whole lot of detail on what they plan to do with that extra money, beyond vague sort of halfway nods towards helping out the middle class. In other words, there’s no real reason to vote for one party platform over the other–and with the liberals having borrowed ideas from NDP platforms past, there’s no real reason to vote for the NDP over the liberals or vise versa either. All that leaves us is reasons to vote against the other guy–and in this case, that means Harper. So out come all the things $voter hates about Harper, the current government, its current policies etc, and they latch on to the most likely party to replace them not paying much mind to the similarities. So the less than open, unaccountable conservative authors of bill C-51 are handed the boot in favour of the slightly less than open, unaccountable supporters of bill C-51 and not much ends up actually changing. And once the anti-harper feelings go away and people actually look up to see what they’ve done, I get the sneaking suspicion they’ll latch on to that fact in fairly short order–the average voter isn’t stupid, though they tend to be easily seduced by the mob mentality. And when that happens, I don’t think I’ll be the only one drawing similarities between this government and the one it replaced. I figure that should take about 6 months–or, failing that, the minute Trudeau doesn’t bring parliament back in session right when someone thinks he should. And in a term or two, provided the conservatives get their feet under them in time, we’ll be right back where we are now–only voting against the liberals instead. And then, just like Trudeau won by virtue of not being Harper, the next one will win by virtue of not being Trudeau. Unless, of course, someone surprises me and actually gives us something to vote for rather than against, but let’s not hold our breath. We might hurt ourselves.

“We’ll reform the voting system! For really real!” … and other reasons I’m not voting this year.

So if you’re in Canada, there’s an election coming up in October. And if you’ve been paying any regular degree of attention to it, you probably have a general idea of what you’ll be voting on–hint: “yes or no on throwing Stephen Harper out on his ass” isn’t it. If you’re voting, you’ve probably already decided on who–or, in the case of a small minority, against who. If you’ve decided to stay home, odds are pretty good you’ve decided–not inaccurately–that it probably doesn’t make a whole lot of difference who comes out ahead in any eventual election.

My thoughts on voting in general, at least insofar as Canada goes, aren’t secret. You get a lot of hot air for a lot of partial reasons, then the individual political parties let their diehard supporters loose on each other until voting day–at which point somebody wins and not a whole lot changes. We went through it last year in Ontario and have been paying for it since. We went through it several times federally and have been paying for it since (note: That is not a dig at Harper. Relax, conservatives.). It’s too soon to offer an opinion on Alberta’s election, but if history’s any guide, I’ll be reevaluating that notion in about a year or two. And now, we get a chance to do it all over again federally to the tune of a very similar song and dance as we saw last time around. So with that in mind, the reasons I won’t be voting in this year’s election–just like I didn’t vote in last year’s.

We’ll reform the voting system!

This one I hear about every so often. I have no idea why, as it never seems to go anywhere, but it gets people through the night I suppose. Ontario talked about it last year. This year, they’re sort of doing it, if you loosely define “doing it” as updating their regulations to match the federal equivalent. More recently, the federal liberals have been musing about the prospect of some kind of new system within a year and a half of winning office, which should give you a general idea of the likelihood of its success. But what Justin Trudeau doesn’t mention–and Harper didn’t either when he jumped off the election reform bandwagon after, you know, winning one–is the only folks who seem to contemplate these notions are folks who aren’t currently benefitting from the broken system at the time. File this under “I’ll believe it if I see it” and let’s move on.

Kill the Senate and Harper with it!

To hear pretty much anyone not currently in government tell it, the senate broke the second Harper started appointing people to it. Unless you’re Harper pre-2006, then it broke the second Cretien/Martin started appointing people to it. either way, somebody somewhere usually calls for either reform or outright elimination of the senate and usually that’s as far as it goes. Why? Because outside of the NDP, no one particularly fancies opening the constitution. And if the NDP gets a shot at it, it may be the next election before it gets anywhere meaningful. But that’s a thing to beat the government over the head with, so “Die, senate, die!: or something.

I have no idea who the middle class is, but I will defend you!

spend 5 seconds on Google looking up any news article related to “the middle class”. go ahead. I’ll wait. Everyone says it. The conservatives say they’re looking out for it. The liberals say it’s hard done by and needs help. The NDP says business is screwing it over. None of the above can seem to explain exactly who would be covered under “the middle class”. Would the guy who works minimum wage at McDonalds? What about the high school English teacher down the road? Would you? Would I? No one’s saying. But whoever it is, clearly they’re crying out for help. So vote $party, and it’ll be business as usual for another 4 years because really, what can you do?

The scandal! The impropriety!

This one’s probably my favourite. The conservatives haven’t met an election they couldn’t be accused of cheating to win. The liberals were booted from office thanks largely to their own legal and financial shananigans. And let’s not leave the NDP’s own money troubles out of the mix. Because guilty as the other two are, they sure won’t. “We’re not as corrupt as they are” is starting to hold less and less meaning here, guys.

It may be my God-given right to vote. But if I’m expected to exercise that right, please for the love of that god give me something worth exercising it on. At the moment, options include bad, bad, slightly less bad and where the hell did you come from. Mandatory voting won’t change that–I’ll just take the fine for not bothering to waste my time picking from the better of three coruptions. Preferencial voting won’t change that–you’ll just have your pick of any three godaweful choices, each with a platform they’ll stick on a shelf when the election’s over. lowering the voting age won’t change that–if you can’t convince somebody in their 30’s to get out and vote, and they have arguably more of a dog in this fight than a high school student, you’ve got bigger problems than shaving a couple years off the voting age. In short: fix the options, or the method for picking those options won’t matter worth a damn. Give me a reason to vote, and stop it with the reasons not to. Until that happens, I’ll be withholding my vote. And Trudeau, if he actually follows through on something as potentially significant as electoral reform, can fine me for it until the cows come home. Who knows? That might be the proof I need that someone up there actually means it.

Trigger Warning: In which I worry about an assisted suicide ruling.

Warning: I have no idea how triggers work, particularly related to depression and contemplation of suicide. I am your typical, undereducated thug in that department. But if any of this entry serves to trigger something, please know it was not intended, I apologise, and you can inform me of it privately if you so choose so I can change it accordingly. I’m not here to traumatise.


I’m more often than not a fan of any time the Supreme court of Canada wants to take a swipe at our government. The way things tend to come down the pipe now and again, it’s probably deserved more often than it’s not. But on assisted suicide in particular, the supreme court has gone too far.

The court ruled very recently that a law banning doctor-assisted suicide was entirely unconstitutional–and that the right to life, more or less, should include the right to death. On its face a logical ruling, if you can tie anything remotely akin to logic around an issue of when it’s considered legal to kill someone. The ruling allows for the possibility of assisted suicide for any incurable physical–or mental–illness. So, for example, someone determined to be dying of cancer can opt to have it done and over with quickly, as opposed to living out the rest of their however long knowing the disease will eventually kill them. that’s good, in theory. But so can someone dealing with depression. that’s not so much.

Already this happens in certain European countries–Belgium permitted the assisted suicide of two deaf twin brothers who were going blind and couldn’t handle it, for example. And the same procedure for chronic depression is surprisingly not uncommon in jurisdictions that allow it. Unless a bunch of folks are reading the supreme court’s ruling entirely incorrectly, there is ample room for the trend in Canada to follow that path–as, quite aptly, has been explained to death already.

But that is not what the Court has in mind. First, it is clear from the ruling that the “enduring and intolerable suffering” that would confer the right to have someone kill you (with your consent, of course) is not limited to physical pain, but also psychological pain — which, besides being a murkier concept by far, raises the question of how competent the subject really is. Nor is suffering defined further: it is enough that it is intolerable “to the individual.”

Second, nothing in the words “grievous and irremediable medical condition,” the court’s other requirement for the exercise of this right, suggests that death is near, or even likely. It is enough that the condition be incurable; it need not be terminal.

So. You’re on medication for life. It’s keeping you functional, perhaps even something close to healthy, but it’s still there. As a friend told me once, it never goes away–you just get better at ignoring it. You could decide that’s plenty good enough–for all intents and purposes, you’re as cured as you’re going to get. But if you–or your doctor–decide that no, being on medication isn’t good enough–that it doesn’t actually cure you, but just treats the symptoms, assisted suicide could–again, based on this ruling–be an option. In states where it’s already legal, it is an option.

Patients themselves say that the primary motive is not to escape physical pain but psychological distress; the main drivers are depression, hopelessness and fear of loss of autonomy and control. Dutch researchers, for a report published in 2005, followed 138 terminally ill cancer patients and found that depressed patients were four times more likely to request euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. Nearly half of those who requested euthanasia were depressed.

In this light, physician-assisted suicide looks less like a good death in the face of unremitting pain and more like plain old suicide. Typically, our response to suicidal feelings associated with depression and hopelessness is not to give people the means to end their lives but to offer them counseling and caring.

I know people who suffer from depression. Even completely treated, it’s still there. But because people have been there to offer help, they haven’t decided on their own it’d be better to call it quits. Some of those are friends, family, people I am or was close to. Some of them didn’t speak up about it until they had but two options: get help now, or get out–and they’d already tried that second one. It’s very possible some of them still haven’t spoken up about it–to people, at least, who could potentially have done something about it. I can only guess at exactly how many of those people I’d know now if this were a more widely accepted option. I’d rather not guess at how many people I know would consider taking this path if it becomes a more widely accepted option.

