Friday, June 22, 2012

Free Market Sort-Of-Truths

On  forum I frequent, I discovered a story about an exceptional young woman who has triumphed against adverse conditions an gained a measure of success. The poster used her as an example of what hard work can get you. I can only assume it was done to blunt the proceeding entry, decrying socialist governments;filled with the usual slogans: "no more free lunches","cradle to grave" "free lunches". It resembled the usual Free Market Conservative rant, hitting all the buttons about personal responsibility and "starting in the home". He described a society of producers besieged by takers, (very Ayn Rand).  I will point out here that the poster didn't say what factors lead to her becoming homeless. The Free Market takes credit for success but failure is all your own.

There was nothing unique about these posts you can find the sentiment expressed in many venues;  in long form articles or shouting matches via Internet forums. The Free Market is the Answer. In fact it is the Answer to almost any problem. The problem mostly being people who want "free lunches" or in other words Liberals and/or Socialists. 

The myth of the Free Market is that anyone can succeed,(and that they do it alone). Success is defined by wealth. The liturgy intones that the competition is fair, "merit based" they say. Economic success can be achieved through hard work alone but is most often achieved when allied with talent, birth or access to opportunity. Economic success once achieved means further access to resources; among them medicine, education, legal council, security of person and political access. A feedback loop ensues , increasing the chances of remaining on top socially and economically.

The example of that young woman is a sort-of-truth. She is an exception. Exceptional people are capable of doing special things, while the average person does well, average. The Free Market takes the exceptional and almost declares them the "every person". Many of us embrace this selection process as reasonable, no doubt guided by the belief that they are that strange animal the average-exceptional. A bar set unnecessarily high, but let's pretend it isn't

At this point some conservative will introduce the idea of leveling. That I'm intent on creating some communistic/socialist dystopia of sameness. It's like asking Osain Bolt to run the 100m with extra weight so some sad sack can win Gold. "You want everyone equal" It's a false equivalency to suggest that fairness somehow equals repression of the gifted. I want Bolt to run flat out, but I'd have to be insane to use that as a determiner of resource access. We can craft a system that leaves plenty of room for Osain Bolt achieve his greatness and for the rest of us to make our way albeit in a slower fashion.
An unhappy corollary the "High Bar" is that if you remain poor in a Nation with a Free Market structure it's your fault.That position allows a government to do only the bare minimum for its citizens. It is a handy idea that meshes well with other conservative positions like, small government, minimum regulation and low taxes. We know everyone can run a hundred meters in under ten seconds if they felt like it.

On a personal level it allows a successful citizen to rationalize extreme wealth, existing alongside extreme poverty. To accept tacitly or even openly support the darker nature of the Free Market, as the gate keeper, tasked with the duty of separating out the superior and inferior citizen, an economic "Natural Selection"; a bottle neck for the worthy to pass through an be come cleansed. Forgetting completely that the Free Market is a created system; that it does what we want it to do; not what it has to do, as with a gravity's effect on water.  

We have abandoned systems that grant power through birth, gender, religion or race. But we left untouched the underlying reasons for pursing power, resource control and exploitation. Attempts have been made to tackle the problem ,some ended in failure and horror-communism, and some have done better like the Liberal/Socialist Democratic welfare state. A work in progress .

I have no quarrel with leaving the Free Market to do what it's good at; meeting the consumer needs of our citizens. If I want a nice comfortable sofa I'll depend on the Free Market and the competition that leads to innovation it is supposed to engender between rival business. A free and equal society is not something you can't get that via the Free Market.

A Note: Hayley Miller received help from One Step Forward a youth homeless shelter funded in part  grants by from the local government.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Motion 312 and the Right To Chose

MP Stephen Woodworth has introduced an motion 312 that a committee be established to review the Criminal code section 223 dealing with when the status of human being is conferred. At present the the Law does not confer the status of human being on a baby it is born. It is not nearly as menacing as it sounds. It is a legal definition, albeit an important one, but the anti choice groups, do hope it sends chills up and down your spine.

Woodworth declares a need to update a 400 year old definition of what and when a human becomes a being.What has until now been the province of philosophy, Woodworth is attempting to inject scientific method. The meat of the motion seeks to employ the science of medicine to establish person hood the parameters. It may seem odd that the a religious position, and make no mistake anti-choice is a religious pursuit, would make use of science to support its position. I would remind the reader of Intelligent Design, which attempted to re brand Creationism as a science

The committee would be charged with answering 4 questions:

(i)            what medical evidence exists to demonstrate that a child is or is not a human being before the moment of complete birth?,

   (ii)            is the preponderance of medical evidence consistent with the declaration in Subsection 223(1) that a child is only a human being at the moment of complete birth?,

 (iii)            what are the legal impact and consequences of Subsection 223(1) on the fundamental human rights of a child before the moment of complete birth?,

 (iv)            what are the options available to Parliament in the exercise of its legislative authority in accordance with the Constitution and decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada to affirm, amend, or replace Subsection 223(1)?

