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January, 2010:

The MotherCorp is on crack…

…if they expect unimportant and seldom listened to scribblers like myself pay a monthly subscription fee to quote their articles.

This is a taxpayer funded organization fer gawd’s sake! And likely the one and only almost unbiased traditional news source in the country!

Give your heads a shake CBC Execs! Revisit this and quick! We bloggers et al link to your articles because they ARE fairly unbiased, well-written and relevant to our nation’s discussions.

One cannot help but think that this is again another example of the politicization of our country’s national media. This is what bugs me the most:

the licensee must “agree not to criticize the CBC, the subject of the article, or its author.”

Huh? No frickin’ way!

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PS pensions and Doris Day

PS pensions. What will Day want to do?

There is much angst at the moment among Public Servants with regard to what the future holds for their jobs, salaries and pensions. And I think that this concern has some merit given the track record of the new Treasury Board President as a spender rather than a cutter in his old job as the Alberta Treasurer. He may want to prove to his right-wing supporters that he is not afraid to take the axe to spending.

This is what he said during Saturday’s CBC interview:

Q Will public service pension schemes need to be addressed?

A We will look at everything. I am looking for an overall co-operative approach and you will see the details begin to unfold.

I take this to mean that pensions are indeed on the table as well as PS wage controls beyond 2011. Salary increases of 1.5% in each of the three years of the current collective agreement will expire on June 15 th, 2011.

So let’s put aside wages for a moment with the acknowledgement that – given the history of either the Grits or the ReformCons (doesn’t really matter who’s in power, in this case) – any medium term restraint plan will once again include impose salary increase limits.

So – to pensions.

When I signed on to this job about 13 years ago, it was with the knowledge that I would be paid at a lower rate than I would have been – all else being equal – in a similar position in the private sector. I was willing to accept this because the PS pension benefits are really a part of my salary – a deferred salary. I do pay one-third of the total contribution to my pension benefits and the government pitches in the rest. Should that ration change? Maybe. But slowly and it should certainly not be without extensive discussions with the PS Unions. This is what I signed on for and the pension is what was promised to me… and I expect the government of the day to live up to their promise.

But – you say – the private sector employees are being robbed of their pension benefits by their former employers, why should the PS suffer the same pain? This is the argument of many right-wing think-tanks and analysts but is one that is from a profit-driven perspective. Any change to the rules that benefits the bottom line is a good move according to the CFIB, C.D. Howe Institute or the National Citizen’s Coalition (the group that Stevo used to lead).

But why do we have to dumb down the public sector to the level of the private sector? What can’t the private sector pension rules be every bit as generous those in the public sector? THAT is what the employees of big business should be asking their employers.

But what if the rules were changed, not retroactively, but only for new recruits?

Then that is a different case. The new employees are coming on board knowing at the time of their acceptance of the position their own pension provisions, rates of pay, etc. In much the same way that we in the PS know that if we do want to climb the corporate ladder, we will need to achieve some degree of competence in French (if an Anglo) and English (if a Francophone). The rules of the game are up front for all to see.

Yes, imposing less “generous” pension rules of the game would create two distinct classes of PS employees – one under the old provisions and one under the new and more restrictive provisions. This, in the long-run wouldn’t be a good thing. But it may be necessary.

So to sum up:

  1. I am assuming a pension – based more or less on the rules of the road when I signed on – to be there when I choose to retire (which BTW won’t be until I’m at least 61).
  2. I am willing to make a larger contribution (I currently contribute about $7,000 per year) of my deferred salary to the fund to ensure that it is adequately funded and to take a little pressure of the public purse…. as long as the changes are made progressively and with the cooperation of the labour groups.
  3. WRT to the above – the politicans MUST apply these changes to their own pension plans as well.
  4. I am NOT willing to accept large cuts to my benefits nor to changes to the years of service or ages at which one can claim a pension (even though I personally cannot benefit from early retirement).
  5. I am willing to accept that new Public Servants may have to have a plan that is quite different from my own
  6. And I strongly suggest that the private sector and all of those chattering, right-wing business interest groups look at something other than RoI once in a while and invest in long-term commitments to their most valuable resopurces – their people.

