Monday, June 29, 2009

CFL Bulbs - Conflicting Facts Light up cautionary warning

Back in February I wrote a piece about Compact fluorescent light bulbs and potential dangers involving their use: Compact Fluorescent Lights = A Potential Bio-Hazard

At issue is the presence of mercury, a highly toxic substance, which can lead to potentially serious health complications for people animals and the unborn.

In today's paper was a Canadian Press story saying that Health Canada is now studying a variety of concerns due the wide spread use of these energy saving bulbs. In my February blog entry I linked up to the EPA's website (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) for clean up information because I couldn't find any relevant Canadian information.

Health Canada has now filled that void with detailed and lengthy instructions about what to do should you break one of these spiral shaped bulbs. The presence of mercury means a lengthy and meticulous clean up is involved:

  • Leave the room
    • Remove people and pets from the room and keep them out of the room during the clean-up process.
    • Avoid stepping on any broken glass.
  • Ventilation
    • Ventilate the room for at least 15 minutes prior to starting clean-up by opening windows and doors to the outdoors. This will ensure that mercury vapour levels are reduced before you start cleaning.
  • Clean-up Directions for Hard and Carpeted Surfaces
    • Do not use a vacuum to clean up the initial breakage, as it will spread the mercury vapour and dust throughout the area and may contaminate the vacuum.
    • Wear disposable gloves, if available, to avoid direct contact with mercury and to prevent cuts.
    • Scoop or sweep up the broken pieces and debris with two pieces of stiff paper or cardboard. Do not use a broom.
    • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape or masking tape, to pick up any remaining fine glass or powder.
    • Wipe the area with a damp paper towel, cloth or disposable wet wipe to remove any residual particles.
    • Place the broken glass and clean-up materials in a glass container with a tight fitting lid to further minimize the release of mercury vapour.
  • Carpeting - Steps to Take After the Initial Clean-up
    • If the rug is removable, take it outside, shake and air it out for as long as is practical.
    • The first time you vacuum on installed carpet after the clean-up, shut the door to the room or close off the area as much as possible and ventilate the room in which the lamp was broken by opening the windows and doors to the outside. When the vacuuming is done, remove the bag, wipe the vacuum with a damp paper towel, cloth or disposable wet wipe, and then place the vacuum bag and paper towel in a sealed plastic bag outside. In the case of a canister vacuum, wipe the canister out with a wet paper towel and dispose of the towel as outlined above. Continue to ventilate the room for 15 minutes once the vacuuming is completed.
  • Disposal
    • Immediately place waste material outside of the building in a protected area away from children.
    • Dispose of the waste at a household hazardous waste location as soon as possible. Check with local, provincial, or territorial authorities about the requirements for recycling and for the location of household hazardous waste depots or pick-up.
    • Do not dispose of the waste in your household trash.
    • For further information on disposal, please contact Environment Canada.
  • Washing
    • Wash your hands after storing and disposing of waste.
  • Additional Information
    • Remove and install the CFL by handling only the base of the lamp to prevent any unnecessary pressure on the glass that may cause it to break.
    • Consider using a drop cloth when replacing a CFL to minimize the chance of breakage should the lamp fall or to protect the flooring and assist in clean-up should the bulb drop and break.
    • Store fluorescent lamps in containers that prevent them from breaking, such as in their original packaging.
    • Consider avoiding the use of CFLs in areas where the lamps may be easily broken.
I realize that many people love CFLs because they are much more energy efficient, but it would be nice to know the risks FIRST, before being sold on the benefits minus any downside. Health Canada hasn't even completed their studies into UV radiation and electro-magnetic fields, but we're being told..."Don't worry, if there are any problems we'll let you know later this year".

In my previous entry I concluded by saying that I would continue using these new bulbs, just not in rooms or in places where they might be prone to breakage. Now I'm reconsidering using them altogether until Health Canada issues its findings.

Most people aren't even aware of the fact that there are special requirements for disposal of CFLs. Because of the mercury contained within they can't simply be tossed out with other household trash, fortunately Home Depot has a recycling bin at their stores.

Don't get me wrong here, I think its great that they last 5 years or so, and consume much less electricity than the old incandescent bulbs. But if we're looking at landfills contaminated by mercury to say nothing of potential health risks involved with their use, maybe we'd be better off finding other ways to conserve, or at greener methods of power generation.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ed McMahon in Heaven Saying..."Here's Farrah and Mikey"

This has been quite a week for celebrity deaths, especially for us older folks. Yes I know, early 40s isn't typically considered old...unless you're talking to my kids. But Ed, Farrah and Mikey are names not as well known to those 30 and younger.

Farrah Fawcett burst onto the scene in Charlies' Angels, before I'd made it to puberty...sure I knew she was pretty, but I was more interested in her skate boarding than her gorgeous bod at 8 years of age or so. What's that you're asking me 16 year old skater dude? Farrah was a skater? Yeppers, she was chasing bad guys on her board while hitching rides on the back of pick up trucks before Tony Hawk was even in high school.

Michael Jackson, dead already, WoW!!! That one is hard to believe. But then I don't really care. I liked some of his music, but let's face it...MJ was one strange man. But then he'd been in the spotlight since he was a little kid fronting the Jackson 5. That kind of worldwide attention would likely push just about anyone over the edge.

And Johnny Carson's sidekick, Ed McMahon too...although he's more of my parent's generation, he was still a media icon as well. Other talk show hosts have tried the sidekick routine, but Johnny and Ed were the only 2 who made it work.

What do their deaths mean to me? Nothing really, I never met them. Life will continue as usual and a week from now I'll have forgotten their passing. But right now it reminds me that I am in fact getting older...something my son reminds me about all the time.

When I'd hear my parents talking about dead celebrities from years gone by it made them seem older to me, so I won't be mentioning Ed, Farrah and Mikey again.

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Conservative Mismanagement Making the Recession Worse

Like it or not Canadians are stuck with a Conservative led minority parliament for the remainder of the summer, and perhaps longer. The opposition parties had the opportunity to topple the government early in the new year, and again within the last few days, but on both occasions the Liberals came to Stephen Harper's rescue.

While polling indicates that an overwhelming majority of Canadians don't want an election any time soon, the more pressing question should be whether or not we should continue to let Stephen Harper and the likes of Jim Flaherty manage the economy during these scary times.

