Saturday, December 31, 2005

Fred at GayandRight is in agreement with John Moore (I believe it is the same John Moore who is a CFRB talk-show host) who writes in the National Post today:

A Red Tory has nothing to fear from the Conservatives except that it's clear they're as cravenly desperate for power and as intellectually bankrupt as the Liberals. Nothing makes this clearer than the promise to lower the GST. Economists appreciate why consumption taxes are superior to income taxes. But since there are probably about 10,000 economists and 30 million consumers in Canada, the promise to knock two points off the GST is a great cheap sell. Most galling is that the measure was proposed by Harper, who is an economist (. . .) Sadly, the Conservatives, unsure of their ability to attract centrists on merit, have become the political equivalent of strangers with candy.
It doesn't take an economist to determine that a simple income tax cut is not going to make much difference to the average Canadian who makes $32,000/year. It will make no difference at all to those who live at the poverty line. It won't help people who work part-time, or pensioners who are on a fixed-income. It won't help students. It won't help people who are living off a disability pension. It won't help many of us who are living paycheque to paycheque.

Think about your monthly bills -- hydro, natural gas (or heating oil), telephone, cell phone, cable tv, internet service, All of these are subject to GST. Most people, rich and poor, have to pay at least some if not all of these bills. A 5% GST would make a difference monthly. Not a huge difference if you're a Paul Martin or even a Jack Layton -- but in the course of a year -- a significant one to the vast majority of us who apparently don't matter in John Moore's world.

Conservatives historically have been seen as the party of the wealthy. This bid to make everyone's monthly bills just a tad less onerous is a welcome one. It includes even those of us who doesn't have money to save and invest.

While the NDP and Liberals claim that they are parties working for 'the people' -- their antagonism towards the only tax relief that will actually benefit all Canadians is perplexing. I have no problem with income tax cuts, and from what I understand, the Conservatives have never said the GST cut will be to the exclusion income tax cuts or any other kind of tax cut -- but why do these socialist parties who claim to represent people like me -- despise the only kind of tax cut that would benefit the people they claim to speak for -- a single parent, working two part-time jobs and struggling to make ends meet?

I also take exception to Moore's recollection of events last Spring:
My first inkling that the ground was shifting beneath our feet came last February with the tabling of Ralph Goodale's budget. Flush with money, Goodale announced a raft of radical new expenditures. My immediate reaction was, "This is hopelessly bloated." Stephen Harper's immediate reaction was, "This is a budget we can support."
Moore's blithe assertion that Harper supported the budget is just plain wrong. Harper held that this was not a budget on which he would choose to try to defeat the government. There is a vast difference between acceptance and support and Moore's failure to see the distinction detracts from the value of his arguments.

People like Moore seem to be looking for an excuse to vote Liberal -- as he calls them -- "the creeps we know" -- Unlike Moore, if I disagreed with the Conservatives significantly enough, on enough issues, I still wouldn't be marking the ballot for the party that has proved it will squander or steal public money.

It takes a fair amount of contorting to conclude that because the Conservatives have offered tax relief to poor people that they are "as cravenly desperate for power and as intellectually bankrupt as the Liberals". Moore's inability to think outside the conventional economist wisdom about consumption tax vs. income tax shows he is thinking in terms of theoretical realities -- income tax cuts might stimulate growth and investment -- but Harper's GST cut will affect real people every day.

At least Fred says Harper's tax policy would never tempt him to vote Liberal. People like Moore who would rather vote for the 'creeps' need to be honest with themselves. If they would vote Liberal because of Harper's tax policy, then they really aren't 'Red Tories' as they might to claim. They're Liberals, through and through. Short-sighted and too lazy to think.


All things come to him who waits - provided he doesn't die first

"Our veterans connect generations and Canadians. As a country and as individuals, we gain in pride and in purpose from their deeds and their service." Paul Martin

Mr. Martin's touching sentiments don't extend to connecting veterans with the money the government owes them.

The Liberal website suggests that Harper's proposed Veteran's Bill of Rights is a rip-off of a Bill C-45, which passed through the House in April:

This morning in Victoria, Conservative leader Stephen Harper announced that he would enact a Veterans’ Bill of Rights to ensure their needs are being met by the Government of Canada particularly in the area of health benefits.
This is a good idea. So good that the Liberal government did this when we brought forward a new Veterans’ Charter (Bill-C-45) in April of this year, and passed it through the House of Commons on May 10, 2005.
Mr. Harper and the Conservatives actually supported the government’s initiative at the time. Now, they are imitating it.

The government website says:

Over the years, Veterans Affairs Canada has been a world leader in providing care and support to war service veterans.

