Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hamilton Flooding

This past Sunday, South-Western Ontario was hit with a massive thunderstorm, dumping 100 millimetres of rain -- or more -- on our area. My hometown of Hamilton was no exception, with many areas of the lower east side not only flooded, but turned into small lakes. That's not only because of the lower land levels, but because the sewers in that area have been weak and unstable for at least 26 years. Homes are flooded out so often that many residents can't even get insurance anymore. So with Hamilton City Hall holding an emergency meeting on this issue, I for one hope that they're finally going to actually do something about it.

The thing is, while this storm is a so-called Hundred Year Storm, that part of town gets flooded at least a few times every year -- that's why insurance is such a hassle there. So this is by no means a new problem, yet to a large extent all we hear from our local politicians is some bellyaching on fixing this disaster waiting to happen, and actual work being done at a snail's pace. While Sunday's thunderstorm was -- hopefully -- a relatively rare incident, one has to wonder what Hamilton is waiting for, if this won't be enough for them to take the issue seriously? Will homes have to be washed away, like the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans? Will already poor residents have to abandon homes that they can't afford to constantly repair? Will residents have to die in the hundreds? What does it take before this city finally gets off its apathetic ass and does something??

To be fair, some city councillors, such as Sam Merulla, want Hamilton to compensate flood victims for property damage. Again, with insurance not being an option, this is definitely understandable. However, I have to wonder what good this does in the long run; never mind that the settlements probably won't be very large, doesn't this do the same thing he criticizes the Pan Am games bid for: divert money away from larger problems? While this might sound heartless in the short term, I think that what should be done is that ALL available tax money go straight to replacing the sewers -- until that is done, it should not only be top priority, but the only priority. That way, residents won't need to worry about their basements flooding again.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you feel as strongly about this issue as I do, then I urge you all to contact Hamilton City Hall and let the mayor and councillors know that this is not a problem that can be ignored anymore. Even if you aren't from Hamilton, if you're worried about people losing their homes and lives because of a man-made problem, PLEASE write or call the people who have the power to fix it. The Mayor's phone number is 905-574-3733, and the City's web address is That's it for me.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Health Care and Shona Holmes

Much fuss has been made lately, about Barack Obama's plan to give Americans universal health care. Conservatives -- being the greedy little shits that they are -- are so adamant about stopping this, that they're resorting to an interesting propaganda move to discredit it. They enlisted Canadian citizen Shona Holmes, who claims to have had a brain tumor that was nearly fatal. She further claims that because of a six month wait for treatment, she had no choice but to mortgage her house, borrow money, and otherwise scrape together $100,000 to get treated in the U.S. According to her and those who want for-profit health care, this is a sign that our health care system is a disaster waiting to happen. Guys... go fuck yourselves.

Now that may seem harsh, but there's a reason I'm saying it. For one thing, the so-called tumour was in fact a Cleft Cyst on her pituitary gland, which is not life-threatening at all. Furthermore, there are countless Canadians who genuinely do have cancer, and yet manage to get quick treatment without much of a problem. I don't deny that wait times and coverage blind spots are a problem in our health care system, but as far as anyone can tell the issues described by Holmes simply don't exist. Try being disabled, a senior citizen, or having a rare but deadly illness in Ontario and THEN you can complain about OHIP's shortcomings.

If I may inject a personal story, I can tell you first hand that our hospitals are actually pretty well on the ball. Over a year ago I fell head-first into a sidewalk -- a very similar injury to the one that would later kill Natasha Richardson, so needless to say there was a lot of reason to be concerned. Within two hours of my fall, I was in an emergency room, examined by the doctors, given a clean bill of health, and discharged. The point is, if a need presents itself, our system will bend over backwards to meet it -- all without charging huge fees, I might add.

At the risk of sounding a bit like Michael Moore, it's no secret that the current system in America is the bigger disaster -- millions of Americans can't get health insurance, and the ones that do, often get their claims rejected because some bean counters think that things like heart surgery and tumour removal aren't critical procedures. Private insurance companies are after one thing alone: making a profit, and they don't care if people die to give them that. Frankly, it's my belief that the people who support private health care, just want to legally kill the lower-middle class.