Harper and his minions have been telling Canadians that nobody saw this fiscal s##t storm coming, and that they're doing a good job of handling the downturn in economic fortunes. Firstly Harper and the Conservatives absolutely saw this recession on the horizon. That's why they sent Canadians to the polls back in October after just 2 years in power, despite a well functioning parliament, and ignoring their own commitment to fixed election dates to boot.

No government wants to be forced to the polls when the economy is in the dumpster. That's why the Tories pulled the plug early in hopes of garnering a majority mandate which would give them four plus years to weather the storm. Its also why they painted a rosy picture of the treasury's balance sheet during the campaign. Imagine if Enron Jim Flaherty had hit the hustings with projections of a 30+ billion dollar deficit!

That's ancient history of course. The question now is whether Steve and Jimmy boy are up to the task of steering the ship while this storm rages. I know there has been a lot of press about 'green shoots' and a slow but steady recovery being just around the corner, but I don't believe it for a second.

Here are the challenges Canada is facing.

Interest rates are at their lowest levels ever, with nowhere to go but up. That means borrowing costs are going to be on the increase, both for individual consumers and government. How are the Tories dealing with this reality? They're cutting taxes and borrowing money like drunken soldiers about to embark on a suicide mission.

Canadians are going to be facing increased taxation down the road, coupled with reduced government services. Money spent servicing the debt means less money for programs.

Harper, since his days with the NCC, has never been a fan of universal health care. And now he's setting up a situation where it would be easy to dismantle it. Sure it's nice, but where's the money going to come from in 5 years after we've added one to two hundred billion to the accumulated federal debt? As interest rates climb our debt is going to be taking a bigger and bigger bite out of each and every tax dollar.

The Liberals under Jean Chretien came into power during another devastating recession, back in the early 90s. They just about wiped the Conservatives off the map with a promise to eliminate the GST, the hated tax imposed by Brian Mulroney and Michael Wilson. Thankfully (in retrospect) they didn't fulfill that pledge, using the monies generated to help slay the deficit beast.

Canadians had two opportunities to make Chretien pay for reneging on his promise, but I suspect we were happy to see our accumulated debt going down. The electorate rewarded Chretien with three consecutive majority governments, followed by a 4th minority mandate under Paul Martin. On a personal level I only voted for the Chretien Liberals once, the first time...but became disgusted with "L'affaire Grand Mere".

The Tories under Harper have dropped the GST from 7 to 5 per cent. And now with the economy in trouble we've gone from massive surpluses just a few years back, to a deficit that keeps climbing higher and higher with each new Flaherty projection.

Consumption taxes like PST and GST though are much more progressive in my opinion as compared to income taxes. Prostitutes, drug dealers....anyone involved in illicit activity, they don't have income tax deducted at source, their money is tax free. But at least with consumption taxes the guy dealing weed from his hydroponic basement garden is paying some taxes. The more money you make, the more money you spend typically. Cutting the GST means huge savings to the wealthiest in our society, while the rest of us get an extra couple of pennies left in our pockets at the Tim Hortons window.

Another challenge is the rising price of oil. After crashing all the way down to below $50 USD a barrel, crude is once again on the rise. Pump prices are hovering around $1.00 a litre in Toronto once again. Obviously we need governement to encourage alternatives to oil. And with Canadians worried about the enviorment anything green is good.

How have the Tories reacted? Thanks to Conservative cabinet minister Lisa Raitt, she of the loose lips and hard to hold onto briefcase, its seems that a 1 billion dollar fund intended for wind generation has been diverted to the oil patch, near Environment Minister Jim Prentice's Calgary riding...nice for his constituents, but not very smart for the country as a whole or for the air we breathe.

We have a manufacturing base that's been decimated, the higher value of the Canadian dollar being a key component. Recently the city of Toronto signed a massive deal for street cars with Bombardier, a deal which would mean thousands of decent jobs in Thunder Bay.

Its also another black eye on the environmental front for the Harper Tories as they've refused to commit any cash to the initiative. They could have turned that black eye green by providing some stimulus money, thus retiring 30 year old streetcars for new less carbon emitting replacements. Maybe they could steal the money from the tar sands? You know, the money that was originally for wind generated electricity?

We need a smarter pair of hands on Canada's tiller right now, hands which will worry about the fate of all this nation's passengers. Not just the ones sitting in first class.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Real Estate - The Nortel Investment of 2009

I was talking with a coworker yesterday, a guy who sadly is in the middle of a marital break up. Until the marital home is sold however, he's stuck living with his soon to be ex-wife, and to be fair...she with him.

The conversation quickly turned to the economy when "Bob", (not his real name) stated his intention to buy back into the market once everything is settled.

Bob's house is probably about 2,200 square feet with a lot of extras. Its in a tony little subdivision of a Toronto suburb. The master bedroom is huge, its about 20 feet long with a built in gas fireplace at one end with room enough for a small couch and chair. Back in 2008 or even 2007 I could see there being bidding wars for this type of property, but not now. He and his wife have already dropped their asking price twice in just two months. They started out asking for over $300K and are now down to just below $290K. Even with the price drops though, no offers yet. They're constantly scoping the market and positioning themselves as the least expensive home compared against similar properties in their area....the problem now is that there's no movement with any of the homes in their area of similar value.

Being conservative Bob figures he and his wife should walk away with somewhere around $40K, (worst case) each once the house is sold and all the expenses associated with closing and the divorce are paid. He then told me he's going to look to buy something small for around $200K in the same general area, which he's figures he'll be able to carry with a mortgage cost of around $800 per month....using 20K for a down payment.

I couldn't help but asking ..."ARE YOU NUTS"!!!

What economic indicator out there is pointing to a market recovery anytime soon? Even with interest rates at all time historical lows housing prices are falling, albeit tepidly. The real estate industry has been doing a full court press in an effort to convince people that "now is the time to buy", and yet even with all their advertising, prices are nudging south.

And that's why Bob is looking to jump right back in, because he's afraid that prices will start climbing and that he'll be left behind. Pfffffffffffft, I highly doubt it!!!

Back in the 1980's, the last time there was a serious correction in real estate prices...home values dropped about 25%. That was when the majority of baby boomers were in their late 20s and early 30s, poised to start driving the economy with home and car purchases, and a never ending wave of conspicuous consumption. And they did, it took a while...about 7 years, but real estate recovered to previous levels and kept moving higher.

I asked Bob what his rush was...