One final note. I know that very, very few outside of the National Capital Region give two shakes about the Public Service. Mnay native Ottawans don’t realise this having grown up in a Government town. But as an “import”, I can say with a high degree of confidence that tTo the bulk of the populace, we are painted with the same brush as the politicians and would not shed a tear upon hearing of cuts to the PS pension plan. The Harperites know this and may well be willing to enact radical changes knowing that while they may lose a few seats in the NCR, the impact would be neutral or even positive elsewhere.

And THAT is waht frightens me.

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Could it be that Canadians are shedding their sloth-like apathy?

After today’s fairly successful protests across Canada, one could answer with a qualified “maybe”.

No, tens of thousands didn’t mobilize on the Hill. But most accounts put the crowd at 3,000 in Ottawa, 10,000 in T.O. and 25 K in total across the country. Not bad for the chattering classes, eh Tony?

Time will tell if these protests are indicative of an awaking of Canucks from our collective slumber and the beginnings of a movement to dethrone the Robot King.

Here’s hoping!

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Obsession

ob⋅ses⋅sion

/əbˈsɛʃən/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [uhb-sesh-uhn] Show IPA

–noun

1. the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.
2. the idea, image, desire, feeling, etc., itself.
3. the state of being obsessed.
4. the act of obsessing.

Couples newly in love are often said to be obsessed with one another.

Sports fanatics are obsessed with their team and follow every win and loss with The Unwavering Faith that their side will eventually prevail.

Some are obsessed with their jobs, their cars, clothes, or political ideology, or cats.

In human history, obsessing has played a large role in charting the course of events. Napoleon and Alexander, with their obsessions over territory; Hitler, with his warped obsession with the Jews; Dubya, with his obsession about the terrorists… (1)

Big time decisions and big time players. The paths of human histroy were spurred on by these obsessions.

But obsessions need not be world-changing.

Little kids are great at the obsession game. My son has lately been obsessed with YouTube videos – particularly one called Firetruck. He loves this simple vid that was clearly produced by some Dad for his son.

And now I have that song going over and over inside my head. And you do too if you clicked on that link.

You’re welcome.

I was reminded of the immense power of obsession the other day when my eldest sub-unit realised that her beloved Blackberry was dead and not likely to be revived without an “up to 6 week” trip to the shop.

Yikes!

She was next to hysterical! Over a phone! A phone! I mean that there were tears, anger, frustration… all rolled into one crazy, almost 17 year old, 5’8”, blonde kid who has 50% of my DNA!

Needless to say, I was extremely worried about this. It couldn’t just be a phone that was causing this distress. There had to be something else! What else was wrong? Was it serious? Could I help in some way? These were the thoughts going through my head at 3 am on the night following the tearful call.

Then, on the bus to work the next morning, I mentioned this to a fellow bus rider who is also a blogger that lives in my ‘hood. After telling her the sad tale and flapping my arms around a bit, she was like:

Meh. Chill. This is normal for a teenage girl.

And I confirmed this with a couple of work colleagues. It’s not really that unusual for a teen to freak out over something that to me is quite mundane.

This seemingly obsessive behaviour over a piece of communications equipment is not something that someone of my generation can really relate to. A phone to a teen – especially and teen girl – is more than a phone; it is a lifeline to her friends. And a teen’s friends are EVERYTHING! Bar none.

So going without a phone is going without that vital lifeline that secures a teen to the things that matter most to her. It’s not the phone per se; it is the isolation that goes with it.

Ah. I think I get it.

My daughter’s obsession with her Blackberry is every much as deep as:

  • My obsession with Leafs and their (endless and futile) quest for the Cup,
  • Harper’s obsession with a majority government
  • Christians’ obsessions with myths, and
  • Canadians’ obsession with the weather, and
  • Tiger Woods’ obsession with, uh, you-know-what

What are you obsessed with?

1. Or whatever it was that powered that tiny, tiny mind.

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Ex-Cosmo model unseats Democrats. No, really.

