Budget Rant!

I have tried to avoid listening to much budget coverage today as, frankly, I cannot stand the Conservatives trying to save their government by putting us more deeply into debt. As I mentioned in my other budget related post I support stimulating the economy through increased transfers of money to individuals. The last time I checked the Conservatives ideology was one steeped in rugged individualism and the free market economy. How can they justify bail outs to large companies in the private sector? Here are only a few of the budget’s problems:

1. EI – the Conservatives have increased the number of weeks someone can collect EI by five. Yes, folks, that is right, five more weeks of EI – if you qualify. If you don’t oh well. The rules remain the same meaning a great number of the unemployed do not qualify for EI. What could have been done you ask? Well, for starters, they could have made EI more accessible. They could have raised the rate of benefits. Currently, you earn a maximum of 55% of your income. However, the highest rate one can get on EI is about $800 every 2 weeks. It is not a lot of money. By raising the rates of EI more money flows to people who spend it. People who are not working or who are living on paltry sums do not spend money.

2. Increase the Child Tax Benefit – by doing this the Conservatives would have put more money into people’s hands who would then spend that money. Families need to survive and they can only last a short time before they must make necessary purchases. By ensuring that families with children have money to spend they will do so and stimulate the economy. This was one of the major tenets of the Family Bonus when it was started in the 1940s. The Family Bonus was issued to mothers as they were seen as the ones making the purchasing decisions for the family.

3. The Conservative’s infrastructure programs are a huge joke. By making the provinces and municipalities match funds before any federal dollars flow ensures not much is going to happen. Provinces and cities don’t have money for projects or they would already be doing them. This measure will force other levels of government to also borrow heavily. Plus there is a built-in escape clause for the Conservatives: If the package doesn’t work it is because no one matched their funds. They can say they tried and then offload the blame onto other people. I can almost hear Stephen cackling here in frozen Maple Ridge.

The bottom line is this government is trying to save itself. They think we are all stupid and don’t see their tricks. I am beyond disgusted. I only hope that Michael Ignatieff does not buy into this charade. This plan is not a ‘quick’ way out of the recession. The Conservatives have no interest in helping average Canadians, they are far more concerned about their corporate friends and their shareholders. We need a different plan from a different leader. Bring on the Coalition.

The Budget

All right, I have to weigh in. I have not heard much content yet but I have this to say. When it comes to economics I am firmly in the Keynesian school. Basically, when times are good governments should spend less and when we are in recession governments should spend more. Some of our first social programs, like the Family Bonus, were Keynesian measures. The idea being that you transfer wealth to individuals who will then spend it and then stimulate the economy.

I fail to see how bailing out various sectors of our economy is going to help. How much money are we willing to spend on corporate welfare for companies that did not have sustainable business plans? If the NDP had delivered a budget like the Cons are proposing they would all be up in arms.

What we need are real transfers to people who will then spend money. Giving billions upon billions to corporations who have proven they can’t manage their companies will only make the corporations and the shareholders richer. But then again this is a Conservative government.

This just in: They are extending EI Benefits by a whole 5 weeks. Wow, very generous. I am jaded. Bring on the Coalition.

The Closet

I could blog about the budget but that would be very boring. So, instead, I am going to blog about ‘the closet.’ This of course would the metaphorical ‘closet’ which all LGTB people are familiar.

I had my hair cut yesterday. Normally this is a benign activity if one does not want to look like Cousin It. My hair was beginning to take on a life of its own so I made an appointment. I had a great hairstylist who I just found but she went on maternity leave. So they put me with someone else. This stylist was not very bright and clearly did not hear the “I don’t want to lose the length” comment I made when we started, but I digress. Here is the conversation:

Hairstylist: Do you have children?

Me: No, we have dogs.

Hairstylist: How many dogs?

Me: Nine.

Hairstylist: What kinds?

Me: (rattled off the nine dogs names, ages and breeds)

Hairstylist: Your husband likes dogs too?

Me: My partner. Yes, my partner likes dogs.

inane chatter ensues….

Hairstylist: So what does your partner do for a living?

Me: She is an animal control officer.

Hairstylist: (hairstylist to rude women colleague (RW for short) Guess how many dogs this woman has? Nine!!!

RW: Do just really like dogs is that why you gather them up?

Me: Yes, we like dogs and we are involved with rescue.

RW: Does your husband like dogs too?

Me: Partner, and yes she likes dogs too.

RW & Hairstylist: Oh, ok.  We get it. We have gay friends. (much eye-rolling on my part)

RW: So, do you just have an aversion to men? Do you, like, hate them?

Me: No, I do not have an aversion to men. It just is.

RW: I don’t understand it.

Hairstylist: (whisks me away to wash my hair and tells me RW is rude) No shit!

RW: You should colour your hair. You are prematurely grey.

Me: No, I have done that and it is too much work.

RW: But you would look much younger.

Me: That’s ok.

RW: You should have your eyebrows waxed.

Me: Clippers, I use clippers on them.