It’s been said to me on more than one occasion. Once a depressive, always a depressive. The best you can hope for is to cope. This is not coping. We can do better than this. The supreme court has it wrong, and I sincerely hope someone in this government or the next puts some effort into correcting it. Even if I will never fully appreciate it, the people who need it most will. That’s what we’re here for.

I’d support a minimum guaranteed income law. Too bad one doesn’t exist.

If you’ve spent any amount of time out of work, whether you’re disabled or not, you know it hurts. It hurts twice if you’re out of work with any kind of disability–particularly as you’ve already got at least one strike against you. Governments think they’re helping, usually–when they’re not actively trying to do everything but, but more often than not the services most people have access to equate approximately to barely covering the rent if you happen to ask nicely. There are probably a few exceptions, depending on your definition of exceptions, but for the most part it goes approximately like this:

  • Step 1: Pray like nothing else your disability/welfare deposit comes in on time and for the correct amount. Optionally curse a blue streak when it doesn’t.
  • Step two: Try and ring up your caseworker, pray she’s in her office, pray she’s awake, pray she’s not currently mid-moodswing, and pray twice she’s not stuck using what escentially amounts to barely tested beta software (I’m looking at you, Ontario).
  • Step 3: Quite probably curse as at least one of those nested if statements turns false before your eyes. If you’re lucky, it may only be 1.
  • Step 4: Explain, probably twice, and a third time for good measure, that yes you’re broken again and could she kindly fix you and damn well mean it this time.
  • Step 5: Spend the rest of the month catching up on barely paying for the things you meant to pay for before your deposit went pair shaped.
  • Step 6: Repeat steps 1-5 as needed.

If the system works perfectly, you can likely skip that whole dance–and still have enough money left over for perhaps a cup of coffee if you haven’t gotten real good at getting real creative real fast. Which is still a problem, but it’s not necessarily the one problem with the potential to be your complete undoing. The problems that could potentially be your complete undoing are pretty much all administrative, mostly unnecessary and usually avoidable if the people handling the files would demonstrate a collective IQ above about 2.1.

I’m going to bash on Ontario, specificly the Ontario disability support Program (ODSP) and Ontario Works (OW), for two very simple reasons. Reason the first: I’m far too familiar with the system here for my own good–and have written way too much about them to be healthy. And reason the second: It’s not all sunshine and roses–and people who show up here looking for info on what they offer (this has happened) need to see that.

ODSP and OW come from a very similar set of procedures, slightly tweeked to account for the intended difference in clients. Which also means they come with the same, or close to the same, set of problems. Specificly, the process of actually providing the services hangs them up and they’re left spinning their wheels while figuring out how to actually provide the services–when they’re not taking their sweet time not approving you, anyway. So you’re left with a wheelchair user having to pay out of pocket to sort out complications ODSP was explicitly designed to cover, because ODSP has dropped the ball. Again.

It’s not *entirely* the fault of ODSP/OW for the way the system’s been bent out of shape. They’re covering their respective asses, more often than not–and that covering process tends to trip them up. It’s not a complete excuse, but when you’re alternating between people who’d rather be on ODSP than working and a system that seems set up to both allow and encourage it, you can kind of see why a little coverage is required.

There is a possible way around problems like this, and we largely have systems in place already that would be capable of handling it if a government were so inclined to develop enough of a spine to put it in place. Rather than an overcomplicated system of disability/welfare payments that seems to depend more on the phase of the moon than your medical condition, why not just move to a system of guaranteed annual income and be done with it? Take the payments out of the hands of social services, which comes with enough of its own stigma as it is, and hand it over to either provincial or federal tax authorities, say–like they already do in some jurisdictions for assessing things like your HST rebates, for those who get them. Or child tax, if that’s mildly more relevant for context purposes. The only requirement for determining whether or not you qualify for this particular benefit, then, would presumedly be your income tax filings–which you should be submitting if you’re not working anyway because potentially helpful.

The trend is to increase the minimum wage instead–Alberta’s government was considering a $15 minimum wage at one point, which would help, but only if you happen to be already working–and only then if your employer hasn’t decided the increase is going to cost too much and your particular job isn’t worth what they’re expected to pay. But there are more than a few good reasons to change that trend, which at least some parts of that same government are making vague-sounding rumbling noises about.

A minimum guaranteed income would accomplish the one thing no social services system has been able to actually do with any degree of success, if it’s executed properly. Get people off social services, and living moderately independently while they try and hopefully succeed at getting their feet under them. Unfortunately, and this is more than likely precisely why it’s not a thing that’s anywhere close to happening yet, proper execution is far from guaranteed–and getting there will be far from popular in just about any jurisdiction.

First, the receiving end of the spectrum. We’re assuming the idea behind a system like this is to give people just that little boost closer to the poverty line–the general assumption that was supposed to be the intent of social services, before it wasn’t. That means we’d need to see a minimum guaranteed income in or around the $19000 per year range to be considered closeish to the cutoff line. Doable, perhaps, but not easy–and it still won’t be entirely equal, though it would be more equal than the current system.

This is the part where I start to throw numbers at you. So if you’re the type that goes crosseyed at the prospect, 1: I know the feeling and 2: I warned you. Ontario’s minimum wage is about $11.25 as it stands right now. Crunch a few numbers based on a 40-hour work week, and you come out with $23400 in before-tax income on the year. Assuming they set the cutoff for this new guaranteed income plan at $19000, the actual hourly rate would be just slightly over $2 cheaper (at $9.13, based on that same 40-hour work week). So anyone who can’t find a job for more reasons than I feel like ever writing down in an entry would still lose out, but not by all that much in the grand scheme of things–and by a whole lot less than what they do now. Contrast this with the maximum you’d be entitled to on a system like ODSP, without the extras for things like special dietary requirements. Based on that same 40-hour work week, an ODSP recipient who’s actually entitled to the maximum allowed would earn $13176 on the year, or $6.33 per hour. Nearly half what Ontario’s current minimum wage is at present. And with the insentives against going out and finding work (see above), which would only end up hurting you long-term unless you found work at a rate of pay significant enough that it cancels out your ODSP entirely, the situation doesn’t end up actually doing a whole lot of helping you–and even if it does, the extra paperwork it requires, and the multiple opportunities for that extra paperwork to grow legs and wander off somewhere, don’t make it something most people look forward to actually doing.

Contrast that to the process for either reducing or getting completely off the minimum guaranteed income list–or getting back on it, if somewhere down the road your prospects take a turn for the nonexistent. As I said elsewhere, presumedly you’re filing your income taxes whether you’re working or not, particularly if you’ve got student loans–as keeping track of that becomes slightly easier at that point when it comes time to figure out how much of those loans you can claim credit for paying back. If the system is set up properly, meaning tied to your income tax filings similar to some other benefits you can claim from the government, then your eligibility for the minimum guaranteed income is either validated or revoked by virtue of the very same process you’d be going through anyway. So our person making minimum wage above, while maybe not flying in style, would be able to get himself off the minimum guaranteed income provision just by indicating he now has a job that pays him that minimum wage. If yearly income is more than minimum income threshold, minimum income doesn’t apply. If he later ends up losing that job and taking employment insurance, then the next time he files his taxes he’ll likely come in at or below the theoretical $19000 income cutoff. There’s probably a lot of room for maneuverability and all sorts of fun and games to make the system a little more fluid than the example I’ve just described, but given it’s a thought bubble at worst at the moment and a working theory sitting on some government staffer’s stack of paperwork at best, I’m using what I have to work with as a loose baseline. It will probably be challenged. Please do.

And now we get into the not so fun part of all this, and the reason I don’t expect to see one–not even one spearheaded by Alberta’s new NDP government–in the foreseeable future. The fairly significant matter of funding this provision. From the opinion piece on minimum guaranteed income linked earlier on:

But notice how it works. The benefit is a social obligation; thus, it is socially financed, i.e., through the tax and transfer system. Everybody pays for it (though the more you make the more you pay) and everybody is eligible for it (though the more you make the less you receive). It is available whether you are in work or out, and has no impact either on the willingness of workers to supply their labour or the willingness of employers to demand it.

The problem, roughly summarized, is that everybody pays. So the people who would have an issue with handing over their money for social assistance funding would very likely still have an issue with handing it over for this fund. The difference is, on a more technical level, they’d be as eligible to receive the benefit as, say, I would–though perhaps, depending on their particular situation, they might not see it that way if they’re paying in more on balance than they’re technically getting out of it. The trick, then, would be to frame that discussion in such a way that it’s not so much a net loss to the ones doing most of the paying. Which, incidentally, is precisely why I don’t particularly see it happening any time soon.

governments of just about any stripe, on principle, mean well–at least when they initially take office. They have their ideas, their pet projects, their whatever, but at the end of the day, they ran on something they thought would improve the situation. They were elected on that something. Then they get into the details and one of two things happens. either the government decides–truthfully or not–that the thing they ran on is quite a bit more involved to put in place than they figured, so they try to dance around it without being run over by the train of broken promises let loose by the government they just replaced, or the details of what they’re looking to implement are–mostly–released to the public, who decides that wasn’t what they signed on for in the first place, and that thing that got the government elected isn’t quite as popular now as it was on election day. Either way, like so many other potentially decent ideas, the details get hung up on how it’s being paid for, who’s paying, how much and why isn’t $GroupOfTheWeek exempt from these new taxes. Enter the problem with getting something like this minimum income provision approved. If any government with this kind of a brainstorm doesn’t articulate it exactly right, and I haven’t seen a government yet with that particular ability, the media will be pumping out headlines to the tune of “$government introduces new employment tax” and that’ll be the end of that in incredibly short order.

