Monday, 22 May 2017

It's Not Warm Enough, So Put Those Shorts Away

I don't understand, why is it that once spring comes and the temperature squeaks just above ten degrees, some people are already breaking out the shorty-pants? Now of course, Canada is a democracy and people can wear just about whatever they choose to. Thank goodness for that. Quite frankly, however, I think that people who insist on wearing shorts when the weather isn't even warm enough to ditch your jacket are just plain silly.

Yes, I understand people who think winter is too damn long. I'm one of them. But just because the daytime high finally reaches double-digits doesn't mean it's time to break out the summer wardrobe. Have some common sense, people. Dress for the weather. Face the fact that it's not quite summertime yet. Otherwise, you're in denial. And you know you're in denial, too. That's why you're probably sporting a sweater and maybe even a jacket at the same time you're presenting your bare legs to the world.

Now I understand where you folks are coming from. Believe me, I want summer to come just as much as you do. It's my favourite season. But it's not here yet, so don't try and pretend it is. Unless you're jogging or working out at the gym, don't break out the shorts just yet. You're just making yourself look silly and you'll probably catch a cold.

Friday, 21 April 2017

I Want Bob Cole and Joe Bowen Back Calling Leafs Games on TV Again!

I just finished watching game 5 of the Leafs vs. Capitals first round playoff series. As a die hard Leafs fan, I was obviously disappointed with the result. But the Leafs' overtime loss to the Caps wasn't the only thing I was not happy about. Before overtime even began, CBC showed bonus coverage of game 5 between the Boston Bruins and the Ottawa Senators. And who was calling the game? None other than Bob Cole, one of my two favourite play-by-play announcers. This upset me because he doesn't do Leafs games anymore. In fact, he hasn't called Leafs games on a regular basis for years. I have very fond memories of listening to him almost every Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada. To me, he is today's Foster Hewitt (my apologies to those of you who don't know who he was). But now and for the last few years, Leafs fans don't get to hear Bob Cole call games featuring the blue and white. Instead, we have to listen to play-by-play announcers that are amateurs compared to him.

My other favourite play-by-play announcer is Joe Bowen. Thankfully, I and other Leafs fans can still hear him call Leafs games on a regular basis, but only on the radio. I was listening to him call the game as I drove home this evening. But it wasn't too long ago that he was also calling games on television. Why isn't he still doing it!? I just don't get it. As with Bob Cole, none of the people currently doing the play-by-play at Leafs games can hold a candle to Bowen. I don't know about the rest of you Leafs fans, but I want to start hearing "Holy Mackinaw!" on television again. I also want to see Bob Cole call Leafs games on Hockey Night in Canada like he used to. Why should Habs and Sens fans get the privilege of hearing Cole call their games and not us? Leafs fans are the best fans in hockey and we deserve the best play-by-play announcers.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Government Should Represent Average Folks, Not Just the Wealthy and Powerful

In a democratic country, leaders are elected by the people to represent them in government. Ironically, however, the people that often get elected to political office are not truly representative of society at large. It's generally known, for example, that women are underrepresented in the world's democratic legislatures, sometimes to a very significant degree. But do you know who I think is also underrepresented? Average people; the people who make up the majority of voters in a democratic society. Middle class people, working class people. In other words, people who aren't wealthy or powerful. You would think that it is these sorts of people who would make up the vast majority of representatives in a democratically-elected legislature. But you'd be wrong.

The best example of this irony resides on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Two years ago, the Net Worth of the U.S. Congress was estimated to be $7 billion, with the typical member of Congress earning over a million dollars! And this is just America's legislative branch, never mind the president or his inner circle. Clearly, the U.S. government is more representative of the country's rich and powerful rather than the bulk of American citizenry. Yet it is these kinds of people that millions of American voters put in to office each time there's an election. And then these average voters wonder why government policies haven't improved their lives. They ask themselves, why after so many elections and so many promises made by one politician after another are they still having trouble paying the bills? Why does the cost of living keep going up, but their salaries have barely budged in ages? Why do the rich keep getting richer while so many others still struggle to make ends meet? 

There's one logical answer to questions like these. To put it simply, people like to look out for their own interests, so if you put a bunch of millionaires and billionaires into office, they're probably going to do what's best for themselves and other millionaires and billionaires. In contrast, if average people would elect other average people into office, they would probably have a government that would enact policies favorable to middle and working class folks rather than the wealthy few. Over seventy years ago, a Canadian named Tommy Douglas said pretty much the same thing with his Story of Mouseland. Canadians also have the tendency to elect wealthy and powerful politicians, though I would say not to the extend that Americans do. Our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, rounds out the Top Ten Richest Politicians of Canada, though he's actually a lot less wealthy than Tom Mulcair, who is now the leader of the federal New Democratic Party, the same party that the late Tommy Douglas founded. I guess it's no longer the party of mice anymore, is it?