It took about 7 years for the RE market to rebound in the 80s, and things were much better then. There wasn't the threat of 'Peak Oil', the point at which demand will outstrip oil producers ability to supply the market. Deficits were not uncommon, but you weren't seeing projections of $50 billion in one year, and that's only Enron Jim Flaherty's latest guess. And mortgage rates were at all time highs, with only one realistic direction in which to head...down, which meant affordability would increase.

Contrast that with today. Gas is selling for around $1 a litre again, taking money out of people's pockets that could be spent on other things. Record deficits today mean higher taxes tomorrow, so that's more dinero being siphoned out of the consumer's pocket. And interest rates are at or near their lowest points in history, which means the only direction left to go is up...meaning decreasing affordability as rates climb.

And Bob is thinking about buying into a market like this? One which by every reasonable measure is poised to collapse???

Don't get the idea that Bob is stupid...he's no PHD certainly, but he does have a university education. He's just a normal guy who is subject to all the noise in the marketplace, and all that noise is urging people to dive in right now. Its eerily similar to the way investors were convinced that they HAD TO HAVE some Nortel in their portfolios back when it was trading over $100 per share on the TSX. Anyone dumb enough to shun Nortel was going to be missing out big time and would be kicking themselves when analyst predictions of $180 to $200 a share came to fruition.

Like the brokerage industry, real estate is a multi billion dollar industry in this country. There is an abundance of supply on the market right now, so we're seeing the main stream media being used like cheap $10 crack whores to lead the lambs to slaughter.

Houses, like stocks, are commodities. And in the market place, where commodities are bought and sold, the number one motivator which gets people to buy or sell is fear. When the market is climbing higher and higher people jump in because they're afraid of missing the boat. Likewise when markets start tanking, investors bail because they're afraid they're going to lose it all. People bought Nortel at $100 and higher because they were afraid of missing out on big profits. They sold down around a buck when there was talk in the media about NT going bankrupt and being liquidated.

Of course there's a huge difference between a house and a stock, you can't live in your shares of Nortel.

Bob's plan is to put about 20K down on his 200K home, which would leave him with a 180K mortgage. But if all the indicators pointing to a major correction in housing values comes to pass, and there's no reason to think they won't....then he will very quickly find himself under water, owing more on the home than what its worth. Couple that with the certainty that his borrowing costs are going to be on the increase and you have a recipe for financial suicide.

Why not take the 20K down payment and invest in a tax free savings account, in year five a GIC TSFA from the major banks is quoting an interest rate of 8% right now. Or if there's unused RRSP room stash it there and reap some big tax savings. Then, when the market gets flooded with people unable to afford their homes in a climate of rising interest rates, higher energy costs and an increased tax bill...dive back in.

Bob said he'll think about it...but I just know the media whores are going to get him.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

LCBO Workers Striking For The Right Reasons

Booze hounds in Ontario are in for a shock, LCBO workers are poised to walk effective midnight tonight, the first time in the LCBO's history that union members will be taking strike action. I was employed through a temporary agency at the LCBO's Durham Distribution Centre for over a year, so I can offer some perspective here.

I can already hear the moans:

"Typical union tactics, trying to squeeze more money out of the public purse".

Not so fast, let's get some context first.

We're seeing all levels of government in this country (and abroad) toss around billions of dollars in this recession. The auto sector has received tons of money to keep them propped up. Why? We're constantly being told by the likes of Dalton McGuinty that Ontario needs the types of jobs the auto sector provides. Jobs that have a measure of security, benefits and a decent living wage.

Well Dalton, charity as they say, begins at home. The LCBO has 4 classes of workers: Full Timers earning around $25 per hour, seasonal workers who make about $16 and casuals bringing in roughly $13. And then there are temporary agency employees being paid the whopping sum of $10 per hour.

Equal pay for work of equal value? Not with this Ontario crown corporation. You can have 4 people doing the same job, with the variance in pay at a staggering 250%.

I want to be clear on a specific point here, when we're talking about temps, seasonals and casuals...we're often talking about people who are working 40 hours a week, for pretty much the entire year. At the Whitby warehouse facility there are individuals who have been working for over a year through a temporary agency like Kelly Staffing or Spherion.

I can understand bringing in temporary workers for say a month or two once a year, but that's not what the LCBO is doing. They're exploiting the workforce and paying poverty level wages to some, while others have the types of jobs guys like Premier McGuinty say we need.

Union is about brother and sisterhood, about being your neighbour's keeper. Bravo to OPSEU for standing up for their most vulnerable members...and in the case of temps, non-members. The LCBO doesn't cost the taxpayer one cent, they're a cash cow with a reported profit of over $1 billion last year. Those numbers allowed senior managers to reap huge bonuses, so the money is obviously how about spreading it around.

Don't believe for a second that LCBO management is looking out for Ontario's consumers of alcoholic beverages, far from it. Just this past Christmas they received a special shipment of Sheridan's Irish Liqueur, a gift box which included two stylish shot glasses. Great idea right? Sheridan's provides retailers with an attractive gift box to display, with 2 liqueur glasses included for the regular price. What? You didn't see them on display at your local LCBO retailer?

No surprise. The bottles were lifted out of the gift boxes and the glasses were sold to employees for 50 cents each, $1 for the pair. The joke around the warehouse was that the money was for management's Christmas least I think it was a joke. I bought 8 of them and gifted them as candle holders.

The strike is bringing to light a lot of discussion about privatizing liquor sales. In my mind that would be incredibly stupid. Those lucky enough to have full time status with the LCBO are decently paid, they're not rich by any means, but they're able to afford a reasonable lifestyle. Privatizing liquor sales would mean replacing people making around 40-50K a year with individuals earning less than 20K.

Is that really the way we want this province and this country to go? Where a precious few at the top make huge 6 figure salaries, while the vast majority of people doing most of the actual work are asked to get by on poverty level wages. OPSEU's current radio spots are bang on the money in this regard.

If you haven't heard the ads, they highlight the scandal involving eHealth's former CEO Sarah Kramer. She was hired at a salary of $380,000, then given a bonus of $114,000 after just 4 months on the job. After handing out contracts valued at over $5 million without putting them out for competitive bidding she was released...with a severance package worth over $300,000. And the province can't afford to treat workers making less than 25K a year fairly? Yeah right.

If you drive by a picket line show the workers some support, they're striking for the right reasons.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Kansas Late Term Abortion Stats - None Performed To Save The Mother's Life

Before wading in, (once again) to the abortion debate I'm donning full body armour. I'm already anticipating a full frontal assault by the extreme element of the Pro-Choice/Pro-Abortion lobby.