I would love, absolutely, to see a system of minimum guaranteed income put in place. I’d openly support something like that–and might actually be convinced to vote for anyone who’d willingly step up to the plate with an idea like that. It’s a sad, sad shame such a beast doesn’t exist.

Ontario votes tomorrow, for what it’s worth.

I may be just a teeny tiny bit synical. I’m surprised I wasn’t flat out called that during a conversation I had with someone on Twitter with regards tomorrow’s election. But sitting here right now, I’m not seeing much in the way for potential for change when the smoke clears. For the purposes of full disclosure, I’m slightly partial to what I’ve heard from Tim Hudak in recent weeks–not partial enough to skip class and go vote for the man, but partial in the sense that we know what we’re getting if Wynne or Horwath end up on top when everything’s settled.

The interesting thing isn’t particularly what will or won’t happen if the right or wrong person ends up elected premier, depending on your perspective. The interesting thing is what an opinion on who might be worth handing a fair shot to will get you if you offer it up to the wrong crowd.

I made the mistake of mentioning in a Twitter conversation that if I were actually inclined to vote tomorrow, I’d give serious thought to letting Hudak have at it. Not because I think he’d be the best fit for governing Ontario, but because I know what I’m getting with Wynne or Horwath–and that’s not the best fit for governing anything. specificly from my perspective, Hudak can’t do any more or less damage to me financially or otherwise than the current setup already has. And yet, saying that gets me a free ride to the unconditional supporters list, from at least one journalist on the “Hudak will ruin your life” bandwagon.

When I mentioned I’d go for Hudak if I went for anyone at all, based on the fact he couldn’t do any worse with things from my perspective, journalist Lorraine Sommerfeld decided I needed an education. when I did the math for her, showing that people on ODSP were pretty much an afterthought by both the liberals and NdP, her response was to shift the conversation to what the Harris conservatives provincially, or the Harper conservatives federally, have historically done–that is to say, she didn’t actually counter what I mentioned at all, but chose to back up her point that I’m significantly in the Hudak camp. The more I tried to disabuse her of that idea, the more convinced she was that she had me pegged spot on. And in so doing, she confirmed what has escentially been my reason for not voting in the first place.

Whether or not we wake up with a conservative government come Friday morning, it’s going to do all kinds of hurting between now and the next election. That’s no secret. Expenses are going to need to be cut. Either that, or taxes are going to need to be raised. That means either things like ODSP are going to get trimmed back (the supposedly guaranteed result if the conservatives win), or more of our limitted–and fixed–income will be going towards taxes, fees etc to cover off what anyone who knows even the basics of math will tell you is a significant gap between funds required and funds available. It doesn’t solely affect people on ODSP, but people on ODSP will feel it more–because if the government (any government) decides it needs to dial back on expenses, the cost of keeping us afloat will easily make the list.

But the fact that it’ll hurt just as much whether we wake up with a liberal, conservative or NDP government is secondary. The problem with the vote, at least insofar as this election goes, is it’s purely a partisan thing, end of story. You’re not, necessarily, picking the best candidate for the job when you’re out to vote. You’re picking the candidate that closest matches your preferred party, for better or worse. Actually looking at the candidates, the platforms, the talking points–that’s apparently the exception rather than the rule. So is, clearly, explaining why you’re at least willing enough to talk about it if not vote for it–that’s a thing you just don’t do, you see.

So rather than get some kind of an explanation as to why in creation Lorraine would vote for the liberals or NDP, I instead get a historic explanation of why I aught not to vote conservative (neverminding that I said I wouldn’t be voting anyway). And a gentle pointer to her Monday column in which I’m treated to more of the same.

At no point did I make mention to the fact she shouldn’t be voting for Wynne or Horwath. It’s her vote, she can park it where she pleases. But where I was looking for an idea why, with everything we now know has gone on with the liberals in charge and the NDP smiling and nodding alongside, she’d be willing to continue to park her vote there, she had no interest in actually talking about it. You either agree with her that Hudak is evil, or she’s got no time for an actual conversation about why the other two are more deserving.

I don’t care enough about politics on a municipal, provincial or federal level to take it to partisan levels. The positives look the same whether a liberal, conservative, NDP or Green candidate’s putting them on display. And so do the negatives. I’ve come up with my own impressions and ideas on the various platforms, for whatever that might be worth later on. But if a majority of the folks who come out to vote tomorrow adopt the attitude Lorraine’s showing here, even if they don’t necessarily adopt her party, voting stops being something we do because it’s our right. It stops being something we do for the good of the city, province, country, what have you. We line up with the party who’s leader we like, and fall in behind him or her all the way to the polling station. And when the dust settles, the numbers are worked out and whoever has managed to get more of their own true believers out to vote wins it all. And for what? For the good of democracy, perhaps. But for the good of the province remains a little questionable. Too bad there are folks who won’t hear the question.

For the hundredth time, enough of toronto’s walking circus already.

So for those of you living under a rock, toronto has its very own walking circus. That self same walking circus has decided it’s not done dragging the city down the pipes from a PR perspective, so it’s off to the races in its second shot at being mayor. And yet, the media doesn’t even really wanna talk about its second shot at being mayor. So instead, we get treated to things like its attendance at a Leafs game. Or when it decides to show up at a football game wearing the team’s jersey. Or when it gets told it’s not allowed into a lounge area–presumedly where there happens to be alcohol service–at the aforementioned Leafs game.

Granted I don’t live in toronto, so wouldn’t have a dog in this fight regardless. But let’s draw some comparisons here, if we can. Quebec’s got themselves an election tomorrow. Ontario may or may not have itself an election between now and 2015. Canada’s got a federal election coming up in 2015, whether the government likes it or not. What we’re hearing from all of those corners, with maybe the exception of the federal one (more on that in another entry later), is the beginnings of actual election platforms–and, in Quebec, the plank by plank dismantling of the same. But in Toronto, the majority of the attention is focused on the circus–and not even because the circus is dangling a platform in front of our noses. Hell, even in situations where there’s a potential person to carry on the supposed politics started by the circus without the, you know, circus, we’re hearing less of a platform and more of a “This is what you *shouldn’t* be doing if you’re Toronto’s mayor.”. Which just about anyone with an ounce of common sense already knows, which is why this post refers to him as the circus and not, instead, as toronto’s current mayor.

Okay, we get it. It’s a walking, talking, political bombshell. Some might even go so far as to say a public relations disaster if not a financial one. So why is the media (note: by the media, I don’t just mean the toronto Star–although they should probably be entitled to their own special place among the media by now) still eating all of this up? If the circus is at a hockey game, the media should be following someone like, let’s say, Olivia Chow around instead–and maybe somehow managing to coax something that vaguely resembles how she intends to pay for yet another local transit brainstorm. Or see if John Tory can give something for the opinion pages aside from his code of conduct. Like, you know, an election platform. I’d even settle, grudgingly, for more about Sarah Thomson, if I must. Just please, for the love of anything and everything sane, enough about the circus already. The reruns are killing me.

That’s what ya do with a drunken traveller… (*)

So. I get all ready to mock the hell out of another city’s politicians for doing something absolutely braindead stupid, and instead they go off and throw some common sense at me. I mean what’s with that, anyway? Aren’t they all supposed to have given that up as a prerequisit for, uh, being politicians? So what’s the occasion? As it turns out, cab companies in Woodstock get an aweful lot of, shall we say, less than sober passengers on weekends. Who knew? Could probably say the same thing for, say, Toronto. Or Ottawa. Or Kitchener. Or pretty much anywhere that has bars and taxi services. Some of these passengers don’t necessarily have the ability to keep all the booze they’ve slammed before calling their cab where it belongs. Or, for that matter, keep just about any other fluid that doesn’t belong in the back of a taxi cab from, you know, being in the back of a taxi cab. According to folks that are pushing for this, it costs about $120 to have a cab professionally cleaned after one of these alcoholicly fluid-filled episodes. The city’s solution? You break it, you buy it.

The City of Woodstock is looking into imposing a $120 charge on anyone who vomits or leaves other bodily fluids in taxis.

Taxi companies in the southwestern Ontario city have been complaining about an increase in intoxicated passengers on Friday and Saturday nights.

A taxi industry representative recently told council that vomit and other body fluids must be dealt with as a bio hazard and the affected cab must be taken off the road until it is professionally cleaned.

That costs about $120.

The city plans to consult with its solicitor, police and bylaw enforcement officials before coming up with a report on how to deal with the issue.

Of course I wouldn’t place any money on not hearing about this again because someone’s taken the idea to court, but hey, if more cities did this they’d probably not need to be charging the responsible folks so damn much for, you know, being the responsible folks. Yeah, I know–I really aughta stop with this whole thinking thing. But since that’s not gonna happen…

(*): for maximum effect, sing the title of this post to this song and enjoy. Then, see if maybe your city does something similar. And for the love of all things sane if the answer is no, ask them what the hell they’re not thinking.

Rob Ford gets the remix treatment. I may or may not still be snickering.

So. When you’ve escentially been cornered and forced to admit to smoking crack by way of every single one of your denials blowing up in your face, you pretty much can’t go any lower, right? Of course not. It’s when your public life, scandalous as it might be, becomes the very material worthy of a snerkwhile remix that you pretty much can’t go any lower. See also: Rob Ford yesterday, versus Rob Ford today. Very quite probably the best kind of spin ever put on a Rob Ford the Crackmayor story. And I didn’t have a damn thing to do with it. It’s not embedded, so RSS and email types should have no problem grabbing it. stream and/or download the thing at will–I don’t think it’s covered under copyright.