RW: Well, as an eye brow wax professional, I have to tell you that is not a good idea.

Me: Oh well….

This was one weird conversation! I learned that I am totally incapable of being in the closet even when it makes me and others uncomfortable. I think that is a good thing although I am not sure. Clearly, RW needs a personality. I am not sure if it was because she was bored or she really is just that much of an idiot. Very bizarre!

Truck Balls

Yes, you have read correctly: truck balls. Yesterday when we were out doing some errands Deb pointed out some ‘balls’ hanging from a truck across the parking lot. They looked something like this:

Truck Balls

They were handing on the rear axle of this monster truck. I was immediately disgusted and horrified. My first thought was that the size of the ‘balls’ was inversely proportionate to the male driver’s parts. Then I began to wonder what kind of person would put balls on their truck. Is the truck not big enough to let us know that he is trying to over compensate for inadequacies in other departments? Disturbing, very, very, very disturbing. Oh and apparently “all sets made to swing.”

Barack Obama and Racism

There have been lots of blog worthy events lately, some inspiring and some, well, not so much.

President Barack Obama has not disappointed since taking the Oath of Office on Tuesday. He has signed several Executive Orders which have substantially changed the look of American politics. From suspending the Military Tribunals at Gitmo to lifting the international gag order on abortion funding. His reform of lobbying and statement of ethics is a refreshing change. After eight long years, there is finally a leader in the White House. Changing the culture in Washington cannot be done with a few Executive Orders. Pork barreling and earmarks are common and have been a major part of American politics since the War of Independence. In a political system that celebrates the separation of the executive, legislative and judiciary, where party discipline is not enforced, much legislation is passed as a result of give and take. In the short term, Obama has a lot of political capital and good will from Congress but this may not last, particularly if Congress starts to sense that his actions re impinging on some of their power. One can only hope that Obama, who appears to be a man of principles and ethics, can stay above the fray and lead with moral authority.

A disturbing incident happened in Vancouver as a result of the inauguration of Barack Obama. Apparently three off duty police officers, from three different municipalities in Metro Vancouver, assaulted a man and hurled racial slurs at him. Now, the fact this happened in Metro Vancouver is not a big surprise. Sadly, our police officers are not known for their tolerance towards racial minorities. No amount of training is going to correct this problem. These police officers (and others who attack anyone who is different) believe they have a sense of entitlement to do so. They think that they are better than other people who are of a different race, culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. My sincere hope is for these officers to be charged with a hate crime.

Now, how best to address racism in our society? For me, it comes down to understanding that almost every single Caucasian person who has grown up in Western society is racist. We have benefited directly and indirectly from racist institutions. We have been presumed innocent when others, because of their skin colour, are presumed guilty. People are given more opportunities based on their skin colour or their perceived sexual orientation. Those who fall outside acceptable norms for sexual orientation, gender identity, colour, and ethnicity are not afforded the same opportunities as others. Even worse, these people are often singled out for harsh and unfair treatment from police officers, judges, and other government bureaucrats. People with power in our society are generally not aware that their actions and behaviours are racist and how they reinforce racism in our institutions.

Only through constant examination of one’s values, beliefs and actions can we ever hope to begin to unravel our racist system. As a society, we must be tireless in our efforts to suss out racist thoughts and behaviours from ourselves, our families, our friends and our co-workers. It is very difficult to operate at that level of self-awareness. Moreover, it is ugly, particularly for those of us who work with diverse groups. I see racism alive and well where I work.

We need to eliminate our society’s perception that we are entitled. This attitude is wreaking havoc with the earth and other species who share it with us. The roots of this belief are biblical. Christians are taught to believe that God created the world for them to exploit. Many of our other entitlement beliefs are based in Christianity as well. John Calvin believed in pre-determination which basically states that when we are born it is already determined who is going to heaven and who is going to hell. We know who is going to heaven by how successful they are in this life. Rich people with lots of status are going to heaven and those who are homeless and begging on the streets or anyone living in poverty is going to hell. We see these beliefs played out in how we react to homelessness and poverty, believing that it is somehow their fault. We think that if they would only get a job their lives would be better. As a society that is largely Protestant we are inculcated with these beliefs from a very young age. Have you ever heard of the protestant work ethic?  We learn very quickly who is worthy of respect and who is deserving of our scorn and derision.

We need to take apart these views and attitudes. Understanding their origins are necessary if we are to counter them and begin to have new ways of looking at the world. So what does this mean for the three cops who beat up Phil Khan? They need top be held to account – they must be charged with hate crimes. As a society we must demand more from our governments in terms of taking apart our racist systems, one brick at a time. We must cast light into dark places, places we don’t even want to admit exist. We must not tolerate or give tacit approval to racist thoughts and actions in ourselves and others. We must seek to understand those who are different from us and we must not impose our view of the world on them or judge them by our values.

We have a lot of work to do. I am hopeful that our a new generation of leadership has come to fruition in the United States. I only hope that a great leader for Canada will come soon.