For these zealots a woman's right to make reproductive choices is sacrosanct. If a woman decides to abort because the sex of the child isn't what she desires, that's her prerogative. If tests show the fetus will have some non-life threatening abnormality, it doesn't matter...women should always have the option to choose an abortion. If a grandmother in her sixties wants to be artificially inseminated that's fine, the state has no right to impose its will on the reproductive rights of any woman.

Canada is the only country in the industrialized world without any laws with respect to abortion. Abortion is legal at all times, even with pregnancies deep into the 3rd trimester when the fetus is deemed viable, that is to say when the fetus has developed to such and extent that it could survive outside the womb.

The Pro-Choice camp typically asserts that in virtually all cases of late term abortion, that the procedure is performed to save the life of the mother or because of some serious danger to the mother's physical health. Some might allow that there may be very rare instances where this isn't the case, but that any legislation restricting access to abortion procedures after the (approximately) 20 week mark, they would be overkill that could endanger a woman's health.

Its hard to argue the point, especially when there's a dearth of data available.

Abortion statistics are hard to come by, and those provided are typically skimpy when it comes to details. However in the state of Kansas statistics are in fact available. Given that most Canadian women seeking late term abortion are sent to the U.S. the data is of particular interest for those engaged in this debate.

The numbers are very revealing. In 2008 192 late term abortions were performed. "Late term" being identified as 22 weeks gestation and beyond. Of those, zero were to save the mother's life.

The statistics go on to say that in all 192 cases of LTA the procedures were performed because:

"The patient would suffer substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function if she were forced to continue the pregnancy."

Well that sounds reasonable enough doesn't it? I am not one who would want to see any woman forced to continue a pregnancy that might irreparably damage a vital organ.

Here's where things get clouded. According to Kansas' office of the Attorney General:

So how many abortions were performed due to the risk of an irreversible impairment to a physical bodily function, how many due to impairment of women's mental health, and how was this determination made?

In all 192 late term procedures the determination was based on:

"Gestational and diagnostic information provided by the referring physician and other health care professional(s) as well as examination and interview of the patient by attending physician".

The other option for determining 'irreversible impairment' was:

"The patient is suffering a medical emergency. Based on examination and interview of the patient by the attending physician, the physician judges that the abortion is necessary to prevent substantial and permanent damage to a major bodily function".

In zero cases was there a determination of a 'medical emergency'. The obvious question then is how many of the 192 late term procedures were due to mental as opposed to physical impairment, and was that mental impairment sufficient to be deemed permanent. The statistics for this question aren't available. (Full Table Available Here in PDF form).

Obviously much of this data and discussion is coming to light because of the murder of Dr. Tiller in Wichita Kansas. According to BeliefNet blogger Steven Waldman, who spoke with Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, 60 cases of Dr. Tiller's were reviewed, with all 60 having a psychiatric justification.

This certainly throws a wrench in the popular argument of hard line Pro-Choice advocates, those who contend that 'virtually all' late term abortions are to save the life of the mother or are due to some medical emergency.

If there's a psychiatric argument to be made regarding a woman's mental health suffering permanent damage if a pregnancy is allowed to continue, shouldn't that determination be made by a mental health professional? Certainly an 'attending physician' is not sufficient to make such a specialized diagnosis.

Even U.S. president Barack Obama is on record as opposing late term abortion for reasons of mental distress.

"I don't think that 'mental distress' qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term".

Okay self described "Femme-Nazis" (not a term I'd use, but some Pro-Choice bloggers have embraced it), go ahead and try to tear me a new one. I still consider myself "Pro-Choice" but I'm not an extremist or a zealot. I see nothing wrong with placing reasonable limitations on a woman's right to choose. And in my opinion restricting access to the procedure post fetal viability, except in cases where the mother's physical health and/or life is very reasonable.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Boycott NHL Licensed Products Until Canada Gets 7th Team - Petition

I've started an on-line petition so Canadians can let Gary Bettman and the NHL know that we're going to hit them where it hurts until they put a 7th team in Canada.

Can Hamilton support an NHL franchise? Absolutely!!! Instead of having struggling teams in cities like Nashville, Columbus, Tampa Bay and Phoenix the NHL could have perhaps as many as 6 more Canadian teams, in cities where hockey matters and is front page news.

With the revenue sharing agreement between the NHL and its player's association cities like Winnipeg and Quebec City would now be viable. It needn't end there, Regina and Halifax might also prove lucrative markets, with the city of Toronto ripe for another team.

But Gary Bettman and the NHL hardly seem interested, they'd rather ignore a country where people live and breathe hockey, while dreaming about expansion or relocation to places like Las Vegas, Kansas City and Portland. There's a good reason for this, there are 24 U.S. teams in the league right now, and many are already struggling to sell tickets. Owners of U.S. teams think its easier to flog tickets for games against cities like NY, LA or San Jose than it would be if the Hamilton Puckheads or Regina Wheat Kings were coming to town.

Sports is big business, and hockey is no exception. The only way to get the league's attention is to hit them where it hurts, in the wallet. I'm not going to suggest that people living in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal stop attending games...that would never work. Neither would asking people to stop watching the games on TV, we love our hockey too much.

But ticket sales and television rights aren't the only revenue streams for the league, there's also licensing fees. Every team sweater and toque with an NHL logo on it brings in $$$. Hats, socks, boxer shorts, flags, hockey cards....there has to be a million products generating licensing revenue. This is where Joe and Jane Canadian can hit Gary Bettman and make it count.

If you think Canada deserves and merits another team, stop buying products licensed to the NHL. The league generates over $1 billion each year by plastering team logos on everything from sweaters to key chains, and it stands to reason that a hefty percentage of that money comes from our Loonies. In fact the NHL forecast an 8% increase in licensing revenue back in August of 2008 according to SportsBusiness Journal.

SIGN THIS PETITION and let Gary Bettman and the league know you will not be purchasing any NHL licensed products until a 7th Canadian team is approved.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Michael Ignatieff - The Pragmatic Scholar

Back on December 10th 2008 I wrote a short biographical piece on Michael Ignatieff under the title: Will Canadians Get Jiggy With Iggy. In that entry I offered up some basic background information on the new Liberal leader, and drew the conclusion that he would provide a much stiffer challenge to the Harper Conservatives. I also expressed the opinion that the new opposition leader had a pragmatic bent, saying:

My overall take on Michael Ignatieff is that he’s something of a pragmatist, which leads to inevitable contradictions.

