November 26, 2005

Global News On the Decline?

James Koole has a post titled Global News Hype. In it he points out that Global News Toronto seems to have exclusive coverage on important issues that is really nothing but trumped-up spin on international issues with a local twist.

The continued lack of imagination at Global News in Toronto has left me shaking my head again. As usual, their idea of finding a local angle on a story was, "could it happen here? Only we have the shocking truth." It seems with every disaster or major news story, the lead is always, "something bad happened somewhere else, could it happen here, and is Toronto prepared - gasp! We're not!!!"

For me I think the decline began shortly after Global News repatriated Kevin Newman. At first I really respected the man. He seemed to have a fairly good grasp on world issues and presented them quite fairly. But for the last couple of years at least his reports and others appearing on their regular newscast does seem to have started to head towards fear-mongering like material and over-hyping of non-issues.

One newscast that comes to mind is more recent. The report was about the system supposedly failing ADD and ADHD students. They were apparently breaking the news that not enough students were getting recognized as sufferers and getting medication. Now I'm not sure where they got the idea for this story but for a news agency that seems to think they have all the answers they definitely seemed to miss this target on this one.

Being in education and working two summers in Pennsylvania at a camp for children with learning disabilities, the research that I have read from both areas is that there are too many students that have been recognized. In fact, there are many in education and medicine that believe that ADD and ADHD are too easily given out as a diagnosis. From what I understand the label of AD(H)D has become a quick-fix solution for parents that struggle with controlling their children. The answer comes in the form of the drugs these children have to take because they help children focus better. I've read papers that argue that almost half of the children diagnosed as AD(H)D and are on ritalin, etc. have been misdiagnosed and are taking the medication unnecessarily. However, Global News' position was something else.

This is just one example, I realize, yet it is indicative of where Global News is and has been heading for quite some time. They seem to have exclusive reports on almost everything. However, I would argue that most of the reports are exclusively on nothing.

Thanks to James Koole for originally writing his post.

November 22, 2005

At Least In The End Mulroney Did The Right Thing

After watching the CBC Special, The Secret Mulroney Tapes, last night and getting all fired up at some of the most ridiculous, unfounded and self-important comments, Mulroney provided a partially saving grace for himself. For the first time I believed him and respected that he was honourable enough to admit it. At the end of the show they air a clip of the former Prime Minister explaining why he was leaving politics. His reason: his heart wasn't in it anymore. To have to admit this to yourself, especially when you hold an office like that of Prime Minister, must be a hard and sobering realization. It is also the one reason I feel too few politcians are never willing to admit to themselves because they have become too addicted to the power of their position. I believe it's why Chretien hung around for his third term (though I believe he rekindled his spark for his fourth based on the wrong reasons) and I believe it's the problem that both Martin and Harper are in now and is why both men are easily gawked at by the public. What is worse is that politicians that govern for reasons lost to them are risks to the nations they work for because they only have ideology to cling to instead. But for Mulroney to be able to realize that his enthusiasm was gone and was strong enough to admit it, I do hold a small ounce of respect for the man. Some people on the Right might question why I can believe that statement and not others. Well, partially because there's a lot of emptiness and baselessness to the majority of what he said. Much of it was personal opinion given as fact. And I don't think he had a reason to lie at that moment. There was nothing weighing on his decision and in the context of what he was looking to do with all these conversations it would have gotten lost as something trivial compared to his commentary on say Meech Lake or Charlottetown. Some on the Left may argue that this was his was excuse, realizing the impending doom of his party. While he may have been privy to the truth of the situation, Mulroney was a man that believed he was one of the greatest Prime Ministers, that he could do no wrong. He also points out before the election that he could probably win it and even after the massive loss, believed he could have at least pulled off a minority government. This was a man that was so awash in his own fantasy that there is little reason to believe that really knew what was about to happen.

November 21, 2005

Subsidies and Ontario Energy; Both Problems for the Ontario Right

After putting out a bunch of posts I went and hit a block of sorts and the best I came up with was me whining about Canadian athletes selling processed food. Today, still feeling somewhat up against the block, I decided to do some blog hopping. While I was reading the latest blog flare up Canadian Cynic and Peace, Order and Good Government versus Strong World, I noticed a reference to Wudrick Blog. I headed over there and came across Aaron’s post on the junk food ban dilemma in New Brunswick. At one point Wudrick points out that,

“Subsidies, however well intentioned, often have negative side effects, since they ultimately blind people to the real costs of things, thereby eliminating or reducing aversions that people might have to taking any particular risk, or incurring a particular cost.