The first two questions are try to establish a physical definition Human being, where before there was only a philosophical one. To wit, the fetus a moment before birth is no different than the baby a moment after. If you determine that there is no discernible physical difference then rationally, section 223(1) would have to be altered to fit the facts, isn't science wonderful. I would suggest the attempt here is to push back as far as possible the point at which medical science might declare that a fetus meets a physical definition of human. 

Question three asks of the impact on a child rights as a result of section 223(1). This is a leading question because it infers that the child, before it's born has rights, that are being denied. The question can't be asked unless you already think that a fetus is in fact a legally recognized human being before it is born. Or that the first two questions will establish that fact.

The last question deals with how, after having found that fetuses are in fact human beings before being born, how can we make laws taking away reproductive choice from women but not call it that exactly.

Let's not mistake motion 312 for anything other than an opening move in the fight againsts a woman's right to choose, by establishing person hood before birth. The law would confer upon the fetus a full slate of rights, one such I imagine being the right to live. Anti- abortion legislation concerning person hood springing up all over the United states.  

I feel that it is not debate that Woodworth  desires but exposure, and the legitimacy offered, by way of parliamentary committee. The anti-choice movement is at its core religious, I do not accept that a secular state should be forced to adopt laws that are wholly religious in nature. A person must be secure in their body and be secure from unreasonable intrusions by the state.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bill C-38 is Why Things Have to Change

If it hadn't been clear to all Canadians that Majority governments can do as they please, what is happening in Parliament with Bill C-38 should disabuse the remaining citizens that sufficient checks and balances are in place to control over zealous Legislation.
Bill C-38 is an omnibus bill, a single piece of legislation that contains multiple provisions, in this case over 70 substantive changes existing policy and Legislative acts. When you open that link to Bill C-38 it opens to the table of contents, you can see first hand how many different acts this bill effects.

You will here from various sources including the most important, the Speaker of the House,  ruled that the omnibus bill was in order but helpfully suggested that Mps might want to examine the whole idea of Omnibus legislation. Something that all parties has had an opportunity to do but steadfastly neglected. Many conservative have adopted the notion that there is nothing to see here, the bill is nothing more than away to deal with a number of issues at once, in an efficient manner, and the Liberals did it. The conservatives are fond of "and the Liberals did it". I would highlight the end of John Ivison's piece,

Conservatives like Mr. Van Loan in opposition.
As he said of a similarly cynical move by the Liberals in 2005: “A major reason I became politically active was because many in my family (I’m Estonian) lost their lives or freedom at the hands of the Soviets or Nazis. I believe our democracy is fragile and something we must cherish and defend. Thursday, June 23, 2005, was a sad day for democracy in Canada.”
I'm not going to suggest that the conservatives are the only ones who forget where they stood on an issue once they hit government benches, but Ivison thought this quote stood out and so do I. His core reason for becoming political was a desire to protect Democracy. He was opposed to what he saw as the Undemocratic behaviour of the Liberals. I believe he meant what he said. I don't know how parliamentary  geography can change that view.
It is clear that Governing parties find it impossible to put in to place legislation or policies that will limit their ability to act. That opposition parties, when in position to do so will find ways to avoid it, just in case they ever form government. It seems that everyone knows what abuse of power looks like when they see it. Just that they are unable or willing to recognize it in there own faction. Do you hear that massive silence coming from the conservative rank and file. That silence is take for support. 
The conservatives give little indication that they care about the opinions of non-conservative voters. The conservative base is solid and seemingly large enough to ensure continued electoral success and that is what matters. This government will continued its effort to alter Canada to better reflect Conservative values.
At present the only way to prevent what is happening to Canada is to deny Majorities to any party. It is self evident that our Governments can't restrain themselves in the manner that they make use the power loaned to them by us. Whether they whittle away at our democracy or take a sledge hammer to it like with Bill C-38, doesn't matter, any diminution in Democracy is dangerous. I hold politicians primarily responsible but not alone, the citizen , the Media have added to the erosion. Since we can't always depend on getting the best of us into government, the next best option is to ensure that those that find themselves in power are suitably constrained in its use. 
Where there is convention governing action, it needs to be replaced by law, since precedent may not be enough, especially against claims of crisis.
We need to end first past the post and replace it with a more representative electoral system, like List Proportional Representation, Single Transferable Vote, Mixed Member Proportional System. 
Individual MPs must be redeemed from the back benches, no more sock puppetry.
Reduction in what qualifies as a vote of non-confidence, again freeing the MP to be Independent.
Greater involvement by citizens in the political infrastructure, through party membership, referendum and committee input. When a citizen feels they have a stake in the outcome they will become more involved 
None of these guarantee, you get better government, but they will go along way in ensuring the government of the day cant do as much harm.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I like the Olympics, But