If you've been following the goings on in Ottawa recently you have no doubt heard Mr. Ignatieff refer to himself using precisely that same term. Although I noted it early, this pragmatic approach, it is something I find curious for a scholar. When it comes to intellectuals with a central focus on social issues and politics, in my experience dogmatic views are far more common. In the political arena however being pragmatic can be both an asset and a curse.

What some call pragmatic, others call flip flopping. Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Jean Chretien and even Stephen Harper could all lay claim to being pragmatic.

Trudeau ridiculed wage and price controls, then implemented them. Mulroney dismissed the notion of a free trade agreement with the United States before going ahead and negotiating one. Jean Chretien lambasted the GST during his first campaign as Liberal leader, then left it be after being elected, as Paul Martin used the revenues generated to slay the deficit beast. And finally Harper was adamant about leaving the tax status of income trusts alone, then gained power and made them subject to income tax.

In all of those cases it can easily be argued that pragmatism was the reason for changing course. Typically it all comes down to a matter of political allegiance. When a leader you favour says one thing and then does another, its because of shifting realities and a need to be realistic. If on the other hand it is a leader you dislike, then the change of course means that no promise is sacred, that no commitment can be trusted and relied upon.

So Iggy is pragmatic, but then so is Harper...and a slew of other successful politicians. It does give him a convenient out however, as in the most recent case of the ultimatum that wasn't. Michael wasn't caving on his threat to vote down the government, he was merely being pragmatic.

Which takes us to Mr. Ignatieff's careers in academia and journalism, his writing and broadcasting. I feel very secure in asserting that Canada has never had a politician with a C.V. as impressive as the Liberal leader's. With teaching posts at Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard we are obviously looking at an individual who seeks the mountain tops in his chosen endeavours. Thus it should come as little surprise, that upon entering the political arena, he sought out the leadership of the Liberal party.

His scholarship led to an acclaimed career in journalism, and now he aspires to the pinnacle of Canadian political life, the keys to 24 Sussex. In a biographical piece published in the Globe and Mail it is reported that the final four words beside his graduation photo in the yearbook are: "Intention: journalism or politics." Intention has become reality.

But the reality of a politician is much harsher than the reality of a journalist or a professor. A writer can put down his or her thoughts, and back them up with ample research and footnotes. If someone disagrees they're welcome to publish competing ideas, or perhaps even engage in debate. But on the whole the discourse is incredibly dignified when compared to the blood and guts of a political scuffle.

Can Canada's pragmatic scholar excel in this arena? Will decades spent in the relatively antiseptic environments of journalism and higher education handicap this descendant of Russian aristocracy?

Pragmatism is all well and good, but in the heat of an election campaign the electorate will look for strength and conviction. Flip flopping is a common trait among successful leaders, but typically it is behaviour engaged in only after power is attained.

This is the one lesson that Michael, I believe, has yet to learn. Assuming he achieves his goal of leading the Liberal party back to the seat of government, he will then be able to veer away from previously asserted convictions and brush aside criticism by saying, "I'm a pragmatist". Until that time arrives however he would do best to state his convictions, lay out his courses of action...and stick to them. Successful leaders are often forgiven, aspirants on the other hand are judged more severely.

Good Luck.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Iggy Coughs Up Puck, Then Makes a Diving Block

The other day I characterized Michael Ignatieff's ultimatum that wasn't as being akin to him going on a power play and scoring on his own net:

In retrospect that might have been a bit harsh. Given how he's handled the aftermath of threatening to topple Harper's minority government, and then backing off after meeting with the PM, I think another description is in order. I'll stick with the hockey metaphor though, and equate Iggy to a hotshot rookie defenceman being a little too cute with the puck in his own end, having it stolen off his stick...but then having enough skill and talent to recover and make a diving stop of a shot at the net.

It might be a bit of a stretch to liken Michael Igantieff at 62 years of age to a young rookie defenceman, but at least in terms of political experience its a fitting description.

In the final analysis the opposition leader accomplished nothing of significance. The Conservatives have only agreed to look at making changes to EI over the summer, with the involvement of the Liberals. At the end of his little gambit Ignatieff comes off as looking indecisive. He saw an opening, made a quick move to rush the puck out of his own end...then thought better of it after looking up ice.

Like a lot of political junkies I'm itching for another election, but that puts me in the minority. In all likelihood a vote held now would result in yet another minority government. If the Liberals managed to win the most seats they would need the support of the NDP and/or Bloc. Obviously Ignatieff is more comfortable working with the Tories than the other parties.

EI benefits, isotopes for cancer treatment and incompetent ministers aside the central issue for Canadians right now is the economy. By waiting until at least the fall Ignatieff has bought the Liberals more time to organize and fund raise. When the vote finally comes though Michael will have a difficult task in differentiating the Liberals from a Conservative government he has willingly supported and propped up.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iggy gets a powerplay and scores...into his own net

Things were looking pretty sweet for the Liberals. The polling numbers were good, especially in seat rich Ontario and Quebec, and the governing Tories were mired in scandal and red ink. Michael Ignatieff was looking more and more like the Prime Minister in waiting while Stephen Harper's stock sunk lower and lower.

But the best laid plans of mice and opposition butcher an old saw. I'm sure Michael envisioned things unfolding differently.

After Harper and the Conservatives delivered their 'report card' Ignatieff's plan was to criticize and demand changes. With the threat of an election over his head there's no way Harper would refuse. Iggy might not get everything, but he would get enough to look Prime Ministerial...and then would come the professor's proclamation that the probationary period would be extended, saving Canadians from going to the polls.

That was the plan. But Stephen Harper went off script.

Ignatieff said there were four key areas that needed to be addressed:
  1. A plan to eliminate the deficit
  2. Changes to Employment Insurance
  3. Action on the problem of isotopes
  4. A road map for the health care system
Harper mulled those demands over for perhaps a nanosecond before basically saying "no". This put the ball squarely back in Iggy's court. He'd issued what amounted to an ultimatum, work towards addressing these issues or we'll vote against the update. The NDP and Bloc had already voted against the budget back in January, and proclaimed ahead of time that they would be consistent in voting down the budget's update. With the update being in effect a budget bill, a defeat would equate to a vote of non confidence, which in turn would mean an election.

Watching Ignatieff being interviewed by Peter Mansbridge on CBC yesterday was painful, I've never seen someone trying to sound forceful and decisive while back pedalling so fast. Obviously Iggy doesn't have the stones to take his message to Canadians yet. The question is why? Sure polling numbers indicate that only about 14% of Canadians want an election right now, but leadership isn't about pandering to polling numbers. Ignatieff could go to the electorate on the attack, and force Harper to defend his record.