I think many Veterans would tell you otherwise (remember the accommodations provided -- at their expense --for the Remembrance Day ceremonies in Ottawa this year), but more than that, The Legion magazine talks of how the new Veteran's Charter was pushed through parliament when parliament was on the verge of collapse in the Spring, and interested parties were given only two days notice to read through the 50 - page document. There was no time for any changes or amendments. Many veterans are concerned about the wording of the bill and believe that it didn't go far enough to protect and help those with complex disabilities. The bill received all party support because to have voted against it would have been 'to vote against veterans' but the Conservatives listened to the concerns of veterans and have attempted to address them with new legislation.

The Liberal record of handling veteran's affairs is abysmal -- they nickel and dime them, just biding time until the last of them die off. And now this Liberal government, a government awash in waste -- a government so willing to misuse public money -- begrudges those who've served our country interest on funds the government was supposed to be managing for them. The 4.6 billion amounts to the cost of the gun registry, and a couple of those unauditable 'foundations' the Liberals are so fond of.

Let them appeal -- it just gives undecided Canadian voters another shining example of the Liberal propensity to say one thing, while doing the exact opposite.

canadianna 1:20 am

UPDATE: I've just read in the Toronto Sun that Cliff Chadderton is against this payout because he believes it will not benefit many veterans. He says only 100 or so are still alive and the money will end up with distant relatives etc.

I have the utmost respect for Mr. Chadderton -- and I have to agree. The government should pay the veterans who are still alive or their wives, and the balance of the money should be used to compensate other veterans who have been denied benefits for filling out the wrong papers after WWII, the Aboriginal veterans who have been virtually ignored, etc.

This money should not be a windfall for relatives of veterans. I don't know if an appeal of this award is necessary to accomplish these goals, but if so, the government should lay out it's intentions and guarantee that the amount of the judgement will be spent on veterans -- not their extended families and not more bureaucracy.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Laws don't reflect modern reality

One is out on parole, the other is a young offender. Shocking, eh?

Neither has been charged with the murder of Jane Creba, although there seems no doubt with the list of charges, that police know they were there.

According to the National Post:

(20 year old) Thompson is facing eight charges relating to Monday’s incident, including pointing a firearm and discharging a weapon “at a large group of unknown persons.” He is also charged with possession of a restricted weapon, possession of a loaded weapon, possession of a stolen weapon and violating the terms of his parole order, issued on Oct. 6. (. . .) Constable Wendy Drummond of the Toronto Police Service said Thompson has not been charged in the fatality or the other casualties. “We are still awaiting forensic tests on the weapon for that,” Const. Drummond said.
So if this guy's bullet hit someone and didn't kill them, or instead hit a wall or a window, he could pretty much get a pass.

The police can only charge them with what's on the books -- but 'discharging a weapon at a large group of unknown persons' is really a charge? Like if the group were smaller, or he knew them, it would be okay?

And if you participate in a gun-battle on a main street, and someone dies -- does it matter if your bullet is the one who struck the victim? Shouldn't all of them be charged with murder if their actions led to her death? And all of them -- regardless of aim, were shooting on a crowded street -- so all of their actions led to her death.

And what of the victims who didn't die? One is still in 'critical condition' -- so modern medicine is able to save this person, and the charge will likely be a less serious 'attempted murder' or some sort of assault with a weapon --- but the intent to kill, or the disregard for this person's life by the gunmen, should not be mitigated by the victim's survival -- the recovery of those who were shot, shouldn't reward the gunmen with lesser charges.

The laws on murder need to be rethought. It shouldn't matter that by luck or through medical intervention, a gun you've discharged doesn't end up killing a person. The death is secondary to the intent or the disregard for human life when it comes to charging and punishing the accused. If the police can prove through ballistics that these men were there and were shooters, should they be any less culpable because their bullets weren't fatal?

Modern medicine has made it so that many who once would have, won't die of injuries inflicted by would-be murderers. Modern weaponry has made it such that the discharging of a weapon can do incredible amounts of damage and can never be excused as accidental, and deaths that result from the discharging of these weapons can never be dismissed as unforseen, or unintentional.

It's time the law caught up.


Scandal saturation point

I understand the Income Trust thing in the limited way that people without financial or mathematical acumen do. I get that a significant amount of trading occurred which it appears may have benefited a select few people who had early information.

Maybe the masses are not seething at the possibility of yet another Liberal scandal because Liberal scandals are never easy. They are complicated, dealing with secret information, a legion of characters with connections and relationship that are difficult to keep track of, and they deal with money in sums incomprehensible to someone who makes under $30,000/year (which most means most Canadians).

Theft, deception and incompetence on the scale the Liberals have managed to achieve is wearying. That's how it works -- the Liberals succeed by wearing people down.