10 things you do not know about me…

Lydia tagged me in a facebook note with this meme. So here goes:

1. I have never done a meme before. No, really, never.
2. I am adopted.
3. My birth name was Deana Brett Carey.
4. I had a vertical banded gastroplasty in an ill-fated attempt to lose weight. It didn’t work and the legacy is that I can’t eat a lot of healthy foods and it makes me throw up regularly. I wouldn’t recommend it.
5. I love music. In fact, music keeps me sane. It is my form of self-care. I listen to a wide-variety of music. I don’t listen to country (although the odd new country song is ok), classical or jazz. Anything over-produced makes me mental (think Celine Dion). I am particularly fond of political folk music.
6. I am a self-confessed technophile. I am not an early adopter but I do need to have new stuff pretty quickly. I love computers and I am quite adept at techie stuff. I probably advise someone every week about what kind of computer they need, what might work for them and where to get it.
7. I love my dogs. Ok, you all probably know that about me if you have read my blog for any length of time. I am particularly fond of little dogs. I love shihtzus, pugs, and pomeranians. Generally little dogs respond really well to me except for the one who bit me – you know who you are Barkley!
8. I love the CBC. Radio one but not two (re-read number 5 about classical music). I love podcasts of CBC programs and I am never without both of my iPods which will contain a variable selection. My current favourite CBC programs (now on 88.1 FM) are On the Coast and The Point. I think Q is highly over-rated and Jian is not nearly as erudite as he thinks. I dislike CBC television though.
9. I love Indian food and culture. I enjoy reading books about India. I love to cook curry and have been christened “Chrisbinder” by partner. I make chai tea everyday at the office. I would love to go to India except for the flying part and the fact that it would be crowded and it would be hot. All of the above are things I do not like to do. I suspect I will never go to India.
10. I have taken music lessons. I took accordion for 4 years as a kid and I hated it. I have taken piano lessons as an adult but I lack the follow through with the practicing. Once I no longer commute 1.5-2 hours a day I may take lessons again.
11. I did the Katimavik program as a young adult. I highly recommend it to anyone who fits the age group. I got to do things I would never have done otherwise. I learned how to wield a chainsaw; I can row a dory; I worked in a cross-country ski centre; and lived in a tent for 3 months. I learned to cook on coleman stoves and I once stayed up for 36 hours cooking turkey on a one of those stoves so that we could all have Thanksgiving dinner (don’t get me started about water in naptha…). Seriously, Katimavik taught me how to get along with people, allowed me to hone my manipulation skills (just in case you couldn’t get along) and taught me how to finish something. I also got to see and live in some amazing parts of Canada.

Now, who do I want to hear from? Na, I am not going to tag anyone with this one. Do it if you want to!

I am fuming…

I have not found a link for this story I heard on the CBC News yet. Hopefully it will be posted tomorrow. Anyway it was about a Native man who stole 3 bottles of mouthwash when he was drunk. He was, of course, convicted. His lawyer thought that the judge in the case would take into account his background. He was marginalized and disenfranchised and had been an alcoholic since he was sixteen. He had been convicted seventy times for petty crimes over the years. His lawyer argued that he receive a 3-month sentence. The judge sentenced him to a year. A year for the theft of items that did not amount to $20. An appeal court upheld the conviction saying that the trial judge had not erred and that, in fact, she had served the public interest. Great, it is so important to protect us all from mouthwash thieves.

I think the public interest could be better served with a much different plan. What about treatment? Clearly this man needs some help. He needs rehab and a program not a cell and guards. How about some education? He never finished high school because he was kicked out in grade 6. What about some higher education? Maybe some cultural expression could help him connect with his roots. We all know that without culture people do not have roots and stability.

Instead, he will spend a year in jail which will only confirm for him that the world is an unfair place where he does not fit in. We will house him, pay the salaries of the guards who protect us from this dangerous mouthwash thief. Paying for treatment and an education for him would be much less expensive and, in fact, might even prove to be an investment in the future. With treatment, an education and hope this man may be able to become a productive member of society. But sadly we are far more interested in punishing people. I am ashamed to be Canadian today.

I ask Questions

Apparently there was a water main burst in Montreal yesterday. Not really newsworthy except that a huge lake of water formed at a busy intersection and according to CBC radio reports a woman tried to cross the intersection. No big surprise, she fell in the metre deep water. The other salient point was that the pipe in question was 118 years old!!! What municipality does not systematically replace its pipes? I mean, seriously, these pipes were installed in the 19th century! Does anyone know if it is common for pipes this old to be in service?

The Rain Snow Removal Plan

Well, even though we have had a lot of rain and flooding it has still not washed all the snow away. In fact, out here in Maple Ridge, it barely seems to have touched it. We still have 3 and 4 foot high piles of the white stuff that is not so white anymore. Trying to get from the front door to the car is nearly impossible. And, to add insult to injury, it snowed a bit more last night! When will it end? I hate winter.