The inability of his Finance Minister to provide anything other than incredibly inaccurate forecasts. A senior cabinet member who leaves her briefcase lying around and salivates at the prospect of people having their cancer treatment delayed. No strategy for restoring the treasury to fiscal good health.

Iggy has tons of ammo at his disposal, and properly managed he could frame the issues of the campaign as he sees fit. Obviously Harper would try to deflect all the criticism while blaming the Libs of being opportunistic at the expense of the nation.

And therein lies Ignatieff's lack of confidence...not in the government, but in himself. He saw the way the Tories shredded Dion last October and doesn't feel ready for the fight yet. And that's a pity, because it leaves Canadians stuck with an incompetent government as well as official opposition.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

How To Hang Up On Telemarketers...Nicely

How many times have you been enjoying dinner, the phone rings and you answer..."Hello" but there's no answer? Again you say "hello" but still no answer. Just as you're getting ready to say hello for yet a third time in an exasperated voice, you hear a hum. The hum is the sound of about a hundred distant voices all chattering inaudibly.

You let out a sigh as a human voice finally comes on the line saying something like:

"Good evening, this is Mark calling from 'some company'. May I speak with Mr. or Ms. (insert your name horribly mispronounced)".

Why does it take them so long to respond after you say hello? Allow me to explain.

In a previous life I worked as a Project Manager for a large Toronto Call-Centre. Back in 1996 I was part of a team which opened up a brand new centre in North Bay Ontario. Stop booing people, I've been out of the industry for YEARS now...if you're gonna throw fruit, please make sure its mushy and not frozen, those tomatoes leave welts. Thank you.

Most telemarketers use technology called 'predictive dialers'. Rather than have employees dial their phones by hand they have software that does it for them. Instead of having telesales reps wasting valuable time listening to voice mail and 'the number you have dialed is no longer in service' the software screens them out. The employees sit idly at their desks, headset in place and fingers at the computer waiting to hear a beep in their ear.

The predictive dialer actually "thinks", it calculates how many numbers it must dial to get a live voice, and co-relates that to the number of reps on the phones. The reason for the delay, when we're sitting there saying "hello? Hello??? HELLO!!!", is because the dialer is looking for an available agent to send the call to. Once that person hears the beep in their ear, a screen with our name and account information appears on their computer. Rather than asking for the person they're calling right away, they introduce themselves first so they can locate the name and hopefully figure out how to pronounce it. do you hang up on these poor saps without hurting their feelings? Being an ever so polite Canadian, I don't like to be rude to the chained in rep on the other end of the line. I know what these sweat shops are like, where workers are wedged into cubicles so tiny they almost look like fattening pens for veal. I simply wait until they get out the first syllable or two in their spiel, and then I hang up. The operator chalks it up as a 'ghost call', in other words the person hung up before they had a chance to speak with them. The sales rep isn't crying to their supervisor about a rude caller and I get to enjoy my dinner, win win.

Hope you find the information of some use, I had to think of something else to blog on while we all sit back and wait for Iggy to grope around in his trousers, checking to see if he has the stones down there to take Harper's inept government out.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Don't Dive Into Real Estate Before Reading Garth Turner's Blog

I've become a regular reader of former Conservative and Liberal MP Garth Turner's blog Greater Fool. In addition to providing readers with some insights into life on Parliament Hill, he has taken to doling out what I consider to be some very sage advice on the economy in general and real estate in particular.

I would strongly suggest that anyone even considering a foray into real estate, that they read a few of his blog entries first. You'll find his commentary flies in the face of almost everything presented in the mainstream media. That should come as no surprise, pick up any daily or weekly newspaper in this country and check out all the advertising being done by those who's livelihood depends on the buying and selling of houses and condos. If you want a short lived career in journalism try writing newspaper articles that are bearish on the housing market.

Popular wisdom has it that with interest rates so low, and with housing prices being depressed in many parts of the country...that now is the time to dive in and buy or regret missing the boat as affordability drifts away.

Just this past weekend I was over at a friend's house, and flipping through the local rag's real estate listings we came across a detached home for about $150,000 which would carry for around $550 a month on a mortgage amortized over 35 years at a variable rate of about 2.6%. Given that this friend pays almost $800 a month in rent it would seem a no-brainer to some.

"Why am I paying $800 and building no equity when I could be paying less and owning"??? The ad predicated its assumptions on a 5% down payment, which would mean scraping together about $10k from savings, borrowing, or drawing on an RSP. But if that could be swung...why not dive in?

Here are some very good reasons. The monthly payment is very low, yes...but it's predicated on a variable rate mortgage. Going fixed would mean a higher rate and higher mortgage payments. One could gamble and pray that rates stay where they are, but we've already seen the banks hike interest rates a couple of times recently. Reality is that rates are so low right now, there's only one direction they can move, UP!!!

People are already leveraged to the hilt, living beyond their means and using home equity to finance their lifestyles. We haven't seen a major correction in real estate prices in this country like what has happened in the US. In fact the most recent spring market has provided something of a mini-boom to the market, with many first time buyers being lured in by media reports and heavy industry advertising.

If our market does suffer a sharp correction, and with job losses mounting and oil prices spiking again that is a very strong possibility...then a lot of people could find themselves being forced to sell their homes to get out from under a mountain of debt. If listings increase significantly you can expect to see prices tanking, real estate is not immune to the laws of supply and demand.

So buying that $150,000 "bargain" might not look so good in a year or two if interest rates climb as everyone is expecting. And if a glut of homes start hitting the market, that tiny little $7,500 in equity could evapourate overnight. Who wants to own a home with more money borrowed against it than what its worth?

There are many who will point to the axiom that..."Real Estate always goes up". The same people trotting out this little chestnut are likely the same people who bought Nortel at $75 in anticipation that it would hit $180. Or maybe they bought into oil at $140 per barrel US because it had to keep climbing.

Our governments are borrowing money on a Biblical scale which can only mean higher taxes in the future. If not higher taxes then we'll see a huge reduction in government funded programs and services meaning we'll be paying for things our taxes used to....while our tax dollars get diverted into servicing the mountain of debt being racked up.

The economy may be bottoming out, that's what everyone seems to be hoping for. But already we're hearing talk of a 'jobless recovery' meaning chronically high unemployment could be hear for a long time to come. Hard to envision huge increases in wages and benefits with so many on the outside of the employment window looking in.