I like the Olympics. I have since I was too young to remember. I loved the idea of Canada challenging on the world stage. In reality we didn't do as well as i would have liked. From the Olympic Games reinvention in 1896  we were always niche players we won medals just not a lot of them. The Pre-War field was held by the great powers America , England, France and Sweden. Canada showed up,  did well at times but never dominated. In the Cold War era the United states and  the USSR  faced off against each other substituting athletics for war. An attempt to prove National superiority through sport.

When I became aware of the Olympics we were still middle of the pack. I didn't really mind that we didn't always win, I just liked seeing the Maple Leaf. For me the Olympics were never about anything other than competition. I liked seeing the world's best compete, even if it wasn't a Canadian. It wasn't a great patriotic struggle, a gold medal wasn't a vindication of my way of life. Since Canada seldom competed on the highest level it was easy or even necessary for me to feel that way. After all if your athletes lose a lot it would be hard too claim any type of superiority.

I think I was lucky to live in a country that didn't invest enormous energy into the Olympic Games and so turn them from sport to politics. I don't believe as some Canadians suggested, that we became habituated to losing, we couldn't do better so we lived with it. I think coming in Seventh teaches you a different and but just as valuable a lesson as coming in First.

Things changed for Canada after the Cold War era. Our government started to invest money into Olympic Athletes and programs to create winners. This was a response to our lack of success at the Games. Canada's pride suffered uncountable harms because we didn't win gold medals. We were admonished by critics who pointed to other countries with higher medal counts, that "by god we should do better and be better than".

Had we at last succumbed to the notion that winning is the only thing? That a nation is tied in some manner to its on field performance? It was more an understanding that The Games were no longer an amateur affair and hadn't been so for along time. It was a recognition, that without similar spending programs our athletes were at a disadvantage, other nations spent money to win, we needed to as well. We did do better. More medals, especially more gold ones. Though never as many as the critics would like.

Today we have a different Olympics. Pride is still a key factor, winning a show of cultural strength, but that has been displaced by money. Corporate sponsorship, Media rights, a need to reel in consumers and turn them into profit. You need athletes (that can barely be considered amateur and ones that fully professional brought in to win a national sport to a salve a nations  pride), to put on the best show possible, records must be broken. You need to spend to win.

Funny thing at the same time Canada was spending to win medals we were also recognized as the best place to live in the entire world. We are consistently near the top of the ranking as most livable. That to me is worth any number of medals.

I can't miss the Olympics even if i do miss what the they used to be. It's a spectacle I'll be watching. I wish good luck to our Athletes and a good Games to everyone that competes and attends.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pipelines Will Leak

On Thursday there was a pipeline leak.To date it has leaked about 3000 barrels.

Containers leak and that is a fact.. It doesn't matter how well they are made or maintained; over time the likely hood, that what is inside a container, will eventually be outside rises to a virtual certainty. Oil Tankers and pipelines are just fancy containers and they are going to leak. We need to deal with this because we depend on oil and the infrastructure that transports it.

That it happens "rarely" is irrelevant. Ask any one or any community that has ever experienced a minor or major leak event. The damage to the local environment from an oil spill is heavy, it reverberates outward like affecting neighbouring regions. Just like the fracture lines radiating outward from a windshield impact, weakening the whole structure. Recovery, is slow, and in all likely hood the area is never the same.

What we know, is that we need oil both for economic and practical reasons(for now), that it will leak and that leaking will causes damage. To all appearances the policy regarding Oil and its Transportation can write itself, and it is sort of. The Conservatives are making changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. What Peter Kent Minister of the Environment said about changes. The minster talks about more money for enforcement and higher penalties for violators, that's good. He mentions creating a more efficient permitting process. It seems like all good news.

Here is what Minister Kent may have left out in his presentation. This short assessment on changes to the Canada's environmental act is from GreenBlog. Taken in the whole the changes to Canada's environmental law seem to have an economic focus. Review by government agency is shorter and can be overturned at Cabinet level. Satellite agencies and independent advisory bodies are diminished in power or cut out entirely. Other Ministries face similar changes, redirection/redefinition of priorities towards economic ends. It's not just greater cooperation with industry, which isn't bad in and of itself, but submission to its interests. In general life is going to get easier for the resource extraction and transportation sector.