Hat tip to KiSS 92.5, who actually put this thing together. I only wish I coulda been there for the mashing.

Update: And right on the heels of this one, a remix of Ford’s crack confession hits Youtube. This one’s an embed, unfortunately, so if you’re reading this by way of RSS or email you’ll need to click over to the site and smack play. but it just might be worth it. You may suck as Toronto’s mayor, but you’ve got a future in what passes for modern music, Rob old chap.

An open letter to Justin Trudeau.

Good evening, Justin. Can I call you Justin? It didn’t take long for you to go all high and mighty so far as the senate kerfuffle’s concerned. And why wouldn’t you? I mean–if a word of what Mike Duffy–nevermind those other two–came up with this week is even remotely true, I’d probably be right there agreeing with you on Twitter. And why not? This is a soap opera of Stephen Harper’s making, so naturally, it falls to him to claim it as his own, right?

Why, of course he does. He made the bed, he might aughta think about getting nice and comfortable–and securing himself a halfway decent lawyer if this thing does, as I know you’re hoping, end up going to trial. You get no argument from me there either. But here’s a thing what interests me.

You’re up in arms about something Stephen Harper, a conservative, may or may not have had a direct hand in setting a blaze based on the word of Mike Duffy, another conservative. And, as I said, that in and of itself is fine. Meanwhile, 5 hours away from you, your provincial counterpart’s in a mess of her very own–one that she and Dalton Mcguinty each had a hand in making, albeit the latter’s finger prints were probably all over a lot more of it than hers. And let’s maybe not drudge up, again, the entire reason the liberal party’s a teeny tiny little bit of a mess federally, yeah?

So I’m just kind of wondering. Did Kathleen Wynne, just for a start, get something similar from you? Maybe in a private email? Since, you know, if she ends up finishing the tank job Mcguinty started on the liberal party in Ontario, you can’t honestly tell me that won’t come back and hurt the liberals federally.

And let’s talk about Mcguinty for a second, speaking of taking responsibility and showing leadership. Telling folks to escentially go screw themselves they were getting a gas plant, then cancelling that gas plant when it actually occured to him that hey, these people vote liberal. And doing it twice. Then ducking and running when it looked for 10 seconds like he might just be sunk. He didn’t tell the media what he knew and when he knew it either. He sat on documentation that could have and eventually did shoot his entire narative in both feet with a smile for as long as he possibly could. Then he prorogued the legislature–a no-no in your book, apparently–and resigned before anyone could nail him to the wall for it. He’s at harvard now, if you’re curious. Are you thinking maybe he might also aughta come on back and testify under oath to what he knew and when? Considering, I mean, there’s a lot more out in the open that points directly at him–and a Mike Duffy wasn’t really all that required, by the way.

Somehow I’m pretty sure that consideration hasn’t really entered your mind, either publicly or privately. Actually I’m pretty sure you are and were fairly immune to that consideration, if we’re being entirely honest. Which begs the question. Is there a different set of rules for members of your own party, or did these just kind of slip your mind on account of they have no direct baring on whether or not you eventually become prime minister–I mean outside the fact if the liberals are sunk in Ontario that’s probably an added complication you’d rather not actually have to deal with.

I get that most politicians are the sort with a rulebook for me and a rulebook for thee. That part doesn’t really surprise me. But you’re supposed to be the different one, here. Doing politics differently, you’ve said a few times. From where I’m sitting, this part’s looking pretty close to business as usual to me. Not all that great if actually trying to get folks my age out to vote’s a thing you’re aiming for, Justin. A little consistent honesty–hey look, another different kind of politics–wouldn’t hurt either. But I’m guessing you’re not quite ready for that yet. Damn shame, that.

I won’t be one of those folks who decide to go after you on account of the only thing on your resume’s the fact you were a drama teacher. that’s been done to absolute death, and really, we’ve all seen what happens when a true academic grabs hold of the wheel. Not pretty, kids. But you can’t sit there and call someone on the carpet for pulling a stunt or 5 you’d otherwise have no problem with if you and he sat on the same side of the house. You especially can’t be doing that if the whole aim of your leadership campaign and gearing up for 2015’s election is that things would be different under prime minister Justin Trudeau. Well, you can–but I’d not want to be in the same room with you while you tried pulling off the mental gymnastics that would give a thing like this a remote chance of sounding like something that maybe might make a little sense if you just let it sit long enough.

So, mr. politics done differently, can we have some different politics please? For a start, a little consistency–particularly with members of your own party who wind themselves up on camera having shoved their hands up to the wrist into the cookie jar? Failing that, could you perhaps restrain yourself from openly supporting people for federal office who most of your potential voters would rather see in jail–even if they fly the same banner you do? Could that be a thing? If you could give that a try, that might actually be something I could call kind of awesome. And hey, if it ends up being something you don’t need to lie about, that’d work too. I mean you still wouldn’t be someone I’d vote for, but it’d be an improvement. Maybe someone more in your circle can work with that and I don’t have to entirely dismiss the political class. I’d honestly love to be able to say I voted for a change. Right now, I can’t. Make me, and we’ll have something here. But until that happens, I’d settle for a raincheck on the hipocricy. Really, that’s not doing you any favours anyway.

The government wants you to pick your TV channels. Here’s why it won’t happen.

So around the middle of last week or so, there was a big to-do around the speech from the throne–that’s the kickoff to the new legislative session, for those folks what read this who aren’t up on their Canadian politics. The government’s decided, what with it being 2 years before the next election and all, that now would be the absolute perfect time to go all consumers first on us. Taking aim at cell phone bills. At the trend of selling 75 tickets for a 60-seater airplane. At those fees you cough up for the privelege of being able to pull cash out of a bank machine on the rare occasion in freaking 2013 where you actually still need to pull cash out of a bank machine. But my absolute favourite part of the throne speech was aimed squarely at folks like Rogers, who I’ve gone back and forth and back again with a few times for pulling the stupid out of thin air. It’s my favourite not because I expect it to actually have a chance in hell of happening, but rather because there are too many wicked obvious reasons, just taking into account the TV viewing habbits in this house, why it’s got every chance in this world and the next of not happening.

Our Government believes Canadian families should be able to choose the combination of television channels they want. It will require channels to be unbundled, while protecting Canadian jobs.

Don’t get me wrong. It sounds awesome. And if it actually happens, I’d absofreakinglutely love to be proven wrong–I’ll take those words with a side of fries and a coke, please. But it’s not happening, or it’ll be a long freaking way off if it does. An explanation, in list format, based on viewing paterns here in the last year or so. Because lazy, efficient, and why freaking not?

  • The most regular watching that’d be happening now, if Rogers and I were on speaking terms not related to arguing over their various levels of broken, would be hockey. And very little of that, unless I wanted to watch the Senators ruin what’s left of their season.
  • I’m in Ottawa, so Leafs TV isn’t happening. If you’re local, go ahead and call your provider to ask–it won’t exist for you. Thank the Senators in particular and the NHL in general.
  • Even if a chunk of the games wouldn’t be broadcast on Leafs TV, living in Ottawa means I get the local feed of stations like, for instance, sportsnet Ontario. I’ve yet to find a workaround for that. So if Toronto and Ottawa are playing on the same night and broadcasting on the same channel, I get Ottawa. Which is awesome, except I’m not looking to *watch* Ottawa.
  • That leaves the CBC, and Hockey Night in Canada. Fortunately there are enough of those channels that at least one of them will be broadcasting the Leafs game even if Ottawa’s playing on the same night. Of course the CBC also has HNIC online for streaming or on-demand purposes, so I technically need not even be concerned with that necessarily. Not to mention several radio stations will stream the games–it’s how I can follow even the ones the NHL won’t let me watch on TV in the first place.

Second on the list would be baseball, unless the Jays actually manage to outsuck themselves next year.

  • Most of those games are on one or the other of TSN or Sportsnet, so if I absolutely had no other option but TV I could still watch pretty much all of those.
  • Again, they’re also carried on several dozen radio stations, one of them local, so if I had to there’s that option as well.
  • Plus, Gameday Audio. Which, let’s be honest–for the price you pay it would almost be worth cancelling cable for the summer anyway. I mean unless you’re a fan of reruns but I address those below.

Trailing behind both of those, but not by much, is the occasional tuning into CPAC–that’s Canada’s answer to CSPAN, for you US political folks. Because while it can be interesting to read about political events unfolding, depending on the event it may be more interesting to actually watch it live. I mean I didn’t tune in to listen to the whole damn throne speech, but I’ve had question period on in the background while I’ve done things around the house–it’s a thing to do. That’s also streamed online, so again if it were a thing I needed to watch for reasons, that would hardly be problematic by any means.

Game Show Network. That gets watched every now and again, mostly if May and I happen to be downstairs at the same time with little else to do. I haven’t yet found an alternative to requiring a TV for that, but I also wouldn’t lose sleep over it if I never had that channel on again. There are probably several less than legal ways to catch hold of at least most of those shows, but again, doesn’t really bother me enough to go wandering about looking.