Garth does a better job on Greater Fool, so give it a look. If you're curious about what "Greater Fool" means, its a concept not unfamiliar to many market players. Its based on the idea that when someone buys a commodity (stocks, real estate...anything with no tangible value) that a 'greater fool' will eventually come along and be willing to pay even more for it. Of course if you buy at the peak of a bubble (or after a sucker rally) you may not be able to afford to wait out the arrival of that person even more foolish than yourself, in which case you'll be the Greatest Fool.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Time To Find Out If Iggy Has a Pair

Here we go again folks, Michael Ignatieff has left open the possibility that he may be willing to join in with Messieurs Layton and Duceppe in defeating the Harper government...but then again, he may not.

We're being told that the Liberal leader wants to take a couple days to read over the government's "report card" before rendering a decision as to whether or not he'll trigger an election. I don't believe that for a second.

What Ignatieff is going to decide over this weekend is whether or not he can fight and win an election if he joins with the NDP and Bloc on a confidence vote. Iggy is a long way from the halls of academia, he is now fully immersed in the bloody arena of leadership politics. The question before the leader of her majesty's official opposition is a difficult one. Were he back at Harvard he could write up an opinion piece and fire it off to Macleans or the New Yorker, but Stornoway isn't an Ivy League school.

Are the Liberals under Ignatieff ready for an election? Does this grandson of Russian aristocracy have what it takes to slug it out with Stephen Harper in the rough and tumble of an election campaign? Iggy knows his opponents, he knows the Conservatives under Harper will fight both mean and dirty. Will the professor reach down and find his cajones swelling at the prospect of battle? Or will they shrivel up as he finds yet another reason to prop up the Tories?

The first time Ignatieff faced this test I was sure he would back the Tories. That was back in February when he tepidly endorsed the budget, with the caveat that periodic updates be given. I sagely predicted back on February 9th that the finance minister's deficit projections would be, "a lot more if Flaherty's record of forecasting is any indication". Now just in advance of the government's update Flaherty has proven me correct, saying the deficit has ballooned from a forecast of 34 billion to over 50 billion.

I still think he's sugar coating it, which is really scary. Enron Jim blames the increased deficit on the fact that government revenues are down and expenditures have gone up. Really??? Who'd a thunk it??? So revenues decline in recessions??? Its a shame our Finance Minister doesn't read this blog, back on January 11th of this year I wrote:

Okay...enough tooting my own horn. The question now Mr. Ignatieff is do you send Canadians to the polls for a summer election, or not. Do you have the royal jelly or are you just an academic who prefers theory to real life?

The Tory script is easy enough to predict, they'll blame the Liberals and the other opposition parties of playing politics at a time when Canadians need stable government guiding us through these troubled times. The ads showing Michael referring to himself as an American will be played over and over, with the "he's just in it for himself" voice over repeated so often it will be drilled into our collective subconscious.

How do you fight that? Don't be defensive, go on the attack.

Can Canadians afford to have this government guiding the economy when their budget projections have best before dates that expire just after they're issued? Do we want senior government members depicting the travesty of cancer patients having treatment delayed as "sexy"? Are we in favour of seeing monies intended for wind generated electricity diverted to the tar sands?

Michael...Can I call you Mikey? Bite the bullet, dump this government now. If Stephen tries to categorize a summer election as a waste, point out that the October vote was even more of a futile exercise. The last parliament was functioning just fine and there was no need for Harper to break his promise of fixed election dates. When the Tories talk about all the money they're saving people doing home renovations, remind everyone how many billions were lost when the Conservatives broke their promise not to tax income trusts.

The balls are in your court Michael, now check the pair down there and take your shot.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Please Mr. Flaherty - No More Predictions!!!

By now you've probably heard that Canada's Federal Finance Minister is once again making predictions about the Canadian economy. First we had Jim's assurance that Canada would avoid recession, but of course that was during an election and Canadians should always take a jaundiced view of anything said during a campaign. Then after the election came the laughable economic update that had the federal balance sheet continuing to operate at a surplus. Strike three was the recent federal budget which pegged this year's deficit at about 34 billion.

Normally its three strikes and you're out, but with Liberal support Flaherty was able to keep batting and finally came clean that the deficit would be upwards of 50 billion. Now we're being told that Canada's economy is poised to take off, leaving us in a stronger position than ever.

Ya think Jim???

GM is in bankruptcy and Canada is hemorrhaging jobs. Our dollar is soaring against the U.S. greenback, which will do nothing to help our already battered manufacturing sector. Oil is once again bubbling around $70 per barrel USD as pump prices start climbing again. And the banks just nudged mortgage rates up a couple tenths of a point.

Flaherty looks at this mess and sees a strong rebound on the horizon? The so called "green shoots" showing up in economic data must be wacky tabaccy if that's what Enron Jim envisions. Forty thousand Canadians join the ranks of the unemployed and we're expected to believe that this is good news?

Of course there's a very good reason for all this spin. The Conservatives are already in election mode, and as previously mentioned, nobody should expect the truth when politicians are attempting to woo voters. Some basic advice for those trying to decipher the prognostications of Mr. Flaherty: If Jimmy says red, bet black. If Mr. Magoo says its gonna be a sunny day, put on a get the idea.

The oil companies are getting there's with increased prices at the pumps. The bank's are taking their cut by raising mortgage rates, which can only move in one direction now. Taxes have nowhere to go but up now that we're mortgaging our grand kid's future. And amidst all this doom and gloom our corporate media is encouraging us hosers to belly up to the cheap credit bar and spend spend spend, so we can be...uhm, hosed.

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tiller's Death Intensifies Abortion Debate

The murder of George Tiller has rekindled the debate on abortion. That's not to suggest this contentious issue was dead, but now it is once again fodder for mainstream news and water cooler discussion. Activists on both sides of the issue have taken advantage of increased public attention to voice their concerns.

Here in Canada things are far less complicated than in the U.S. where abortion is a regulated procedure, with states placing restrictions of one kind or another on late term procedures. George Tiller had been taken to court on numerous occasions, however in all cases he was acquitted. For abortion proponents this is used as justification to argue that the procedures he performed were medically necessary.