While I don't believe Ralph Goodale was directly responsible for any leak that may have occurred, it is amazing how two successive Liberal Finance Ministers have been oblivious to either overt wrong-doing, or careless negligence, carried out by people within their scope of scrutiny.

If Goodale passes this test with the public, the Liberals have a good chance of pulling this election out of the fire. Given that the investigation will continue beyond the election, he remains an innocent, though slightly accused man. That might be good enough for some to continue to shrug and say 'what's the big deal'.

M.K. Braaten writes about tonight's CTV news coverage, saying that it doesn't look good for the Liberals. I'm trying to share his optimism.

Hopefully, scandal-wearied Canadians will be listening as this continues to unfold but I fear we're approaching scandal-fatigue.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Root-excuses for gangs and guns

"If there was any silver lining in this it could be that maybe white middle-class people would care more about the risks that are out there for other members of our community." U of T criminologist, Mariana Valverde in today's Toronto Sun.
"Yesterday's shootings in Toronto serve as a painful reminder that we cannot take our peace or our understanding for granted. I think more than anything else, they demonstrate what are in fact the consequences of exclusion. I was in Toronto not long ago and met with a number of members of communities in the Jane and Finch area . . . and the young people talked to me about the void in their lives, and what hopelessness and exclusion can bring." Paul Martin, Liberal leader

First -- there is no silver lining. There can be no silver lining in the death of young girl at the hands of vicious, souless thugs. Sentencing reform could have come without her death . . . should have come without her death -- things never should have been allowed to get this far. The only deterrent to this kind of crime is to lock them up and throw away the key. Maybe if criminals knew they'd never get out, EVER again -- maybe they'd think twice. Prison time must be punitive. We know all that without the death of an innocent child.

Unlike Ms Valverde and our Prime Minister, I thought the violence downtown on boxing day was the act of criminals who realised that because of their age, or who through experience with a lack of serious penalties (should they ever be caught), had no compunction about choosing murder as the answer to their grievances. It never occurred to me that it was our fault because we don't care and we have created a dark void into which excluded people fall, helpless to prevent themselves from pulling guns on crowded streets and killing innocent people.

Forgive me if I don't care when young men with guns, shoot other young men with guns. My only concern has ever been the innocents who might be caught in the cross-fire.

Ms Valverde suggests we (white, middle-class suburbanites) will 'care more' now that this has come to one of our own. Like this is something new.

Remember these names? In 1983 Barbara Turnbull was shot and paralysed in a convenience store robbery in Mississauga; 23 year old Vivi Leimonis was murdered 1994 in a botched robbery at Just Desserts in Toronto; in 2004, Louise Russo was paralysed in a drive-by shooting at a sandwich shop in North York, and now Jane Creba. There are others, but I remember these few names because they are women whose ages were similar to mine at the times of the events, and now with the last one, I have a fifteen year old daughter.

People already care -- but don't expect us to shed tears for the thugs who become 'victims' of a street life they have a part in shaping and maintaining.

Unlike the elites, it didn't take this murder for us to know things are out of hand. We see the violence as already affecting us -- even when they aren't killing our kids. It's just that unlike those who comment from ivory towers, we have no warm and fuzzy illusions about after school programmes being more than just another place for a drug deal. We have no grand visions of violent criminals flushing their drugs, handing over their guns and getting jobs at the Zellers or Canadian Tire.

I don't believe in warm and snuggly social programs -- I believe in punitive justice as a deterrent to violent crime.
I don't believe a kid who knows he can make $3,000 a week selling crack or meth, is going to become a model citizen because of a work co-op programme.

I don't believe that 'children' who are 15, 16 or 17 should be shielded by their age, from the real consequences for the violent crimes they commit because of a law designed to protect kids who swipe a pack of gum.
I don't believe violent criminals will grow a soul if they go to anger management or other useless therapy programs.
I don't believe in rehabilitation -- I believe in retribution.
I don't believe in collective guilt -- I believe in personal responsibility.

Ms Valverde and Mr. Martin are laying the blame for violent crime at the feet of the average person. I'm not biting.

People who behave in a violent, anti-social manner should be excluded from society. But they should be excluded through incarceration in jail where they belong. Maybe then they wouldn't have a chance to influence the little ones in their communities for whom there is still hope. Maybe if they were kept in jail where they belong, those who come up behind them might realise that crime doesn't pay, that there are consequences for every action. And even if locking them up and throwing away the key does nothing to deter even one other criminal -- at least the criminal who is locked up will be out of our midst and unable to cause harm to society again.