All things wrestling, but mostly of the pay per view variety and primarily for May’s benefit rather than my own. Again, most if not all of those are probably available online if you’d rather not cough up the cash and don’t mind waiting a day or two for them to come available, but if you’d actually like to know what’s happening before John Q. Fanatic with a cable package and a pay per view order in decides to get on Twitter and advertise it, you’re ponying up the dollars. But you’d be doing that anyway whether or not you paid for 900 other channels of which you may only watch 2.

Local/national news. This one used to be huge back before things like RSS feeds and Twitter took right the hell off. Part of my routine was come home, fix me something to eat, flip on the news then flip over to hockey or baseball or whatever after. Now, I can’t recall the last time I actually had a news station on for specificly news related purposes. This includes both the TV and radio versions. I mean sure, I’ll flip on an all-news radio station once in a while. But nine times in ten I go back to the computer after on account of I’ll find more info online on whatever story I’m following. And the rest of the time that particular all-news station’s broadcasting the Jays game, so we’re good.

New episodes of current shows, and reruns of older ones. I honestly just about snickered writing this, but it’s still a thing. The only time I actually sit down to watch a CSI or Big Bang Theory or something like that on TV now is when I’m at my parents’. Because being realistic over here, they’re not all that technical enough to be going out and scraping the interwebs for the same damn thing. Besides–it makes for fairly good background noise while we sit down to supper and talk about taking the backroads to get out there by way of greyhound. But other than that, I’ve got an external HD full of TV crap and the ability to glom onto more if the need be.

Looking at that list, there’s actually nothing on it that’s really up in the “must have it” category. I mean sure, GSN would be nice occasionally, but unless Rogers and friends decided to start massively overcharging on a per-channel basis (ha), it would almost cost more in extra service fees and crap they’d no doubt tack onto the bill than it would for the actual channel. Assuming the price for pay per views don’t do some massive skyrocketting as a result, and assuming a per-channel rate of we’ll call it a generous–in my opinion, anyway–$10, the highest bill for cable services we’d see around here for our one channel and maybe a pay per view, before any additional service charges and the like, would run about $70 or $80. That’s on the outside. Assuming the cable/satelite providers stuck to the theoretical $10 per channel model, and assuming the average subscriber watches more actual TV than we do here, that can add up amazingly quickly–to the tune of roughly what we pay for the package we’ve got now, most of which neither May nor I have bothered actually watching, for maybe 6 or 7 channels. That before you factor in any of the pay per view goodness. And this assumes they decide to do the flat rate thing re: that per channel fee–a mighty fine assumption, given who I’m talking about. Suddenly things look a lot less like the consumers first picture the throne speech painted for us. Which is why I’m not holding my breath when it comes to actually seeing this become a thing. It’s a wicked nifty cool idea, in theory. The problem with theory, though, is it dies a death just as soon as it meats reality. Putting this kind of thing into practice will be a right royal hot mess. And in the meantime, I’ll be over here watching the Leafs online. But hey, thanks for trying, guys. I owe ya one.

20 absolutely ridiculous government shutdown pick-up lines.

I’m as much a fan of poking a government on its way off a financial cliff in the eye as the next guy. It’s actually a personal hobby of mine. So I was about knee-deep in all manner of government shutdown tweets. Most of them were snarky. Some of them were even funny. None of them were nearly as left field as the Ottawa Sun’s 20 government shutdown pick-up lines. I’ve omitted the “funny” from their title. Because no.

Aside from actually somewhat improving the song, I got nothing. There’s 19 more just like that one in the article. You’re trying too hard, Ottawa Sun. You went for funny and came back with ridiculous. but, A+ for effort. Cash it in somewhere special.

On the NSA: 2013 Obama versus 2006 Biden.

Because we’ve had very little actual debate about what the hell the NSA’s in the middle of and if we even really need or want it there (thanks bunches, secret courts of secret interpretations of otherwise not so secret laws), somebody thought it might be fun to create one. So now, we have the 2013, pro-NSA Barack Obama versus the 2006 apparently anti-NSA Joe Biden. And just for the record, the 2006 side wins. If it wasn’t for the fact he probably won’t be in politics after the 2014 election, I’d be placing bets on how long before someone uses this in an ad campaign. Ah screw it. Who’d like to make a wager?

Why I’d never be in politics, part 2: Even in 2013, your background can sink you.

Last month, I went into a bit of an essay on why exactly I’d have absolutely nothing at all to do with anything political. Simply put, there’s no honesty in it whatsoever–and, in fact, a guaranteed way to see yourself quickly shown the door is to express some of that honesty, whether it’s got support from the people who voted you in or not. I was reminded of this after the National Post published an entire page of letters on the topic, most of them agreeing politics and honesty don’t go all that well together–and referencing recent events like the mess around Toronto mayors and their aledged crack habbits, or the slightly less B-movie-inspiring soap opera around senators and misbegotten tax dollars. What no one on that page mentioned though is you almost need to be willing and more than able to disconnect yourself from reality, if only to distance yourself from your family background, before you even consider the thought of running for office.

For the first time since this broke, I’m going to break my rule and dip my toe into the Rob Ford mess in toronto. Because as this thing unfolds, it escentially explains my point. Let’s leave out, just for the sake of argument, your opinion on how well–or not–Ford managed things with the city since he was elected. That’s a non-issue insofar as this goes, particularly considering he could have spent the last two years in hospital and the city wouldn’t have gone to pieces around him on account of if he’s got no one backing him, he’s got about as much power on council as any one of the guys who decided about the day after he was elected that he had to go. But it outlines one of the problems with running for office pretty much anywhere, on pretty much any platform that makes a degree of sense. As soon as someone decides they don’t agree with you, the gloves come off. It looks vaguely like the toronto Star versus the Fords. Or certain columnists versus Justin Trudeau. Or even normally sensible people versus Stephen Harper (disclaimer: I’m not a Stephen Harper supporter. I just don’t see the point in slagging the guy for breathing.). And the only thing that really gets accomplished is attention is drawn from whichever issue prompted the disagreement in the first place.

I’ll go back to the Ford thing, because it’s happening now and honestly, trying to pull evidence of the Harper thing could take for bloody ever just to sift through it all. Both Rob and his councillor brother Doug could benefit from a quick crash course in public relations management. Or, failing that, a lesson in how not to piss the current ones off. That’s no secret. And whether you’re a Ford supporter or not, that much has to be admitted up front before anything else. And yes, they could probably do with maybe not having shared an opinion or two. But if you really do get what you paid for, then my guess would be the media’s been paying for this since the target was painted. And it translates to roughly what we’re seeing here.

Last weekend, everyone was expecting–in fact, almost demanding–that toronto mayor Rob Ford address accusations that he’s been caught on video smoking crack. Even if it was to deny the reports, they wanted something. This past weekend, Ford finally did deny the reports–and many of the folks who said they’d be fine with that turned around and then said he was lying–that now, the only thing he could possibly do is resign. A side story came up near the end of this past week that says in the 80’s, Doug was a hash dealer. The Globe and Mail had apparently been working on that particular story for 18 months, so this didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the kerfuffle as regards to Rob, but it was released in connection to the last week’s events, as a sort of profile of the Ford family–an indication that, in politics, nothing is off-limits. And folks in the political and journalism arenas have run with it since–the connection being, of course, “Rob Ford smokes–or, at least, smoked–crack. This isn’t new to him. Drugs are in his family.”.

Admittedly not having as sharp of a political nose as I maybe should, I can’t see how a report like that does much more damage to Rob than what he’s already doing to himself, save maybe periferally. The damage, if any at all results from this report by itself, would seem to land more at Doug’s feet–possibly a warning shot in the event he follows through with his brainstorm to run for the provincial conservatives in the next election, whenever that ends up being. But if timing is everything, then by publishing it now, the Globe is hoping I’m wrong in that assessment–and, at the same time, indicating how far outside the arena they’ll go to drive their idea of Doug, and presumedly Rob, home to anyone who’ll listen.

As it stands now, Toronto’s current soap opera goes vaguely something like this. A video exists, say 3 people who’ve seen it, that shows Rob Ford smoking crack. No one except these 3 reporters have seen the video. Ford, acting–his explanation, not mine–on the advice of his lawyer, stayed the hell quiet for a week before denying the reports and saying he’s not adicted to crack and doesn’t smoke crack–choosing his words carefully, in other words, according to a few. “Not good enough. You’re lying. Resign already and get help.” And as if to prove the point, the Doug Ford story comes out. Rob’s older brother, A.K.A. guy with the hash. In his teenaged years, he was the go-to for the good stuff, the report says. Doug, naturally, denies the hell out of it. But still, it’s just one more thing to add to the list where the two of them are concerned. People will react to it how they will, even if how they will roughly equates to not at all, but it shouldn’t have needed to go that far.

The Globe and Mail, as said earlier, was working on this story for a year and a half. Meaning at some point, crackstarter notwithstanding, they planned to release a profile of at least one of the Ford brothers as a teenager involved in the drug scene. Pinning this as a Ford family profile, as they have, implies that crackstarter campaign notwithstanding, they would have gone ahead and published the story regardless because, as the Globe’s editor said, these are people of public interest running on an anti-drug platform.

When explaining to readers how its story was in the public interest, the Globe noted that the Ford brothers hold sway over much of the city’s business and have campaigned on anti-drug platforms.

“The rest of city council, and citizens at large, deserve to understand the moral record of their leaders. In most matters, public or private, character matters,” Globe Editor-in-Chief John Stackhouse wrote in a column accompanying Saturday’s article.