The Oil Transportation sector will benefit from so many of the changes you would think they helped write the legislation. The pipeline industry has faced a great deal of opposition when it proposes Oil Transportation routes. Unsurprisingly people don't want pipelines in their backyard. A diverse group of citizens a oppose pipelines, for a host of reasons. From the specific, building pipelines to carry Tar-sands Oil  south through the keystones pipeline system promotes Tar-sands Exploitation. Or the northern gateway pipeline proposal. So if you oppose bitumen mining, preventing pipelines is a good way to go. To the general reasoning, Pipelines leak and people don't want them.

For the Pro pipeline sites there is Northern Gateway and Keystone Xl. (A note it seems fair to include the Pro pipeline sites if only to give any potential reader a contrasting perspective. Study each site and you quickly get an idea what is being offered.)

The Harper government has created legislation that will make pipelines easier to build, by reducing regulatory requirements. Conservative policy changes address the need we have for oil both economic and practical by ignoring or reducing the idea of potential for harm that oil transportation involves.

Making "ease of economic" activity the primary focus of environmental law is at a minimum ignorant, at its most extreme very stupid. This isn't an ideological issue, or it shouldn't be. We all drink the same water, breathe the same air and live by what our lands produce. We live in the environment not apart from it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bill C-304 Amending Canadian Human Rights Act

I am a Free Speech advocate, as it underpins the Democratic state, it is first among equals I would say. We have to guarantee the free speech rights of raging, ranting, nonentities, so that when people like Martin Luther King, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Higgins Sanger and countless others show up they have a space to talk. But not without restriction as that is foolhardy. The question we face is not whether to set limits on free speech but what kinds. Speech has an effect and so a balance must be sought, between the possible Harm generated from allowing speech against the likelihood Damage caused from restricting it.

John Stuart Mill said  
" ought to exist the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any doctrine, however immoral it may be considered."
he also accepted that 
"the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others"

I have read Bill C-302 An act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the pertinent sections of the Canadian Human Rights Act in order to understand what is being changed. The head line change is the Repeal of Section 13 dealing with what a hate messages.

Hate messages

13. (1) It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.
There were two problem that people had with this section. That the Human Rights commission had power to censor speech and that the burden was set low with the words "likely to expose". For Conservative/Libertarians and others, this section meant outright censorship of speech. A website could be taken down and the owner fined because what they said could possible cause harm to an individual or group. An affected party need only show a likely hood of harm, not actual harm. This did not mean that a panel would find in favour of the complainant, many cases brought under this section were not successful. But it was argued that it lowered the burden of proof unnecessarily and so adversely affected our freedoms. 
With the passing of Bill-302  Canada's Human Rights commission will have no jurisdiction to here cases of hate speech promulgated over the Internet and phone. Hate speech will still be illegal under the criminal code of Canada. All complaints must now pass through the courts.
The question that needs to be asked of any piece legislation is its utility. Does it address a real need, create unreasonable burdens?  
Section 13 introduced a level of responsibility, in the exercise of free speech. A person communicating over the Internet had to be aware that what they said may offend/injured another and the possible consequences of their actions. A person is was still free to test the limits of the legislation by communicating as they see fit, but knowing it comes with a cost. Does this mean self censorship? Yes, and if you argue that freedom of speech suffers due to self censorship, I would agree in principle but require an explanation of the effect with a given context. We already acknowledge that speech is not absolute, we add to it or subtract from it to address necessity.
Section 13 provided access for citizens to express grievances and seek resolution.It provided  a space between letting the alleged abuses go unaddressed or going through the courts, a process that is costly and all ready slow from heavy burden. 
Our conservative citizens, for it was mostly them that were roused, felt section 13 inflicted real harm on freedom of speech primarily by removing action from the courts by giving jurisdiction to the commissions and reducing the burden of proof. They will cite suppression of speech or more honestly, individuals having to answer for their speech some winning some losing. Under section 13 a person had to take responsibly for what they did. I don't think they have proven sufficiently the claim that freedom of speech has suffered. There is no utility in repealing the section, if harm can not be substantiated. 
The application of rights must take into consideration dynamic relationship between the individual and the community. Conservatives rely over much on theory. 
Some have suggested this is the opening salvo on how human rights are addressed in Canada. That I will leave for another time.
It is reasonable to conclude that the amending of the Canadian Human Rights Act today, will lead us to unexpected places. This in part to the use of a Private Members bill to effect change. These bills usually do not face the scrutiny of Government bill, which some suggest is why a lot of Government legislation is being done this way.