Mr. Martin can blame poverty, hopelessness etc. He can give all the root-causes he wants -- but that is a major insult to all those who live in low-income, high-crime areas and who manage to instill values in their children. It is an insult to all the poor people who realise that poverty is just the state of your bank account, and that the measure of your character is where you create your riches. These people need the government to back them up. They need to be able to say to their kids 'no excuses'. Instead we have staged sympathy, wrong-headed solutions (hand-gun ban), collective guilt and governmental inertia when it comes to violent crime.

The criminal sucks the hope and potential from children in tough neighbourhoods -- and the government ensures the hope remains extinguished by doing nothing to remove the criminal element from their midst. What good will it do to get tough on handguns, if they don't get tough on the people who use them? Good people in poor communities want the criminal element locked away. Only when these gangster role models are gone, can the kids within these communities see past the gang culture to a positive future. At-risk youth are most at risk from the influence and the crimes of the criminals in their own neighbourhoods.


Update: I was thinking about other people -- innocent people -- who've been victims of gun crime and gang violence recently -- 11 year old Tamara Carter, riding a TTC bus with her mother in November 2004 -- shot in the face. In October of this year a TTC bus driver was shot and critically injured.
There are still more. How quickly we forget -- and that's the problem. They go out of the newspapers, out of our thoughts until the next time. And that's why it's so easy for the government to ramp up the rhetoric when something like this happens and to drop it down and ignore it when the current tempest has passed.
People are suggesting that the reaction to this was because this was a young white girl. We didn't know who she was until last night. What we did know, was that she was shopping with her family, not carrying a gun, not a part of the gang culture -- not a part of the problem. That's what caused the reaction. It isn't racism that makes us sit up and take notice now -- we've taken notice every time -- but this time, there is an election campaign on and maybe our outrage will be heard.


Monday, December 26, 2005

Losing Christmas

My son had a holiday concert at school on Friday. It wasn't a Christmas concert -- and I have no problem with that, because it's true. All of my kids go to very multicultural schools. Most of the kids at the schools are Muslim, with minorities who are Hindi and Christian, and an even larger minority have no religion. Having a Christmas concert would be unrealistic and would be pandering to a vocal minority of parents who resent the cultural changes our society is still adapting to.

Other years, presentations have been done to explain Eid or Ramadan, Chanukah, Diwali, Kwanzaa etc. and the presentations about Christmas have all been to explain 'Santa Claus'. The Christmas songs are of the 'Frosty the Snowman' genre. All of the other religions are portrayed with reverence and while the Christmas one is usually fun, there is no explanation of the underlying reason for the season. This has always bothered me, but I'm not the sort to make a fuss, so I've said nothing.

This year it was different. This year they acknowledged the Christian aspect of Christmas with a raucous, loud, hip-hop rendition of 'Silent Night' because the real song is 'boring.' I've found the same thing with television -- some kids shows have taken Christmas hymns and put funny lyrics to them -- the Arthur Christmas special did this several times, having one of the younger characters not know or misunderstand the words of 'We Three Kings' and 'The First Nowell' and sing something entirely off base.

The fact is, I'd rather the school have ignored the traditional carol rather than bastardize it. For those of us who celebrate the birth of Christ, the traditional carols are not boring. It isn't that I don't have a sense of humour. Unlike "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" etc. hymns are songs of worship and I resent their being abused by the secular establishment for a laugh. The message the school conveyed by using this hymn was that traditional Christian worship is a drag and that it needs real world influence to make it worthwhile.

I have adapted to the secular culture. I don't say Merry Christmas unless I know I am speaking to Christians. I don't expect a Christmas concert at the public school when I have a church around the corner. I don't expect religious music when I'm shopping at the mall.

But I also don't expect to hear sacred Christmas hymns with their words changed for a laugh (as was done in 'Arthur's Perfect Christmas'), or the music 'updated' to suit a contemporary audience as was done at my son's Christmas concert.

Silent Night is the quintessential Christmas carol because of its simplicity. It doesn't require rapification to make it relevant. It is relevant because its sweet melody is like a lullaby and its words are welcoming the birth of the Christ child. A hip-hop score might be fine to liven up 'Blue Christmas' or 'Winter Wonderland' but it isn't appropriate for a sacred hymn.

We don't lose Christmas when the secular world celebrates along side us with its Santa Claus, its Star Wars and Dale Earnhardt holiday tree decorations, its 31 day advent calendars that celebrate the coming of the new year, we don't lose Christmas when the secular world ignores the birth of Christ in its 'holiday' festivities -- but we risk losing Christmas if we do nothing when the secular world appropriates the sacred songs and symbols of Christianity and holds them up to ridicule and scorn.

I will be writing a letter to my son's Principal and asking that future winter festivals exclude mention of Christ, unless they handle it with the same respect and dignity afforded the other religions represented. Better excluded than distorted in parody.

Anyway, Merry Christmas all.