So as a public service to the community, the Globe and Mail decided it had to let the citizens of toronto know that at least one of the men they voted for may or may not have done something stupid in his teens. For the record, I’ve done something stupid in my teens. Sure, it’s not quite on the level of the drug trade (I, like Rob, have a brother who may or may not have done that for me), but I’ve been pretty brainless. Mind, I also have been very careful to stay as far away from public office as humanly possible. Why? Because even if I haven’t done anything more than shoplift at the age of 13, I’ve got family and they’ve got baggage. And, as the Globe and Mail points out above, the voting public would deserve to understand my moral record–especially if I decided, say, to run for office on an anti-drug platform–or, I guess, as of right now on an anti-shoplifting platform. And because my family’s got baggage, any number of today’s current issues could come back to bite me in the rear were I to bother with running for office. Tough versus soft on crime? Check. Legalizing or decriminalizing pot? Check. Upping the penalties for sexual assault? Check. The list goes on. And all it takes is one or two of the several people I’ve crossed paths with that I’ve managed to piss off in the nearly 30 years I’ve been pissing people off and at least one reporter with 5 minutes to catch a story over coffee. Proof? Why, the word of someone who says they knew me is proof enough. What does it matter if I didn’t stand in a public place and pass a joint back and forth with a bunch of other folks? The reporter for the local paper’s got two people I haven’t spoken to since before I was voting age that says I did.

Honesty wouldn’t make a difference in my very hypothetical situation, and it doesn’t make a difference in the Ford mess. Sure, both Fords could be flat out telling the truth. Hell, even one of them could be telling the truth. Of course it’s equally–and some would argue quite a bit more–likely that both of them are flat out lying with a straight face. But it doesn’t matter. Because 3 people saw a video owned by a guy who’d like to remain nameless, Rob’s guilty. Because the Globe heard from people probably still in the drug trade, who because they’re likely still in the drug trade would like to remain nameless, Doug is likely going to end up equally guilty. And whether one, both or neither of them were involved in anything remotely on the north side of the law, this will follow them into any future election one or both of them decide to take on. Doug running for the conservatives in the next election? I can already see the liberal ad campaign. Rob running for another term as Toronto’s mayor? Win or lose that one–and folks are saying he’d win if it happened today, anyone running against him has that to hit him over the head with. They have plenty of other, much more proveable things to beat him over the head with, but tell me that one wouldn’t make the list. It doesn’t have to be true. It just has to stick in the back of someone’s mind long enough for them to get to the polls and stick an X next to someone who’s last name isn’t Ford.

If you have any baggage at all, be it your own or that of a relative, public service of nearly any variety is almost 100% not the place for you. A rare exception is those who, through whatever means they manage to do it, can distance themselves from that baggage and its causes. And even then, it’s only one “investigative report” away from being front page news 30 years later. We all have things we’d have rathered not done. Most of us, I’d like to hope, are smart enough to have learned from those things and maybe aranged things in such away that some of them don’t end up repeated. I don’t plan to be anywhere near public office now, but in 20 years, who knows? Maybe something I write here will be the springboard that pushes me in that direction. Maybe instead I’ll get a job doing AOL style tech support for John Q. Customer and what my uncle was involved in before I was born won’t need to be justified, denied, explained away, covered up or any number of other things people have done to their past before they undertake a career in public service. I’d like to say maybe in 20 or 25 years it won’t matter, but that might be being slightly too generous–and I don’t feel like being that generous. But as long as people’s backgrounds are front page news, because somebody somewhere did something that can be used to make a point, it won’t matter whether you’ve got the next mother Theresa running for office. If you go the dishonest route, you can make a decent living out of it–at least until somebody comes up with a background article that focuses on that drug ring your cousin was arrested for being involved in 2 weeks after you graduated. If you decide to take the honest approach, you’re sunk on sight. Because an anti-drug advocate who was into drugs when he was 16 just can’t happen. And if the guy running opposite you doesn’t make sure of that, the media almost certainly will. Even if you weren’t actually into drugs. For proof, you need only look at Rob and Doug Ford.

Dear Amy. It was a wrong number. Signed, God.

Most of you have probably already seen some variation of this. The owner of Amy’s Baking Company, in arizona, figures cooking is what she was born to do. She remains so convinced of this that she started, with help from her husband, a restaurant. Just one problem. Pretty much no one who’s ever been there, including the staff, agrees. That hasn’t stopped her, of course, from proclaiming this precisely what God intended her to do–and creating no fewer than a dozen lables for everyone under the sun who’s ever disagreed.

So when Gordon Ramsay, of Kitchen Nightmares fame, agreed to do an episode about her restaurant, she took it as a sign from God. Sheff Ramsay, she said, would prove all the hateful haters who hate dead wrong. Except, of course, for that small part wherein just no (note: Long video is long. It’s why we’re not embedding it here, thanks much.). Instead, everything folks were saying was wrong with this restaurant suddenly became wrong with this restaurant on national TV–and, now, on Youtube. And her reaction? Just keep screaming, screaming screaming. then play the appology card and announce the grand reopening. Because, you know, that works so well.

It must absolutely suck to go for a PR boost like that and have it absolutely blow up in your face. I mean not that I’d know, not being brainless enough to 1: continuously bang my head against a thing I just plain suck at and 2: nearly strangle myself with denial of the reality that I really do suck at it. It’s why you don’t see me anywhere near the kitchen in any capacity but the helpfully helpful. But you do have to wonder at what point it becomes apparent that God’s calling for you might have been a wrong number. If you’re Amy, it might aughta think about being somewhere around now. Mostly because I’m sure even he’s running out of ways to tell her.

Why I’d never do well in politics. Thank heavens I’ve never tried.

I’ve always had a passing interest in politics. Mostly in the following of things. Occasionally, I’ll find some aspect of a party or a specific member that I agree with–but more often than not, I find something to mock. It’s why I’ve never considered myself really right wing, left wing, whatever. Both sides have brilliant ideas. Both sides have moronic ideas. And both sides have more than a few just plain morons. But the thing that keeps me from going from a passive follower of politics to actually being directly involved isn’t a right or left thing. It’s an honesty thing. Specificly, there’s little to none. It’s a disconnect from the majority view, or even a view that a significant number of the common folk have that, if even hinted at by someone with political aspirations, is suicidal.

Take the recent example in BC, of an NDP candidate who was removed from the party over her comments, in 2009, about aborigional people and against bilingualism (she’s running as an independent now). Both have been bandied about by the common folk for years–I, myself, have snarked a time or six on this blog re: bilingualism (see also: Quebec, overfrenchification of). But because she holds these opinions, and wants to actually help fix the province of British Columbia, the two collide and she sinks. All on account of political correctness.

“It’s not the status cards, it’s the fact that we have been paying out of the nose for generations for something that isn’t our doing,” Van Ryswyk wrote on Feb. 11, 2009. “If their ancestors sold out too cheaply, it’s not my fault and I shouldn’t have to be paying for any mistake or whatever you want to call it from MY hard-earned money.”

“I don’t think anyone is saying that wrongs didn’t happen (incredible wrongs). You could have almost any race, group or ethnic people tell you horrible haunting stories of what happened to them. If someone did me wrong, it’s my right to sue … as it is everyone else’s.

“Again, how many Jewish, Polish, Russian, Dutch, etc. walked into a gas chamber, were gunned down, raped, tortured and starved to death. . . tell me how many Germans do you know that are handing over a (portion) of their paycheck EVERY month for what happened NOT very long ago. . .”

There is truth to this. BC’s NDP–and, in fact, just about every other party even federally–might not like it, but that changes a grand total of nothing about its truthfulness. These treaties were signed in the early 1900’s, before Canada was Canada. They were signed with Britain, and as I wrote before, weren’t supposed to be permanent life support. That aborigionals are still beating us over the head with them in 2013, sadly, says more about Canada’s various governments than it does the aborigionals–and the former NDP candidate turned independent acknowledged this fact. The catch? I don’t know very many who’d disagree. The NDP, however, prefers not to hear it.

It’s the same with bilingualism. Federally, the NDP has a vested interest in saying whatever Quebec wants to hear–because Quebec is the reason they’re the official opposition. So if the issue of the week is Ottawa isn’t French enough, the NDP’s all over it. Understandable. Annoying, but understandable. But in BC? French isn’t even the second most common language in the province. Even when I lived there–you were more likely to hear someone speaking Chinese before you would French. But calling out the ridiculousness of it, even after Quebec’s own 54 levels of ridiculous, shoots you in the foot politically–at least if you want to be a member of a party.

On a bilingual Canada in several posts, Dayleen wrote: “I’m getting so tired of getting french stuffed down my throat… this isn’t Quebec it’s western Canada… we speak English here … so does the majority of Canada. When you force it down my throat every time I turn around, it pisses me right off. Seems the only group of people universally hated around the world other than the Americans are the french and the French-Canadians. Their arrogance is astounding … the bigots are the french and not us.”

Example: Canada’s two official languages, as far west as BC and as far east as Nova Scotia, are English and French. Except in Quebec, who’s only official language is French–and they remind us of this every second chance they get. A pretty sizeable chunk of the attendees at just about any event held in BC will speak English, and probably some other language that isn’t French–if they speak multiple languages at all. But when an event comes up that even remotely references Quebec, according to Quebec, you’d better be busting out the French and pronto. That, or be prepared to have the folks across the river spend a year wining about it. Again, Dayleen had a point. And again, she expressed it. And again, it’s something a significant chunk of the common population’s said more than once, and thought way more often than that. And again, consider a career as a member of a political party out of the running as a result.