The state of Kansas' policy for later term abortions is that any procedure performed 'post viability' must be to protect the woman's life and/or health. There is no distinction as to whether that involves mental or physical health in Kansas. States such as Alabama, Indiana, Montana and Pennsylvania allow for later abortions only to protect a woman's physical health, not her mental health. Still other states (Idaho, Michigan, New York, Rode Island) do not permit later term abortions unless the woman's life is at risk, meaning post pregnancy health concerns cannot be used as justification for the procedure.

Table of State Laws available from The Guttmacher Institute: LINK

The state of Kansas does not require approval from a second doctor, nor for a second doctor to be present when the operation is performed. Ten U.S. states require approval from a second doctor with nine requiring another physician present during the procedure.

Some Pro-Life/Anti-Abortion activists have taken a 'live by the sword, die by the sword' view of Dr. Tiller's murder. Personally I find it disgusting and repugnant that people who claim to cherish life, that they'd get any satisfaction or joy from the taking of a human life. On the Pro-Choice/Pro Abortion side many are hailing Dr. Tiller as both a hero and a martyr.

In Canada we don't have to worry about when abortion is legal or under what circumstances it is permitted, because we have no laws whatsoever on the books. In our 'enlightened' nation the decision to abort or continue to term is left to a woman in consultation with her doctor.

Personally I think the time is coming when Canada will again see legislation introduced regulating abortion. The question will be, in what form. My own views mirror those of U.S. president Barack Obama, that it is appropriate to restrict access to later term procedures so long as there is an exception in cases where the physical health and/or life of the mother is at risk.

The extreme element of the Pro-Choice/Pro Abortion lobby won't like it, they're happy with the status quo. But while George Tiller's murder may be helping them paint extreme Pro-Lifers as small minded and intolerant, many Canadians are becoming more educated and sensitized to the whole abortion issue. The winners in this debate will be those most able to express their views without resorting to name calling and histrionics.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Why Not Make Money From a Blog?

In surfing around and reading various blogs I'm amazed by how many are devoid of any advertising. Some even have a banner which proclaims them to be "Ad Free". I was talking to my brother about this, about how I'm trying to make some money with this little endeavour...his reaction about how my blog might be perceived by those who shun any and all advertising was good for a chuckle: "You're selling out to DAH MAN Gord".

I do wish to make one point perfectly clear, I don't view my little corner of cyberspace as a career, far from it. I enjoy blogging and sharing my thoughts on various and sundry issues. If in doing something I enjoy, if I'm able to get a little Do Re Mi from it...well I certainly won't argue.

I've asked a few bloggers who are "Ad Free" about why they don't bother with trying to earn some revenue and the response overwhelmingly is that its not worth the effort for a very small return. I can't argue that point, so far I've banked a grand total of $0 from my little soapbox. That's not to say I haven't made any money, but the advertising platforms I'm using have minimum thresholds before they'll issue payment and I'm not there yet. Google's Adsense is probably the most popular with bloggers, and you have to hit $100 before they'll issue a cheque...which I think I'll probably hit sometime this year the way things are going.

I tried a few different advertisers, but have settled on just two. Adsense fills up the right sidebar, and I don't think it distracts from the content. The ads are supposed to be targeted based on my what my blogs are about...which seems to be the case most of the time. Still there are occasional ads for soft drinks and chips, but I don't ever recall writing about snack food.

I'm also running ads through Chitika, which has an interesting platform. The ads only show up when surfers arrive on my blog via a search engine like google. Like Adsense they're supposed to be geared to my content, but to be honest I don't really care. If a few people click on the ads and it results in ten or a hundred bucks dropping into my hands every now and again...then its all good. Chitika's payment threshold is only $10, and I'm almost there, so if you see me getting a sundae for dessert at the golden arches then you'll know why.

I put those hyperlinks on the word Chitika on purpose, they have a referral program so if you have a blog and decide to give them a go...What the hell, I guess I'm just a money loving cyber whore at the end of the day. I could put up a bunch of free banner junk on my sidebar, its not like I'm raking in major cash things stand only about 1 in 300 people even bother clicking the ads on this blog.

At the end of the day I'll continue blogging regardless of whether its making me $$$ or not...but I won't begrudge "selling out" if I'm able to pay for a round of golf or two each year from the nickels, dimes and pennies that accumulate.

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Rome, Pedophile Priests and The Sacrament of Confession

I haven't been blogging at all lately, and there's a reason for that. Divorce is seldom a one time event, especially when there are children involved. Disputes don't end when the marriage ends, they continue and at times they can be time consuming. Especially when individuals are combative and litigious.

Something I've been meaning to write about for a while is the issue of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic Priests, specifically the abuse inflicted on children.

We've all been horrified by the stories, of these men in their priestly collars preying on innocent youth...and how the church did nothing to protect the victims. Not only did the Roman Catholic authorities do nothing to protect the victims, they actually abetted in further abuse by moving these sick priests around to different parishes, actually putting even more kids at risk.

One of the sacraments of the Roman Catholic faith is that of confession, wherein an individual tells a priest the sins he or she has committed. We've all heard the oft recited bromide 'confession is good for the soul', but I would challenge the wisdom of that statement if it is a child confessing their sins to a pedophile priest.

I doubt there are any individuals who can honestly state that they've never committed a sin, or done something about which they are ashamed, and that holds especially true for children. When I was around 8 years of age I stole a yo-yo from a friend of mine, and I remember feeling horribly guilty about it. Had I confessed that to a priest I would have been handing him a great deal of power, and power in the hands of a pedophile is an extremely dangerous commodity.

The children who have been victimized, and perhaps continue to be victimized, are held hostage by shame. Shame of what's been done to them certainly, but also I strongly suspect by the power a priest holds over the victim. When you shame yourself in front of another individual there is the potential for that person to exert control over you. If you're an adult you're better equipped to understand the dynamic, but if you're a child...that power can be abused, and in the case of pedophile priests we know it has been abused.

Given that Roman Catholics profess to follow the teachings of Jesus I will fall back on a familiar Christian teaching. Jesus taught his followers that no good tree gives off bad fruit, and no bad tree gives off good fruit. "Ye shall no them by their fruit", as it says in Matthew.

The fruit of the Roman Catholic Church is its priesthood, and it is on display for all the world to see. If the fruit is rotten then so is the tree, you don't need to read Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes" to see that.

Any parent who willingly allows their child to go into a confessional, in my mind they are exercising extremely poor judgement. A parent's job is to protect their child whenever possible, and to warn them of potential dangers. If that means telling children that a priest is just a man, as prone to sin as anyone else, then so be it. Rome has shown it has zero regard for protecting the children of their faith, that task must be left to the parents.

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