So why do average people in democratic countries like the U.S. and Canada keep electing rich, powerful people to govern them when they would be so much better off if they elected other average people? The simple answer is that elections cost money. LOTS OF MONEY! And of course, it is the rich and powerful who have the money to pay for election campaigns. This is especially true in the U.S., where regulations on election spending are either lax or nonexistent. But even in countries like Canada, where there are controls on election spending, money still plays a significant role in determining who wins and who loses. And I think that as long as there's money, it will always play a significant role in how we cast our ballots. Now of course, I don't have a problem with the wealthy and powerful being represented in government. I am a staunch capitalist after all and I think every sector of society deserves representation. My concern is that those with money and power are over-represented in many cases, and that's just not fair to the multitudes of people who can't count themselves among society's well-endowed.

The Government of the Average Person:

Just for fun, I would like to outline who I would have as members of a government that I think would serve average middle and working class people well. First, the person who heads the government. Call him or her a prime minister, a president, whatever. He or she will be a person who always considers the interests of others before his or her interests. A person who values the lives of others over his or hers. He or she should be a person who has encountered great adversity in his or her life. Perhaps he or she lived through poverty or through disaster. Maybe a person living with a disability or chronic illness. In short, whoever heads a government of average citizens should be a person who is selfless, experienced, compassionate and empathetic.

Joining the head of the government will be a minister of finance. He or she will have been a single parent struggling to raise three children on social assistance. There will be a minister of education, who will be a recent university graduate who is now more than twenty thousand dollars in debt. Next is our minister of health, a person with a chronic illness that has spent his or her whole life dealing with the healthcare system, or perhaps a medical professional who has spent the bulk of his or her time looking after the well-being of underprivileged children in Canada's inner cities or on aboriginal reserves. The minister of agriculture will be the owner of a small family-run farm. The minister of housing will be a person who was once homeless, or maybe just a person who has spent the majority of his or her life working with the homeless. The minister of transportation will be someone who has been a regular user of public transit. Another minister will be in charge of the government's revenue agency. He or she will be a small business owner. I could mention other potential government portfolios and the kind of people who I would put in charge of them, but I think I've made my point. 

   

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Why I "Waste" My Time On Social Media

A few months ago, someone accused me of not doing anything to affect change and "wasting" my time on Facebook. I took great offense to this, because it's simply not true. In fact, I've spent the better part of my life trying to affect change, from attending rallies and meetings on various issues to joining a political party. But you know what? None of that seemed to make any difference from my perspective. The ultimate lesson that I've taken from years and years of trying to affect change by working within the Canadian political system is that it's not worth my time and effort and never has been. I actually find social media, like Facebook and Twitter, to be much more effective forums for airing grievances and making change.

In fact, I would argue that social media is the best forum for the average Canadian to make him or herself heard. I honestly can't believe that there are still people in this country who think writing to their local MP or MPP can make a difference. What a load of crap. Do you know what MPs and MPPs are? They're little more than drones or trained seals. In theory, the MP or MPP in each riding represents the people in those ridings. But in practice, they represent the political party to which they belong, unless they've been elected as independents, which of course is very rare. Their bosses aren't the voters, but rather the leaders of their respective parties. All they do is tow the party line. And if they refuse to do so, they're warned to shut up or get booted out of caucus. Your local MP or MPP can't help you get a law or policy changed, unless they happen to be members of the cabinet, where the real power is. But of course, if they are cabinet ministers, they probably don't have time for the average Canadian. So unless you happen to be the head of a lobby group or a sizable corporation, or perhaps a major donor to the party, you won't get any audience with a cabinet member. At best, you'll get to speak to one of that person's office staff, because cabinet members themselves just can't be bothered by the average Joe Canadian.

Now of course, at some point the folks in power do have to face the voters. If you don't like what the people in power are doing, make yourself heard at the ballot box. Simple, right? Not quite, especially in Canada where our electoral system is rigged to keep the same old establishment in power and keep those with new ideas out. Why is this? Because our elections don't accurately reflect the will of the Canadian electorate. Instead, it produces a political oligarchy in which two or three big political parties control everything and new players barely stand a chance of gaining representation in our federal or provincial legislatures. Kind of like how Canada's telecommunications sector is dominated by Rogers, Bell and Telus, resulting in the sky high prices for cable, internet and wireless services that we all have to pay. In essence, our elections have become equivalent to choosing a wireless service provider and getting screwed no matter who you pick. It should't surprise anyone that Prime Minister Trudeau Junior reneged on his promise to bring in electoral reform. He never intended to keep this promise. He lied! After all, why would he do away with an electoral system that has served him and the rest of the political establishment so well for all of Canada's 150 years?

So if your local MP or MPP isn't accountable to you and elections just end up substituting one group of fat cats for another, how else are you supposed to make yourself heard? I for one am sick and tired of going through the traditional channels of political power in Canada and getting absolutely nowhere. Therefore, I plan to "waste" plenty more of my time on social media, where I actually have a voice.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

One Country, Two Systems: Another Possible Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

I don't foresee the possibility of establishing an Palestinian state in the near future for the same reasons repeatedly elaborated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Such a state would be undemocratic and would undoubtedly be a base of operations for terrorists seeking the destruction of Israel. For proof, look no further than the current Palestinian Authority and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Authority continues to fuel hatred against Jews and incite attacks on Israeli civilians. Its president, Mahmood Abbas, repeatedly pays homage to the families of terrorists with the blood of innocent Israelis on their hands, even paying them cash stipends with the aid that the PA receives from the international community. And to top it off, neither Abbas nor the rest of the PA's leaders have any democratic mandate, having overstayed their terms in office by several years. Critics of the PA leadership are routinely arrested and even tortured.