This is why I have never, and will never, consider a run in politics at any level. I’ve made my share of comments on these two topics myself. And probably several others that’d count against me. All they’d have to do, most likely, is toss a site-specific search into Google for any number of politically correct terms and I’d probably be blacklisted as a candidate. Because the two groups most in need of a swift kick in the rear end are the two you’re least allowed to give one–and everyone on both sides of the equasion knows it. Instead, I’ll just sit back, relax, grab a coke and watch things happen. And in 10 years or so, after we’ve gone through half a dozen more rounds of negotiation with aborigional reserves, and after Quebec’s signature still isn’t on Canada’s constitution as that childish little protest continues, I’ll come back and reread this post. And once again, be thankful I didn’t get the bright idea to jump into politics. I’ll watch from over here, thanks.

An open letter to Charles Sousa: Please don’t fubar ODSP.

I’m a little late to the party, but welcome to the fold, Charles. Taking over the finance ministry after the hot mess of the last, oh we’ll say 10 years can’t be what you were looking for when you ran for office. But, I suppose congratulations are still in order, given that–well, whether you were looking for it or not–it’s officially all yours. So, congratulations. Please don’t completely screw the pooch.

I don’t do well with preamble, and wouldn’t know what to do with it if I did, so I’ll get to the point. The Ontario disability Support Program (ODSP) has been the Ontario government’s favourite punching bag since the mid to late 90’s. In fact–that was, and is still, one of the things your liberal party continues to blame on the conservative government you replaced–a decade after you replaced them. Here’s the problem, though. The situation of people on ODSP hasn’t exactly done a whole lot of improving in that time. My last actual check on the ODSP situation, all of which you can easily brows over here, gave every indication that while people on ODSP are improving financially, they’re not doing so at a rate that will allow them to continue to live independently (disclosure: for the moment, I am one of those on ODSP, but I’m hoping to change that in the not too distant future). Added to that, the gap between what a person on ODSP receives and Ontario’s minimum wage–and, subsequently, what an able-bodied individual with nothing preventing them from finding and keeping work can and does earn–continues to widen, thus effectively defeating the purpose of a minimum wage when seen in the context of an individual who can’t find work due to a disability.

Presumedly, Ontario’s minimum wage was adjusted since 2004 to its current level of $10.25/hour to account for increases in cost of living. However, recipients of ODSP have not seen a similar increase–or, in fact, anything close to that over that exact same time. Assuming you’re getting the maximum allowable on ODSP, before any additional credits/bonuses/what have you such as an allowance to provide care for a guide dog, on an hourly basis you’ll top out at roughly $6.71, or $1075 per month. From that $1075 per month, you’re expected to pay for rent, electricity, groceries, heat, a phone (ODSP doesn’t consider it a necessity, but try getting a job or even reliably communicating with ODSP without it), and that’s just at a minimum. Want anything extra? Like, say, to be able to aford an air conditioner should your place not include it in the rent? For that matter, want to be able to live in a place that includes things like air conditioning in your rent? Not happening on current levels of ODSP. Especially not happening in a market like Toronto, Ottawa, or pretty much any other major city–thus ruling out pretty much any chance a recipient of ODSP has of moving to a location that would increase the recipient’s chances of finding work.

I get it. Ontario’s $9 billion in debt. You’re not expecting to see it clear that debt entirely until 2016. It might not have been quite so bad had it not been for a couple of gas plants, eHealth, the OLG mess, and the several other self-inflicted wounds that could have probably been avoided if somebody somewhere’d used their freaking brain. But it’s there, and now you get to deal with it. Awesome, except for all the ways in which it’s not. But “deal with it” doesn’t mean leave the folks on ODSP further behind than they already are. Paying rent shouldn’t need to come at the expense of shorting yourself a week’s worth of groceries, or going without heat in January so you don’t need to short yourself that week’s groceries. Do the math, Charles. Other current and former MPP’s already have, and it ain’t pretty. You have the ability to do more than provide lip service. Give it a try. If for no other reason than the opposition already has enough reason to want an election. Why go handing them a free one? That’s what I thought.

Beware corporate spying from China! … Or maybe not.

I’m going to blame the fact everything these days seems to be political when coming out of the US, even if it really doesn’t need to be. Because honestly, that’s about the only reason I can think of for a congressional committee, based on not much other than it wanted something to generate headlines, to go into an investigation having decided two Chinese telecom companies were involved in some high level spying–and improvising a report to say as much at its conclusion. The committee, investigating companies Huawei and ZTE, pretty much said the two companies were allowing the chinese government to use their equipment to hide trojan horses (escentially, software and/or hardware backdoors) that would allow the government to gain access to sensitive information, or to use that hardware to launch a cyber attack–basicly, bring down any service or website they so choose. Rather than coming up with some veriety of proof on their own, it was left to Huawei and ZTE to escentially prove they weren’t.

Leaving alone the fact it’s virtually impossible to prove the nonexistence of something–people have been trying to do that with religion for an age, and leaving alone the fact that not long after the release of this report, the whitehouse came out with its own and cleared the company, the question has to be asked. Did anyone on this committee happen to maybe consider that pretty much everything tech these days has spent at least some time in China before making it to wherever it’s now being used? Did no one maybe bring that up to the committee before they got the idea to hey, let’s go ahead with this investigation and see what sticks?

Of course it may be that, you know, being vaguely technical-minded that explanation comes far more natural to me than it would to, say, a career politician in his 50’s. But you would think that, you know, if China was actually on the lookout for ways to accomplish something like that, there’d be ample opportunity for them to do so without needing to expect that of one or two of their own companies who happen to have a market in the US. And you’d think at least one of these politicians, in their 50’s or no, would have somebody vaguely technical-minded on their staff who’d speak up about it. Of course the fact that they might not may very well be why we have things like this in the first damn place. at which point, look for one of those folks to be made aware in the near future that Apple makes pretty much all their iThings in China–well, until some point this year, anyway. I wonder how long it’d take for that investigation to unfold. Oh, wait–US companies with Chinese interests good. Chinese companies with US interests bad. I forgot that’s how these things work these days. Silly me. Oh well. The thought was fun while it lasted.

The conspiracy theorists have found me. And ya know what? They’re kind of adoreable.

There’s whacky, messed up spam, there’s loopy conspiracies, and then there’s whacky, messed up spam dressed up to look like loopy conspiracies. I’m used to hearing all about them on TV, or the radio, or reading about them in $newspaper–see: Alex Jones, meltdown of. But this is the first time I’ve ever had one sent specificly to my email address. I mean hell, they didn’t even bother to do me the courtesy of slapping it into the contact page. It must be wicked major important then, right? I mean, only hugely important things get flung directly at my email address–and without any real delay at that. Nope, sorry, try again. It’s just a random American nutbar stalking me. How boring. Bright side: in so stalking me as this particular nutbar chose to, he/she/it more than happily self-mocks. But here–let me help out where I can.

Guns, CSI, murder novels good. World of Warcraft bad. got it?

Oh, I wish I could have come up for air long enough to snerk at this when it actually happened. But I was tailspinning all over the place trying to catch up from previous tailspins all over the place. So I completely missed–or rather, set aside and completely forgot about–the ascertion by the Maine republican party that, uh, playing World of Warcraft is evil.

The republicans trotted this one out against democratic senate candidate Colleen Lachowicz, and backed up their attack with comments they pulled off a forum –presumedly for world of Warcraft players–from a few years ago in which she said she liked to poison and stab people. So suddenly, according to the republicans, they were running up against potentially the next psychopathic mass murderer–because, you know, every mass murderer has at some point played a game not too dissimilar to World of Warcraft. And here’s the snerk factor.

The republican party, when they’re not championing all manner of constitutional rights violations (Warrantless wiretapping, anyone?), is only slightly less ridiculous a defender of the second amendment than the NRA. It’s why John Q. Crazy can and has gone to the nearest gun show and come home with a semi-automatic. Couple that with the fact we’ve got shows like CSI. Also add the fact even kids’ shows now are considerably more violent–or, at least, more graphic about that violence–than they were, let’s say, 20 years ago. And, just because it’s there, let’s add one more thing. Murder novels and the like–who’s violence can be as detailed in text as any violence in, say, WoW can be in graphics. If you’re of the right mindset, some of the going reading material out there could serve a dual purpose–an entertaining/interesting novel, and a how-to manual on creatively causing all manner of damage. But World of Warcraft is wicked evil cruel and all manner of generally not recommended. Clear things up any for ya? Even if the NRA would very likely be in agreement? Well, okay then. They tried. And as for that election? Yeah, uh, about that. Clears things up for me, if nothing else. World of Warcraft good. Maine republicans bad. Yeah, that looks much better. Now, I think I’m missing CSI.

Please, by all means, be idle no more.