It also leads to an even more troublesome chain reaction, whereby the solution to problems caused by one government program lead to calls for another program to solve problems created by the one under it, and so on.”

Why do I care so much about this? Well, I don’t necessarily disagree. While I don’t think it can be applied universally, it does hold a lot of truth. And if we’re to apply it to the politics of Ontario, it definitely holds sway on several accounts for actions taken by the former Harris Tory government that now affects the current McGuinty Liberal government. One that particularly comes to mind is the issue of privatized hydro. For the last few years, Ontario has been facing brownouts and rising costs in energy. To make matters worse is that energy consumption has only been going up each year as well. It is easy to argue that a growing population is the likely cause, and I cannot say that it doesn’t play a part, but I doubt it’s the only player. If we are to take Wudrick’s statement as a truth then the growing energy demands are also being fueled by people being blind to the actual cost of energy in Ontario. One of the unfortunate left over affects of having an ideologue right-wing government is that they though it best to privatize our public energy system without looking at the facts first. The biggest fact they over-looked was that in nowhere in North America, at least at the time, had privatized energy worked in the favour of its customers and those who need it most. Whether these reasons were price gouging, over-selling to outside markets, under-generation, etc. privatized energy was failing people. The Harris government touted both the California and Pennsylvania models as standing examples, only to watch them fall in their own ways. California has been plagued by blackouts and brownouts and Pennsylvania is forking out taxpayer money to cover the subsidies. These are the sort of issues Ontario is currently facing. By the end of January of 2004, Ontario had spent $852 million trying to cover the subsidies. By now, that price has definitely climbed well past the $1 billion mark. However, Ontario doesn’t have much of a choice at this point because if we were to drop the subsidies energy prices would be too high. While we might get a reprieve on the energy grid, it would come at the cost of people not being able to heat their homes. The second poor affect is that the Liberals, in an attempt to correct both the brownout and subsidy issues, has been throwing money into private nuclear generators and developing half-assed solutions. The problem with the nuclear generators is that they were part of the problem that lead to Ontario’s public system being burdened with debt because they have shown to be only money pits. Our money goes into them but we never seem to get the costs recovered before they require more maintenance. And the maintenance costs on nuclear generators are quite substantial as the public records of Ontario Hydro show. McGuinty’s poor solutions essentially comes in the form of continuing to support privatized, (re)deregulated electrical companies and enacting measures that only spread the cost of subsidization in different ways from the Tories’ approach. Oh, and they are going to sell us smart-meters… I have my own ideas on how to fix the problem of energy in Ontario and I’ve alluded to it here. However, I would hope that the many Tories that visit Wudrick’s blog and anyone that reads this post will keep in mind what the true cost of subsidies, something the Right often argues against, are doing to Ontarians in relation to energy. And just as a final bit of goading, I hope that when Wudrick gets into politics seriously and into the government (he will be a formidable opponent one day. I’ve seen the guy in action on a low-scale before and it was scary then), he will realize that the Right is not always right, that the Left does sometimes have a point (I kept that modest for his sake) and that he will do the proper thing and drop ideology. Keep fighting the good fight!!

November 17, 2005

Canadian Athletes Pimping Crap (aka Hamburger Helper)