Friday, June 8, 2012

What I heard on Talk Radio Today

I briefly tuned into a talk radio station I used to listen to. The Host is a Professional Conservative, that means  he earns his daily bread by being a public Conservative. There are Professional Liberals, Socialist too among others, it doesn't have to be pejorative, that depends entirely on the individual.

When I tuned in the host was talking about that Liam Reid the young boy from Whitby who without surgery available only USA faces blindness. I didn't hear the complete setup to this segment so I have to give the host benefit of the doubt that he told the full story. (Given that the you are dealing with government agencies, funding programs, rare diseases, complexity is to be expected.) At the point I joined the conversation the host was decrying a system that would allow a child to go blind. He segued into an attack on the weakness inherent in  publicly funded health care, the benefits of private health care, private insurance, the power of Free-market Capitalism that makes it all work and the value of personal choice/responsibility. In one segment he was able to hit four conservative high notes.

Had there been private health care the parents could have chosen to get some insurance, and not have to spend $45000 dollars of their own money.(This also acts as an indictment of public health care because they had to spend their own money.) A competitive insurance industry would keep insurance costs low, though this doesn't seem to work for the Americans. The excuse here is that States restrict cross border insurance therefor impair competition that would otherwise lower prices. This is debatable since you would expect that competition would eventually reduce the number of insurance companies, resulting in the price increases. Liam's disease is a preexisting condition, the cost of coverage regardless of competition might make premiums impossible to pay.

He mentions smart consumers affecting rates through buying power and word of mouth, as if buying health insurance is like buying a car, but it's not. If I want to be healthy I need insurance and I take my chances buying cheap coverage or none at all. You can compromise on a car but not on insurance. How can their be real competition with a product you need to have, as opposed to would like to have?

Part of Liam's problem is that the procedure can't be done in Canada, OHIP will usually pay in cases like that. For some reason they have denied the request insisting the work can be done at home. Though oddly they do pay cost for the other Ontario child that has the same problem. Free-market capitalism would invigorate the health care sector we are told . Again competition is cited as a means create incentive, meaning more doctors and more surgeries. It is possible that would happen, but to find out we need to abandon the public system.

Which brings us to Personal Responsibility and Choice. If we move to a private system and you don't get insurance, so you can't pay for health care, so you get sick and then die, it is ultimately your own on fault. If you chose to (have the money to) you buy insurance, you get sick, you get help , you live. When all else fails the conservative will trot this out. It is the escape clause that allows an otherwise rational person to live with massive amounts of injustice. As if it's just choice and not circumstances.

A note on one caller. This gentleman remarked that if it was McGuinty kid he would get the surgery, McGuinty makes lots of money paid by the Taxpayer and as a public servant he has superior Insurance. Typical talk show fare, A Liberal elite will jump the queue, is getting rich off us, has special coverage, not a lot of depth.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Eaton Centre, Law, Crime and Prevention

On June 2, 2012 The Eaton Centre was the scene of a Shooting. Mayor ford and Chief Blair responded to the shooting with a measure and reasoned tones,Premier McGuinty and Prime Minister Harper were each  expressed shock but also solidarity with citizen of Toronto,  no hysteria, just a get the job down attitude, help the victims, catch the perpetrator and reassure the public. just the way you want those in a leadership position to act. the Only discordant note was played by Federal cabinet minister Julian Fantino , He explained that the shooting at the Eaton Centre was why tough mandatory sentences, (via the Conservative Crime Bill) were so necessary. I hope this was just politics and not belief.

Laws were meant to establish standards of behaviour for individuals and communities.They inform the citizen of what actions are unacceptable,(and by that what they may do) and what obligations they may owe, they set punishments for transgressing the first and failure to carry out the second. If there is a preventative effect; it stems from a genuine desire to conform, inspired by living within a community rather than legislation. In other words people prefer to obey the rules (at least in public), those that don't are unlikely to dissuaded from bad acts. 

You could make Laws that were more preventative, but it would come at cost of civil and human rights. Increase the level of surveillance, monitoring all forms of communication will net you crimes in the planning stage. Reduce the threshold of probable cause and allow arrests for crimes you might commit but haven't yet. Set the punitive cost of committing crimes to such a height that all but the most desperate, foolish or determined turn away. But this tends not to work over time, crime finds away. Crime has persisted throughout our history in periods quite brutal and decidedly undemocratic. Harsh punishment may feel just but doesn't have the payoff we need.