For anyone not living in Canada, or anyone living in Canada who’s decided now would be a fine time to secure themselves under a rock, it might have gone missed that, for lack of a better way to put it, the natives are getting restless. They’ve started a series of protests, blockades and the like, that they’re calling “Idle No More”, which supposedly is meant to express several things all in one movement. If you ask Theresa Spence, a native chief who’s been on a hunger strike of sorts since before the official birth of this “movement”, it’s to protest the condition of native reservations, one of which has–well–its own problems independant of whatever the government may or may not have decided to do, or not (note: Spence is the chief of the reservation referenced in the linked article). Apparently, same goes if you ask any of the chiefs that support her–yes, still, even though she’s already moved her own goal posts several times in the span of a couple weeks. When they’re not also still smarting over the violation of a treaty their great great grandparents signed with mine (*), they’re insisting on a greater share of any and all resource-based industry that passes anywhere near, on or around what they believe is their lands–industry they aren’t even willing to approve anyway (see: northern gateway, keystone, etc). But, see, here’s the thing that passes me by. They want to be self-sufficient, which is completely and entirely reasonable–and they should be. But they want to do it by relying on their traditional way of life–hunting, fishing, escentially living off the land, as I’ve seen a few folks put it. That’s great too. I’d never presume to deny someone the right to live their life as they please. But I’ve never seen it actually explained how, in 2013, the natives who take up issues like this one plan to go about doing that.

In fact, I’ve seen it spelled out rather nicely exactly how, assuming the government agreed completely with those demands and gave them complete self-governance, complete with allowing them to go back to their traditional ways of life, it would very quickly fall apart. In short, from the day the treaties were signed, the natives’ hunting days were numberd.

It’s important to emphasize that these Treaty commissioners were not anthropologists or do-gooders. Notwithstanding their respect for the Cree, they came with a very specific mission: to set the stage for white commercial development in these territories.

For instance, the commissioners reported a meeting in Fort Hope, on the shore of Lake Eabamet, with a certain well-regarded chief named Moonias. At one point, a local Indian named Yesno (“who received his name from his imperfect knowledge of the English language, which consisted altogether in the use of the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’”) told the commissioners that the terms of the Treaty should ensure that natives in the area receive “cattle and implements, seed-grain and tools.”

This horrified the commissioners, who evidently wished to guard against unfulfilled expectations: “As the undersigned wished to guard carefully against any misconception or against making any promises which were not written in the treaty itself, it was explained that none of these issues were to be made, as the band could not hope to depend upon agriculture as a means of subsistence; that hunting and fishing, in which occupations they were not to be interfered with, should for very many years prove lucrative sources of revenue. The Indians were informed that by signing the treaty they pledged themselves not to interfere with white men who might come into the country surveying, prospecting, hunting, or in other occupations; that they must respect the laws of the land in every particular, and that their reserves were set apart for them in order that they might have a tract in which they could not be molested, and where no white man would have any claims without the consent of their tribe and of the government. After this very full discussion, the treaty was signed, and payment was commenced.”

What I am quoting here is the commissioners’ Nov. 6, 1905 report, not the actual text of the James Bay Treaty (which is brief). But it expresses the real nub of the intended treaty relationship: The natives would continue hunting and fishing for sustenance and trade, and receive annual payments from the government (four dollars, to be exact), while white men would have the right to put down their train tracks, mines, forestry operations and settlements. Some reserve lands were stipulated in a schedule to the treaty (“not to exceed in all one square mile for each family of five”), but the exact location of such lands was not then considered as important as it is now. That’s because the local Cree were semi-nomadic, and came and went with the hunt. (At Lake Abitibi, for instance, the commissioners reported: “We did not expect to find many Indians in attendance, as they usually leave for their hunting grounds about the first week in July.”)

As the article goes on to say, it’s that treaty, and the creation therein of this type of reserve, that’s still today being held over our heads–over a century later. The problem? We tried to bring the natives into what was then modern society. We just, well, only did it about halfway. oh, right–and by “we”, I mean the about, we’ll say, 1930 or so “we”.

Cree men such as Moonias and Yesno, were they still around, would be absolutely appalled by this state of affairs. They apparently believed they were negotiating Treaty terms that would permit them to continue to provide for themselves as rugged hunter-gatherers (and possibly farmers). The notion that the white man eventually would put them up in permanently subsidized year-round housing that allowed them to abandon hunting and fishing — the very heart of their culture — would have seemed alien and unexpected.

That move from semi-nomadic to settled life, which was seen in part as a humane gesture aimed at bringing natives into modern civilization, is the real “cultural genocide” we keep hearing about. It’s not a Stephen Harper plot. It’s something that happened mostly before Harper was born.

So wheres the halfway point? well, that would be right around this part of those self-same treaties.

Yet the altogether worst aspect of the James Bay Treaty is that, like other treaties, it ensured that reserve land “shall be held and administered by His Majesty, for the benefit of the Indians,” and that “in no wise [sic] shall the said Indians, or any of them, be entitled to sell or otherwise alienate any of the lands allotted to them as reserves.” This was basically Soviet-style communism, avant la lettre. To this day, this system of communal land ownership ensures that reserve-resident natives are the only people in Canada who are systematically denied the right to buy, sell, lease and mortgage their land.

This is the single most awful thing we ever did to the Indians: bring them into a settled, capitalist society, and then deny them the basic tools to generate capital. Yet, perversely, it is the one aspect of native policy that is consistently championed by left-wing native-rights advocates, who see in it a sentimental vindication of Marxism despite its European failures.

And this, combined with some one-time assistance to actually see to it the people on those reserves aren’t swept out to sea by the changes, is exactly what the people involved–be they native or not–should be pushing to be changed. At the moment, natives living on reserves have no actual attachment to the property they occupy. Nor are they actually allowed, legally, to have any attachment or place any value on those properties. Which is why, in communities like Attawapiskat, they made headlines when it became clear just how bad the housing situation was actually getting. And when they made headlines, they still had to wait for the government to do something about it–as opposed to anyone else, who can pretty much make any changes they please to their living arangements–including deciding to forget about paying rent and go buy a house across town. And it’s these remote, mostly fly-in communities, that protesters are saying should be allowed to do their own thing, their own way, in compliance with those self-same treaties. It’s those self-same communities that folks like Theresa Spence are saying the government should hand more money to, for presumedly very similar results. But complying with treaties from over a hundred years ago and giving natives their self-sufficience are mutually exclusive.

Ms. Spence and her Idle No More supporters are absolutely correct to say that the James Bay Treaty made provisions for Indians to get land, cash payments, and even some measure of autonomy. But ramping up those perqs won’t do anything to change the fact that the whole basis of the treaty was destroyed as soon as traditional native hunting life came to an end.

This is the fundamental reason that the Idle No More message on treaties is irrelevant: The great challenge of native policy in the 21st century will be to integrate natives into the larger economy that is based in Canadian population centers.

Remote fly-in communities such as Attawapiskat, on the other hand, are doomed: You can’t turn he clock back to 1905, or even to 1930.

And as much as that means folks like Theresa Spence would have to be out of a job, that has to be the simple reality. That should have been the reality years ago, but a combination of the government mucking it up and the natives fighting it lead to, well, the exact opposite. If being idle no more means fixing this system, and giving native people the ability to make themselves sufficient and get them off the government take, then by all means, please do be idle no more. But if, in seaking these changes, the natives can’t accept the fact that some traditions–some aspects of their culture–they want so badly to hold onto simply cannot survive a transition like that? To continue to hold to that expectation, and to insist the rest of Canada work around that expectation, will only continue to end up in situations exactly like this one. And really, honestly? I think we’re all getting a little tiny bit tired of reading headlines that start off with “Native Group Protests”. Just tossing that out there.

*: I can’t be a hundred percent sure how accurate that statement actually is, as I have great great grandparents on both sides of the issue. Pretty sure that puts me in a bit of a conflict of interest when writing a post like this. But, then, I never did give much thought to that kind of deal.

Probable cause is so 2000, y’know?

Every couple months, something new and interesting crops up that makes me quite glad I’m not actually a US citizen. A recent example, following the federal trend, comes out of California–who’s governor has vetoed the hell out of a bill that would have required law enforcement to actually, you know, have a reason–and a warrant–to obtain information such as the location information that’s now stored on pretty much any smartphone in existence. What that means, escentially, is that California cops can get a hold of your cell provider, and request a history of everywhere that cell phone has been detected. For no reason other than, uh, they can. Oh yeah, and terrorism. I guess I shoulda listened to the guy who called me at Dell at 4:30 in the morning just to talk to me about how the government’s watching everything he does so he has to be careful who he talks to–he might have just been onto something. Oh, and the next time some lawyer friend of yours starts talking about probable cause, just smile, nod, and walk away. The government don’t need no stinkin’ probable cause.

It’s time to watch the TSA quite handily mock themselves. Again.

I don’t do nearly enough of these. As evidenced by the stack of mock-worthy pages–or rather, pages that pretty much mock themselves–currently sitting here, staring at me, and waiting for me to get around to them. Now, granted that stack got a little bit bigger just this morning, but hey, you’ll have that.

The US Transport Security Administration seems to have several secondary jobs, not remotely related to actually catching terrorists–which they aren’t actually all that good at in the first place. when they’re not walking off with iPads and blaming their wives, or giving the third degree to dying women, they’re spending the majority of their time railroading people who have a less than positive opinion of their railroading tactics. And that’s just the material I remembered to save. Just think of how much lower the national debt would be if your taxes weren’t going towards funding this unholy mess. Or rather, the TSA would prefer you maybe not think about that–lest it keep them from doing, well, pretty much everything they can to make damn sure the money keeps coming in. Yep, including being in charge of determining who from the private sector is actually authorised to compete with the TSA to offer the same services, and bound by the same–er–rules. Nothing says anticompetition like letting the monopolists set the competition standards. So, yeah. The next time someone you know feels a rant about the US going bankrupt coming on, just smile, nod, and say very calmly, “TSA”. Then show them this entry. The counterpoint pretty much makes itself.