It may be old news by now but everytime it airs I cringe. What I am referring to is the low-budget Hamburger Helper commercial that stars Josee Chouinard of figure skating fame and Canada's women's hockey star Hayley Wickenheiser. The commercial exposes a major problem within the Canadian athletic arena. It is obvious that these stars need money if they are willing to pimp garbage passed-off as food. Some people may argue that if they were American they probably wouldn't have to do this and they would be better taken care of. That argument may be true. But it also doesn't have to be. Australian athletes have been well taken care of by the government and it has shown with stellar performances in almost all global competitions. Their government does it despite having a smaller economy and economic ratio then Canada's. I realize that athletics as a government priority in comparison to say health-care or education is probably small but it still has its place. It is an area for which Canadians across the nation can unite and feel proud about their country and its a way for the government to indirectly motivate youth to get involved by showing off the accomplishments of ordinary Canadians who worked for something. The second issue I have with the commercial is that it had to be Hamburger Helper that Chouinard and Wickenheiser are promoting. While I don't totally fault them, they are probably only doing what they have to in their financial interest, it's unfortunate that for all the postivity they can promote they are pushing a negative. Hamburger Helper is by no means the healthiest of foods. According to Nutrion Data, one serving of this supposed food contains more than 1/3 of a person's daily intake of fat, almost half of their calories, half your carbs, and almost twice the amount of your recommended daily intake of salt. That's right it contains 4568 mg of salt, which is 190% of your daily intake. This list also does not take into consideration that it contains Monosodium Glutomate (MSG). Their are many people and groups that have been arguing for years about the harmful effects of MSG on your body and mind. Issues such as obesity, diabetes, blood pressure problems and many other conditions have been apparently linked to MSG intake according to sites such as MSG Truth and The Slow Poisoning of America. I even have a friend who is a rising star in Canadian medical chemistry that has explained the problems. So why did I bring this up? Because for star athletes to be pimping crap filled with sodium, fat and MSG seems like a contradiction as well. I could probably guarantee their trainers and nutrionists (if they can afford one) would never in a million years recomend them eating Hamburger Helper because of it's lack of nutritional value. And to some degree, no matter how much they aren't getting paid by the government, to push junk onto the impressionable public almost seems like a partial undoing of their positive contributions. Brands such as Powerade, Bauer, etc. would probably use them in their advertisements. And probably for the right price (a.k.a. sell yourself cheap) they could get a couple companies to use them in smaller markets and make the same amount that Hamburger Helper paid them to sell artificial, unhealthy processed crap. Then again I could be wrong and the state that the lack of government support has left these athletes in is much worse then I realize... though, isn't Chouinard a professional now and performing in large-scale figure skating productions? Whatever the case here, it is defitinely embarrassing for so many involved and for various reasons.

November 07, 2005

To torture or not? In American hands, is there really any question?

How lost has a government become in its own ideology and self-interest when they are willing to have a public debate over the ability to torture contrary to their own laws? It has become disgustingly obvious that the heads of state, Bush and Cheney, are more wrapped up in their own agendas, whatever they may be, to realize just how absurd they’ve become. Bush has used the threat of veto and Cheney is now crying to the public and holding closed-door meetings to get their ways. The argument, and really the only one that Cheney and Bush seem to have, is that they need to allow the CIA the ability to torture people for matters of national security. Some people may consider this a strong reason. National security after all, especially when you’re the US, is essentially the mortar of the fragile American way of life. Without security, the US’ foundation falls apart; the ability to build and dominate in the world, such as they have, would be gone. Granted. Duly noted. Blah, blah… What is national security worth when everything that is worth fighting for is slowly eroded away? Allowing torture, contrary to law – "No individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment." ~ Senate Amendment 1977 – would really only be another step taken by this Republican government to show its contempt for civil liberties. They have argued that it would be used only on foreign captives but that is the same type of crap they said before. Many American citizens have been caught up in the so-called Patriot Acts. Two acts that are supposed to grant security personnel greater ability to do their jobs in capturing terrorists at home have been used against general citizens committing petty crimes with no connection to terrorism at all. One only has to look at the problems surrounding Guantanamo Bay, which have become so apparent that the US Supreme Court has decided to challenge some processions taken by the Bush government. What this all boils down to is what’s to stop the Bush administration from abusing their ‘privilege’ to torture? From past actions, it would seem that nothing would stop them. It is obvious that this regime is not concerned with foreign opinion of their nation since they made an already slow decent of goodwill into a downward spiral. And let’s not forget it only took the slow decent to piss enough people off to attack the US from within (but that simple line of reasoning is lost on people such as Bush and Cheney). Maybe Linwood Barclay said it correctly today. Maybe using it on Scooter Libby is the right idea. Hell, he fits the bill doesn’t he? He’s shown to be risk to national security and he’s been somewhat unwilling to provide all his information. Sounds like the perfect candidate to me to test out the effectiveness of torture. The CIA have even more reason to do this since it was one of their own that he put in harms way. But alas, it won’t happen for a whole host of reasons. The two most obvious in mind: First, Libby may lie to just end the whole process and save (his) face. Secondly, lying or not, he may name Cheney. I love how this all works out in the end.