If you still want proof that this whole story from Shona Holmes is a crock, think about this. Even though she hates Canadian medicare, even though she took it upon herself to raise the money to get treated abroad, she's still suing the Ontario government for her health expenses. Yeah, she really sounds like a noble person, doesn't she. Enough said.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jackson Conspiracies

Okay... Doors locked and bolted: check. Windows barred: check. Fence electrified: check. Landmines buried in the lawn: check. Neighbour's guard dog borrowed: check. Molotov cocktails: on standby. Okay, I'm set. Why all the heavy precautions? Well because a certain member of Michael Jackson's family has been a bit... insane, in public... and pissing off Michael Jackson fans this soon after he died might get me strung up by the online community -- and this is coming from a guy who slags evangelists, cops, starlets, and helicopter parents on a regular basis. But I digress.

According to no less an authority than LaToya Jackson -- who was printed in no less credible a newspaper, than the tabloid News of the World -- her superfamous brother was murdered by unnamed conspirators, to gain his fortune. LaToya claims to know who these alleged assailants are, yet she did not identify them in any way, nor did she offer any proof to support her accusations. Uh huh...

Look, at the risk of saying something a bit low, I must ask... doesn't anyone keep an eye on the Jackson family? You know, like a psychiatrist? As if Michael's slide into total insanity wasn't bad enough -- especially now that he's gone -- I honestly can't remember a time when LaToya was known as anything but a total loon. It's a shame that tabloids -- as well as the other vermin calling themselves entertainment journalists -- are so drawn to this like flies on turds, that they don't care if they're basically enablers. At the very least, this helps the make the family a world-wide laughingstock. At worst, it might encourage them to do something incredibly stupid or dangerous -- something that can't be hushed up or forgotten about. Think about that. That's it for me.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Gay Pride vs. Facist Ottawa

Last week was definitely not a good one for Emperor Harper and his Neo-Conservative government. Not only did he repeatedly embarrass himself at an international conference -- particularly by getting caught in a lie about Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff -- but here at home his cohorts have gotten in a snit over Tourism grants being given to the Toronto Gay Pride Parade. Evidently, some Conservative backbenchers -- who, apart from Saskatchewan's Brad Trost, didn't have the balls to want to be named -- took great offence to Tourism Minister Diane Ablonczy not only giving a cheque to the parade's organizers, but being photographed alongside drag queens while doing so. I guess it's official -- the Tories don't care about even trying to look tolerant anymore, they're just going to rule by prejudice.

Now look, I know that Gay Pride Parades are touchy in some places, but leave the family values crap be for a minute and pay attention. The whole point of the Tourism Events Program is to promote annual events that attract major tourism and attention to Canadian cities -- and Toronto's Pride events fit that to a T. Also, spare me the complaints about barely-clothed gays and lesbians strutting through the streets and acting kind of raunchy -- for one thing, given that most of that complaining is brought up by right-wing special interest groups who barely think gays are human, my bet is that they're exaggerating to at least some extent. For another thing, in terms of risque behaviour, you can say the same thing about virtually ANY large party in the summer -- Caribanna being a fairly good example -- yet that doesn't cause an uproar. Neither does any other large event, where -- let's be honest -- there's probably some violence, drug abuse, and sex taking place where people generally aren't looking.

In any case, the Tories have flat out stated that their problem with Ms. Ablonczy was that "The TV shots of her with transvestites inflamed some people." Do these really sound like the sort of people you'd WANT to impress? I sure as hell don't want them in charge of my life and liberty, either. Those who support this decision often cry that some so-called gay agenda is being forced down their throats at these parades -- well, personally, whenever I've done the radical thing and actually talked to gays and lesbians, I've never had any political position even talked about, never mind shoved in my face. In fact, if one is really uncomfortable with gay pride events, there's a very easy solution: don't go to them.