We must deal with a singular fact, a criminal is someone that chooses not to obey. How that choice is arrived at range, from the simple, to the complex. We need to understand how a criminal life comes into being and so find ways to divert at risk people. The best crime prevention is the one that diverts a citizen from ever taking up that life. Education, safe neighbourhoods, programs for relieving  poverty are just a few of the ways to create useful citizens. Yes we need punishment and jails but we don't need a permanent underclass endlessly cycling through those institutions 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What Zombies?

The Huffington post head line read

"Zombie Apocalypse: CDC Denies Existence Of Zombies Despite Cannibal Incidents"

The CDC issued a statement to the huffpo concerning Zombies. "CDC does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead (or one that would present zombie-like symptoms)," wrote agency spokesman David Daigle.

Cannibalism has been in the news of late. Three separate incidents to date of people allegedly killing and eating their fellow man. People eating is nothing new, though the CDC issuing a statement on Zombies is out of the ordinary. Zombies have been used by the CDC to get the word out on being prepared for real emergencies, like bioterrorism , weather or radiation related emergency. A clever and funny campaign, it is quite true that if you are prepared to handle Zombies everything else will seem like cake. 

Still it is disconcerting, on a number of levels when a august agency like the CDC makes any statement on the impossibility of Zombie infection. The most pertinent question is why such a statement was issued? Does the CDC think Americans and the rest of the world, really need assurance on the issue of the reanimated dead. If so, it suggest a lot about the supposed level of credulity of their intended audience. Could be CDC is just doing what it's supposed to do commenting on issues that effect the health and welfare of the United States. Just imagine the panic precipitated by the fear of Zombie attacks. Real harm caused by fear is always possible. They take their mandate to protect the public seriously. Or maybe it's a cover up. 

The one world Government experimenting on a pacification gas to make us all docile and complacent. Something goes awry because it always does. You know because this is how every Zombie apocalypse happens. Big Government denies that anything is out of the ordinary is happening. Then a few bites here a few there and BOOM, before you know it, your running in heals and falling over a lot.(note to the ladies get a good pair of running shoes and have them handy). The public is always the last to know distracted as we are by celebrities and any sort of playoff games. The elite get themselves to special bunkers, prepared far in advance, for just such an emergency. They will try to wait it out, but somehow Zombies get into the safe haven and soon all become victims of their own greed and arrogance.(note: anything other than zombie invasion greed and arrogance generally pays off). Then its all over for us (this sucks) the Kings will never win the cup, thanks Zombie apocalypse.

Upon reflection I think its really nothing. Reanimated dead is a horror show stable, drive in material nothing more. 
Door knob jiggles
Ah looks like Tyler is here to pick up "Introduction to political ideologies" a handy book.
"Doors open come on in." 
"Hey Tyler you look out of sorts. Rough night?"
"Hang Over hahaha sux 2bu"
"Oh my God!!!!!"
struggle ensues
The End

Niagara Botanical Gardens

Yesterday I went for a walk at the Niagara Botanical Gardens. It was a beautiful day.There were clouds to the south that looked like they might be moving our way, but thankfully never did. The temperature was a pleasant 20C warm enough for shorts and a t-shirt but not bad that you break a sweat just breathing. The gardens are located, south of Queenston Heights along the the Niagara Parkway, a road that mirrors the entire length of the river from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort Erie. On the same site is a horticulture school and the always nice Butterfly Observatory.

The Gardens are free, though they have recently added a $5 parking fee. But if you don't mind walking a couple of extra minutes, down the road is free parking.

Handy maps are available to help guide your walk. Perfect for those wanting to go exploring on their own. I quickly found myself among the roses, A beautiful place to begin, surrounded by colours and smells, a camera is necessary kit along side that water canteen(say no to disposable water bottles).  Iceberg, Sutter's Gold and Royal Occasion are roses that caught my eye, out of the many in bloom.

Sutter's Gold
You can capture the beauty of these flowers but not the scent, that other essence that completes the experience.
Royal Occasion
Flowers tend to dominate botanical attractions, it's just in their nature to be spectacular. Trees being less showy seem fall into the background. I found two that stood out.

Dawn Redwood
I took a picture of the Dawn Redwood because i though wow what a small start to what will be a big tree. Well , it's not that kind of redwood, but may still hit 160 feet which is still big.

Japanese Wisteria
The Japanese Wisteria was just a nice photo. I went looking for information on this tree and i find that it is a flowering variety. So if I didn't misread the tag this will be quite a nice photo in years to come.