November 03, 2005

The Hip, Eponymous

This past Tuesday was a momentous occasion in terms of Canadian music. The unapologetically Canadian darlings, The Tragically Hip, released their first ever box set, 'HipEponymous'. If you were to ever to buy one release from the Hip, this has to be it. Included in the box set is two CDs made up of the top fan favourite songs, which essentially includes their greatest and most memorable tracks. The set also has two DVDs. The first is a filmed concert from November 2004 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The second is the Hip's music video library and two Hip inspired films - 'Macromedia' and 'The Right Whale'. So far I have watched the concert and the music video library. And while the music videos are great to have (and they provide a great timeline for the shrinking of Downies's hair length), the real gem, by far, is the concert. If anyone has ever been to a live Hip concert then they would most likely understand how it's hard to be disappointed by the footage. Say what you want about the Hip and their albums, to see them live is a whole other experience all together. I've been to four or five Hip shows and never once have I ever walked away less then blown away. Every performance they give contains energy, passion and presence. Enough cannot be said about the band's treatment of their live shows and Gord Downies ability to grab the audience's attention. The concert footage, which is a real time account of the show, captures everything that makes the Hip so amazing live almost flawlessly. The box set's price is worth that first DVD alone. After being treated to the HipEponymous it leaves you with no doubt as to why the Hip are still around, still popular and most important of all, still relevant. On Tuesday the Hip were at The Edge studio in Toronto doing an interview and taking calls from fans. They promised that their best was still to come. While Hipeponymous may create some doubters because the band has done so much already, for me and many others it creates a new excitement and anticipation for the releases yet to come and the future of the band. We are a very fortunate country to have a band such as the Hip.

Layton's doing what's right but not right...?

Layton, in my opinion, is doing the right thing by using his small grip on power to push the Liberals around. By giving the Liberals an ultimatum on health care, the NDP are getting things done for the country. And let us not forget, this has already done well for Canada once. For too long the Liberals have claimed to be the champions of health care, but haven't really done anything to deserve that title. In comes Layton and the NDP and challenges the Liberals to live up to their self-appointed image and it seems as though the Liberals are going to try to follow through. I realize that many people think that this is the wrong thing to do because the Liberals were (are) crooked, etc. Some people even think that there should be an election. I have no doubt that Layton doesn't disagree with these opinions either, and neither do I. Yet I would argue that out of the three opposition parties, two of the parties (CPC and the Bloc) really only want an election for their own gain and not because it's for the good of the nation. The CPC always wants the Liberals to fall - traditional rivals, different political leanings, power hungry for years, etc. There is also a chance that the CPC could get power because of the inquiry. The Bloc want an election because they have a lot to get out of the next election. Seperatist support is up - as long as there isn't a direct question about seperation - and this only means more seats for the Bloc. It should be noted as well that what the NDP wants in terms of new health care policy, under normal circumstances, the Bloc would be prepared to support. This leaves the NDP who, given that the Bloc and CPC numbers will probably go up, are likely to be losers. And while pushing for deals with the Liberals could be a method of self-preservation, the result for Canadians and health care, just like the last NDP-Liberal deal, is a positive. This is more than I could say for the potential fallouts of greater Bloc and CPC numbers in the house. This is why I think, in a somewhat confusing manner, that Layton is doing the right thing while not being right. Out of interest I want to draw attention to a good article, here. While the posting itself is good, a comment left by Lord Kitchener's Own is even more interesting.

Here are two words that illustrate why most Canadians will never believe that it's the Liberals (as opposed to political parties and politicians in general) who are so much more suseptible to corruption than other parties:Brian Mulroney.I think most Canadians have become cynical enough to assume as given that the reason the Liberals have acted so corruptly lately is the same reason the Mulroney went all crazy there at the end. Power corrupts. And these guys have been in power for a LONG while.Now, one would think that this would mean we'd be ready to switch out the Grits for the Tories, and give someone else a turn at bat. The problem here is two-fold. Number one, the CPC couldn't strategize their way out of a paper bag (and their tactics are pretty bad too). And number two, Canadians generally are about as ready to believe that Stephen Harper's CPC is different from Stephen Harper's Reform Party as conservatives are willing to believe that Paul Martin's Liberal party is different from Jean Chretien's Liberal party.And I don't see either of those things changing any time soon.

Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)