Unfortunately, as the new movie Bruno makes very clear, the reason why these sort of complaints are taken seriously is because putting down gays is one of the last socially accepted bigotries that we have anymore. If there was this same outcry over Black Pride, Women's Pride, Indian Pride, French-Canadian Pride, or any other sort of group, then the Tories would get thrown out of office -- and knowing some of their members, probably arrested too. Then again, if it were White Straight Conservative Christian Pride, I bet you that they would not only be welcomed openly, but that Tourism fund would give them a blank cheque. Let's face it, North America is nowhere near as welcome and tolerant as it pretends to be. You just need to be a visible minority in a big city, or in... shall we say, more rural areas... to find that out. That's it for me.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Grad Shafting

When the schools wrapped up for the year, a couple of weeks ago, not everyone was happy. No, I don't mean the students who failed their classes. I mean students who worked hard to graduate, only to be denied their diplomas because of mean-spirited administrators. There's a school in Standish, Maine, called Bonny Eagle High. They had their graduation ceremony not too long ago, and when Justin Denney took a bow and blew a kiss to his mom, the superintendent immediately told him he would not be getting his diploma.

Now look, I know that a certain kind of decorum is expected at graduation ceremonies, but what the hell is so out of line about blowing a kiss to a family member? Not only that, but another kid from the same school was nearly arrested because he was tossing a beach ball around -- who's running the schools in this town, Ayatollah Khomeini?

Would someone please be kind enough to remind Superintendent Suzanne Lukas and I, exactly what century we're living in? Or for that matter, what nation the state of Maine is in? I could swear that a brief show of affection is perfectly acceptable under Freedom of Speech rights. I could swear that tossing a beach ball around -- while a faux pas -- is not a felony in this part of the world. One of the comments I'd read about this story, online, hit it pretty much on the head: the graduation is a celebration for the students, not the parents, and not the teachers. If you really have to play hardball with rabble-rousers, worry about the kids who celebrate by binge drinking, or who streak through the auditorium. When blowing a kiss is suddenly grounds for being denied a diploma that you legitimately earned, someone has totally crossed the line, and it ain't the student. Oh, I almost forgot to mention: Justin Denney's dying grandparents were in the audience, and one of their last wishes was to see this young man graduate. Way to drive a stake through their hearts, Ms. Lukas.

Another comment that was raised, relates to something that I cannot check, but will gladly re-iterate: what exactly is the graduation rate of Bonny Eagle High? How well do the students score on state tests? How often are the students in genuine trouble with the law -- like violence and drugs? How many of them are able to find jobs or post-secondary education, even at the best of times? If the majority of the schools under Ms. Lukas' jurisdiction can honestly boast to doing well in this area, then she might have some right to get in a snit over something as trivial as showboating. Until then, madam, pull your head out of your ass, and do your goddamn job. Enough said.

Monday, July 6, 2009

History Bites

By the time anyone sees this, it'll be a few days after Canada Day. Now, it's no secret that Canadians don't get as enthusiastic about national pride as -- for instance -- Americans do. However, what's kind of sad is a study released in mid-June by the Dominion Institute, which says that several Canadian provinces do a very poor job of teaching our history. According to the report, only 4 of our 13 provinces and territories -- Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and Nova Scotia -- have high school students take Canadian history as a mandatory course. The rest -- except for British Columbia -- just mix it in with social studies. Because of this, no province earned an A on this report card, but 4 provinces and 1 territory did flunk out completely.

It's no wonder that Canada barely seems to have any identity -- apparently whoever is in charge of education in much of this country doesn't care if anyone learns about it. The goofy thing is that in some of these provinces there's no excuse for it -- Prince Edward Island was one of the provinces that flunked, but Canada was FOUNDED here! While I was vacationing here I was easily able to get into Confederation House, where it was decided to unite the remaining British and French colonies in North America. It's like living right along the Mason-Dixon line and not knowing a thing about the Civil War. It's like everybody in Washington not knowing about The Constitution -- oh right, nevermind.

Look, no one expects an entire country of people to be walking encyclopedias, but when a huge amount of our schools don't even bother explaining a thing about our origins, our culture, our values, or our accomplishments... then what are we but a bunch of drones? We're not even copies of Americans, we're just a walking blank slate. The Canadian pavillion at Epcot is probably more educational, and even then it's more like a huge tourism poster. If these schools -- or parents, for that matter -- don't get their acts together, then our flag may as well just turn into a question mark. That's it for me.