They have planted an herb garden and I was hard pressed to keep my hands off it. The herb garden had me thinking of lunch. Fresh herbs cant be beat, I settled on taking a picture and left the plants alone.
Windowsill Chives
Some plants have a beauty derived from their architecture. Their intricate shapes and design, purposeful, necessary for survival in the wild become  an adornment in sculptured gardens. The Plantain Lily is a fine example of this, of the second plant i was unable to find the tag so remains unnamed.
Plantain Lily

I spent around two hours walking the grounds. You can do it faster, but whats is the point in that. Slower is definitively the way to go. You are there to enjoy your surroundings. A botanical garden is a plant Zoo. You have the opportunity to see interesting and exotic flora. There is food if you get hungry, which is assured, nothing like a good stroll to stoke the appetite. The few pictures I provide are only a part of what there is to see, so if you are in the area drive over and take your ease in the garden. OK I'll post two more photos, and that's it. 
Wojnar's Purple
Hybrid Spuria Iris

Monday, June 4, 2012

Changing Canada's Head of State

With the Diamond Jubilee in full swing the Queen is once again front and centre in the minds of Canadians. Some of those Canadians are thinking we should thank Her Majesty for work well done, hand Her the pink slip and get on with picking our own head of state.

I have always thought that if the Queen and her  Governor General  are causing no harm, economic or political, I could live with the system we have. Lately I have shifted my attitude towards replacement. I admit that I am quite willing to fix something that isn't broken. But is it really worth it. Just because we prefer something a certain way doesn't make changing it a good idea. Another hesitation follows from worry that once the constitution is opened, all manner of grievances will move to the fore, so much so that our nation might be over whelmed. To much change is unhealthy.

So if we want to replace the Queen as head of state can we?

Section 41 of the constitution act deals with amendments concerning the "(a) the office of the Queen, the Governor General and the Lieutenant Governor of a province,...".  Amending this section is "By unanimous consent (section 41). Other amendments require resolutions of the Senate, the House of Commons, and the legislative assembly of each province. These include amendments in relation to the Governor General and to the composition of the Supreme Court of Canada.

So we have the right to  and the formula for changing our head of state. It is an involved procedure and in the manner of large constitutional changes, hard to do. That we can replace the Queen does not on its own suggest that we should.

What are the powers of the Head of State? The Queen enjoys certain powers which are delegated to Her representative in Canada the Governor General, Such as commander in Chief of the Canadian Armed ForcesLetters of patent constituting the Office of the Governor General of Canada. The powers of the  Governor General  are extensive, the office holder has all the powers of the Monarch and the right to exercise them on Her behalf. They have the power to remove a sitting Prime Minister. The "but" in all this is that they have power they can't really use. The  Governor General  is a legal necessity, part of the workings of constitution parliaments, but in a democratic nation entirely ceremonial. A democratic nation can't sustain an appointed official exercising such powers, a language is found to make it work. The compromise is a fiction. An elected Prime Minster "gives advice" to the Governor General, in effect telling them to do this or that. It is called advice but the Governor General, must comply not for reasons of law but of convention. Convention arises where there is need but no desire or ability to legislate. Failure to follow Prime Ministerial advice would precipitate a political crisis.

An independent Head of State exercising the powers of a Monarch might unbalance our system. Just imagine the President of Canada dismissing a sitting Prime Minister. A situation rife with possible unintended consequences. It is clear that moving to an elected head of State would not be as simple as changing the name on the door. A re-balancing of powers and position would be required between the Head of State and the executive/legislative branch of government. Or we make the office elected but mostly ceremonial like it is now. Which would then beg the question of why change it at all.

Is Canada less democratic because of the Queen as Head of state? No. Is Canada less independent because of the Queen as Head of State? No. Should we have an elected Head of State? Yes. Should we rush into a change? No.

I find that I am arguing myself back to my former position of "if it is not harmful, I can live with it".
Yes I would like a Canadian Head of State, but liking it is not enough, their must be a compelling reason, a certain necessity. The issue isn't going away. In the future a more compelling reason will come to the fore, sweeping aside most objection. I think it is inevitable that we make this change, but that it will be slow and thoughtful and deliberate, perfectly in keeping with Canadian tradition.

A note ,(Perhaps I'm looking for is an effective way to check the PMO and thought this an ideal way. What I really want is a legitimate Senate and re-energized Parliament.)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Facts and Opinions

I read the other day that gay teens will be allowed to choose the name of their own clubs, certainly an advancement for minority rights and freedom of expression. I read today that the Catholic Church is under attack because  gay teens are allowed to choose the name of their own clubs; it is nothing less than the overthrow of Religious freedom in Ontario. 

What is a reader to do when faced with competing story arcs. In a ideal world, the reader has the necessary education or experience to critically analyse each story and come to a conclusion. The reader will weigh each position separating fact from opinion; and only then declare one position to be an accurate description of events.  