In a move that once again leads this scribbler to question the sanity of some of our neighbours to the south, Ted Kennedy’s old Senate seat in Massachusetts has gone red.

I watched some of the Democrat candidate’s gaffes last night on Jon Stewart and yeah, she was a real piece of work who seemingly couldn’t campaign her way out of a paper bag. But an outright defeat in a state where Obama crushed the GOP only 15 months ago? Cripes. Is the right wing-nut contingent really THAT effective in the U.S.?

An Ex-Centrefold?

Is the US of A learning lessons from the Italian democracy where they elect ex-porn stars as MPs??

Wow. She’s some scary….

In any case, the President had better start pulling some rabbits out of his hat or it will be one term and out!

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Oh, isn’t that WONDERFUL….

…Doris Day is the new TB Prez. Didn’t see THAT comin’!

Mark my words. If the ReformCons are still in power a year from now, Public Servants everywhere will spit at the mention of his name. Not that the Harperites – or most Canadians outside of the National Capital Region– give a flying crap about the PS.

My gut tells me though that this is not a pre-election Cabinet. Moving Rona to PWGSC is a big move up for her, but I would think that the brainless trust in the PMO would want her in a more visible spot if we were in pre-election mode… gotta court the soccer Moms, right?

I also don’t feel that Vic Toews (admittedly, one of the less incompetent of the Harperites) is the right pre-writ “fit” with NRCan. Though they can’t do much worse than Ms. Raitt.

So. To summarise. Same gang. Different titles.

Yawn. Wake me up when we have an election…

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Mother nature is the boss…

And with the Haiti quake, we are once again reminded of this.

It is cosmically unfair that this small and impoverished nation is once again hit by unimaginable tragedy.  There is no good that can come from such suffering and no amount of money and aid will erase the memories and the injuries of those who survived.

But money and aid will help the people of Haiti cope and begin to rebuild. If  you can, please give to a worthy organization such as the Red Cross.

Going forward I dearly hope that the international community – especially the hemisphere’s wealthier nations such as Canada, the U.S. and Brazil – now take the reins and make a long-term commitment to rebuilding the nation and help the Haitians to solve some of their own internal problems.

Sad. So, so very sad.

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Government and religion bashing is grand, but…

Regular readers know very well that this blog’s themes are more or less as follows:

The list is in no particular order and largely reflects personal political leanings that have been defined over my adult life. I naturally gravitate to the left of the spectrum. I am also an atheist and cannot now and never will understand why otherwise sane and smart people are drawn so deeply into religious mythologies.

There are, of course, exceptions to these themes. I will often talk about my kids, my travels (another set of China entries coming up in a couple of months!) or just random stuff. But by and large, my scribblings have been pretty negative most of the time and over the last couple of days I have reflected on this.

I am not normally a negative guy. It’s just that discussions about politics and religion bring out that side of me. I guess it’s because I am really passionate and have deep-seated beliefs about both of these subjects and like to get up on the soapbox to scream out loud about how I know better.

And the bitch of it is that these types of posts garner a lot of traffic on my site. The more vindictive the post, the more visits I get. I normally average about 40-50 hits a day. But when I pen a vicious diatribe that equates Stevie to something less than a corner-dwelling sewer rat, the traffic doubles or triples.

But after reading a few of the notes I have penned over the past few months, I have decided to stray away from the negative, attack-ad style posts in favour of something different. I don’t yet know what that “something different” will look like – it will evolve over time.

I started this blog as a creative outlet that I could use to write about things that were different in style and substance from what I do for a living. So I am going to return to this for a while and write a little more about the things that drew me to blogging in the first place.

No, Trashy ain’t gonna let Stevo completely off the hook! I will still lambaste him, his ReformCon cronies, right-wing politics and stuff of a non-secular nature. But just not quite so much.

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Trashy for Mayor

Here in Ottawa, the landslide of Mayoral wanna-be nomination papers has begun to swamp City electoral staff… so far there is a grand total of TWO declared candidates!  But Ottawa is Ottawa and we can expect a number of sincere and not-so-sincere candidates to step up to the plate before the cut-off date. Some will be eminently qualified, and some not so much.