We do not live in a ideal world. Even if most of us had the skills to analyse critically all the information that passes before us, how many of us would? The short answer is not many. It takes a lifetime to develop opinions and biases; they are comforting and we very get protective of them. Stability is a valued commodity especially among the older crowd. In the young you get and odd contradiction; that of being more fierce in the promotion of their views and at the same time a greater willingness to change in the face of new facts. Facts are powerful agents of change, opinion is commentary and  dependent on perspective.

So what side of the issue you are is highly dependent on who you are and what you already believe. On your indoctrination to date. On what is fact and what is opinion.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts. It is the transformation of opinion into fact that the citizen must have the critical eye out for. It is a necessary transformation; because opinion has less value than fact in determining what action or position is correct. So there is an imperative to establish which is which. 

Canada is a secular state. We do not accept the supremacy of religious teaching with regard to our laws. For the purpose of law the catholic church's positions are statements of opinion not fact. They may insist that being gay is wrong and should not be promoted in any way including naming rights for clubs, but have no right to prevent it. Such an injunction is not an attack on Religious freedom, the Church is not being required to change doctrine to embrace homosexuality, only to offer no impediment to the exercise of  the certain rights belonging to these students. 

The other side argues that the Charter guarantees the Catholic Church the right to practice its religious beliefs without interference by the state. They are right. Religious freedom is  protected.  Catholics argue that requiring the Church to accept a club name (or the club itself most likely) is tantamount to forcing the Church to support  homosexuality against its will. The state is then guilty of interfering with Church doctrine and preventing the free exercise of religion. It hinges on the belief that the clubs are on Church property, the students choose to go to Catholic Schools and so have voluntarily submitted themselves to church rules. Participation in the Catholic school system automatically strips you of or subordinates your rights to that of the Catholic church. Not a fan of that position. 

The government was correct to allow those students naming rights.This is my opinion and perspective based on the facts as i understand them. I do not expect to change any minds. Belief is powerful. It helps us make our way in the word. But it should never be allowed to be substituted for fact. Belief is mutable and so unstable and not a foundation to build a society on. I'll take facts.

Friday, June 1, 2012

I am not now, nor have I ever been a monarchist

I am not now, nor have I ever been a monarchist. I have paid little attention to the Queen of Canada. I do remember the Silver Jubilee. It was an event, it happened, but held little significance for me. I think my parents thought it was special. But then my parents generation saw a different monarchy than we do today. The Queen   reigned over different world. No royal scandals, 24 hour access, intrusive and unapologetic press, a Britain that still prefixed itself with Great. So if my parents still had respect for the Monarchy It's something I could understand.  For them the glamour and fantasy remained on trammeled.

While I credit the mystique associated with royalty as key to its enduring popularity with many citizens, I can not credit  it for my disinterest in the the Queen and the Royal Family.There was no loss of respect stemming from over exposure and the resultant familiarity. They were and have never been a part of my life, even when I swore my oath of allegiance to the Queen of Canada. The Queen was a legal technicality that need to be satisfied before I could get on with serving my country.

That is what I think of the Queen. She is the person that sits as Head of State due to the peculiarity of our political system. I attach no further significance to it. Others do. They see Her as a dignified figure that sits above the fray, an impartial observer, and so a fair judge. It is less a measure of the Queen's character than the fact of her impotence, that leads us to see her thus. She exercises no power and so accumulates no enemies. The Queen has nothing tangible at stake nothing to promote or defend. We need only look to her ancestors, those that wielded real power, to see what virtue is possessed by those that rule.

So the Queens virtue and decency, which are real and true, represent not the efficacy of a tame monarchical system than but efforts of a women working to preserve the rights and privileges of her family with the only way left, that is by being an upright and humble servant. Which she has done, save for a few instance, quite admirably.

While I appreciate the Queens efforts, exercised ultimately on the behalf of herself and family, that is not reason enough to maintain a monarchy for Canada. The Monarchical institution  no matter how impotent its present state, has no place in our democracy. A free people should have no Kings or Queens. We can not entertain the notion that any  man or woman is born to rule, or chosen by God to lead a people, such is not for grown up Nations. Such a fantasy is better left to the novelists, a mature polity needs none of it.

Many will resist the establishment of a republican parliament and cry history or tradition. Nothing I say would change their minds, they are wedded to a certain kind of Canada and will see nothing else in her place. It is change, no doubt scary but to my mind for the best because it is always better to chose your own leaders.

I give thanks for the good service give to us by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, but I think it  time for Canada to leave her childhood behind.