And that is where I come into the picture.

It is true that I served for a term on a municipal council in a small community located in Central Ontario. It is also true that I ran (sigh, unsuccessfully) in a bygone General Election. But really, this is not Smallville, Ontario. And running in one major election campaign hardly qualifies me for such a high-profile and important post.

Or does it? Let me think about this for a sec… Hmmmm… maybe I am qualified…

OK – what would be the positives and negatives if I were to take a run at this – and (shucks) furthermore, what if I won?

Upside: I could give a little of myself back to the community that I have called home for the past 12+ years – the community that two of my three kids were born in.
Downside: Over the top way to “give back” Batman! I mean, I sit on the Board of my son’s daycare and I could do more – like volunteer at a soup kitchen or something – without having to go all über-giving-like!.

Upside: The money is good – about $160 K a year.
Downside: Yeah, but I already get paid quite well already and the extra money/extra work ratio would be off the chart.

Upside: I’d be in charge of one of Canada’s largest cities. The sense of power would be pretty cool.
Downside: The power would likely go to my head. I would lose my valued perspective and start decreeing every Sunday as The Simpsons Day in Ottawa And change the City’s logo to the silhouette of a bald guy with a goatee. I would also try to annex Montréal.

Upside: People would respect me more.
Downside: An equal number of people would hate me and want me dead. And besides, the people from whom I actually want respect already respect me. I think.

It’s pretty clear, I guess. The downsides outweigh the upsides even before I start to consider:

  • I would have to take an unpaid, leave-of-absence from work for at least 6 months.
  • I don’t have any beginnings of a politically-connected network in this city – ergo, no campaign funding
  • I’m a relative newcomer to the City and some folks would frown at this.
  • Campaigning means long hours. And I have a real hard time staying up past 10 pm!

All that being said, if anyone wants to drop about, oh, 50K on my lap as a gift to make up for lost salary (so my kids will be able to eat while I’m going door-to-door), offer to volunteer  as my full-time campaign organizer (it would help greatly if you already had a firm and obedient politically-connected network in place), and think that Trashy would do just fine as Ottawa’s Mayor, I’m ready to listen!

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Why I am NOT being hypocritical about this proroguing business…

I thought I would post a short note about why I keep going on about this whole proroguing shitstorm. I have received some comments, both here and on Facebook (from the Resident Love Goddess no less!) that I’m getting my knickers all in a twist about something that is constitutional and that the Grits had no compunctions about when they were in power.

  1. I am essentially a non-partisan political creature. But I AM a bit of a lefty and am most assuredly anti Harper and anti ReformCon. I will – because of my nature – bitch a bit louder about them than the other parties.
  2. if I had had a soapbox like a blog back when the Grits were the Government, I would have yelled at them equally as ferociously for proroguing Parliament for no real reason other than to avoid the world. Although it is a legal practice, it is an abuse of power like no other. How can we expect wanna-be democracies like Afghanistan (OK – I’m stretching it) to take us seriously if our own PM shuts down the doors of democracy whenever he needs to hide from something?
  3. We can and should strive to do better. Past poor actions are no excuse for repeating them.  Just because it was done before does not make it right to do it again. Lawrence Martin puts it well in his article today in the G&M:

“Another line of defence (for those who don’t think that prorogation is such a big deal) is that Mr. Harper isn’t the only proroguer. Liberal PM Jean Chrétien did it too, although none of his closings could match the desperation of Mr. Harper’s prorogation of December, 2008. So what’s the big deal? This is a common Conservative defence refrain. As in, the Liberal record on global warming was terrible too. So what’s the big deal? As in, the Liberals sent disproportionate amounts of stimulus monies to their own ridings too. So what’s the big deal?

One big deal is that we’re supposed to be making progress, moving down the field, not staying on the 30-yard line.

Another is that we have a Prime Minister who thinks he can get away with anything, but who may well find out otherwise.”

And based on the latest polling numbers, maybe Canadians are starting to call him out on this.

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