Meanwhile in the Gaza Strip, the Islamist movement Hamas rules with an iron fist, using civilians as human shields in their campaign of terrorism against Israel; a campaign that has seen thousands of rockets launched against peaceful Israeli towns and villages. I am almost certain that if Israel were to withdraw from Judea and Samaria, or parts thereof, Hamas and other terrorists would soon take control of the territory, just as they did in the Gaza Strip. And before you know it, rockets would be falling on us in our eternal capital Jerusalem, not to mention cities, towns and villages in every other part of the country.

Unfortunately, the bulk of the international community continues to ignore the consequences for Israel should a Palestinian state be established and insists on implementing a so-called two-state solution. Now of course, Israel's leaders are not accountable to other world leaders.  They are accountable to Israeli citizens, the folks who voted them into office. Nevertheless, in the real world, one cannot ignore the international community inasmuch as we would like to. Therefore, I believe it is incumbent upon Israel to present an alternative to the two state solution. An alternative that may eventually lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, but not in the near future.

One Country, Two Systems

In a nutshell, what I propose is that Palestinians in the so-called West Bank and Gaza Strip be given Israeli citizenship, but without the voting rights that regular Israeli citizens enjoy. Instead, the Palestinians will have their own government, very much like the Palestinian Authority of today. Since they will not have voting rights like other Israelis, however, they will not pay the same taxes that regular Israeli citizens do.  Rather, they will pay all or at least the majority of their taxes to their own autonomous Palestinian government.  This is the situation that currently exists between the United States and Puerto Rico.  Puerto Ricans are American citizens, but have no elected representatives with voting rights in the U.S. government. Hence, they do not pay many of the federal taxes that other Americans have to pay and the bulk of their tax dollars go to the government of what is known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, which is responsible for governing all internal affairs of the U.S. unincorporated territory.

To be more succinct, all the territory from Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea will be one country known as the State of Israel, but Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will govern their own internal affairs.  The Israeli government will remain responsible for the external borders, customs, defense and monetary policy. The rest will be responsibility of the Palestinian government.

Borders, Immigration and "Settlements"

Under the plan that I envision, the Israeli government will be in charge of all external borders, including maritime borders. In other words, Israelis will determine who gets in and out of the country, including the autonomous region of Palestine.  This will guarantee that people and goods dedicated to destruction of Israel do not enter its territory by using Palestine as a gateway.

The borders of the autonomous region of Palestine itself will consist of the entire Gaza Strip and most of the so-called West Bank. The borders will exclude the large Israeli communities inside of Judea and Samaria, which the international community and most of the media like to call the major "settlement" blocs.  These will be annexed to Israel proper. Palestinians that reside within these annexed territories will be given Israeli citizenship with full voting rights, in contrast to their countrymen in the new autonomous region of Palestine who will not have the right to vote in Israeli elections. Israelis residing in "settlements" located in what becomes Palestine will be allowed to stay if they choose, but they will have to accept the authority of the autonomous Palestinian government and will not be able to expand their communities outside of municipal borders mutually agreed upon by representatives of Israel and the Palestinians prior to implementation of this peace plan, unless the Palestinian government authorizes such expansion. And just as Palestinians in the lands annexed to Israel proper will be given full voting rights, so too will Israelis residing in autonomous Palestine be given the right to vote for the Palestinian government. They will also retain their right to vote in Israeli elections.

Aside from Israelis already residing in Palestine, however, no other Israelis will be allowed to work or reside in the autonomous territory without the consent of the Palestinian government. At the same time, no one will be able to enter Israel proper from Palestine without the consent of the Israeli government. Palestinian refugees will be allowed to reside in the new autonomous region and will be given the same type of Israeli citizenship as Palestinians of the region, allowing them to vote in Palestinian elections but not in Israeli elections. The Palestinian government will determine what constitutes a Palestinian refugee, but the Israeli government will reserve the right to refuse entry to any refugee that it considers a threat to its security. This arrangement will effectively ensure that Israel proper remains Jewish while the autonomous region of Palestine remains Palestinian.

Jerusalem 

Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel in accordance with Israel's Basic Law: Jerusalem, which means that the Old City and the Israeli communities built in parts of the city after the 1967 war will not be part of the future autonomous region of Palestine.  However, this does not discount the possibility of including some of Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods or its Arab suburbs as part of the future Palestinian capital, to be known as Al-Quds.  This is hardly a new idea. In fact, a similar arrangement was discussed during the failed Camp David summit in the year 2000.

Israel as Guarantor of Palestinian Democracy

I stated above that my plan envisions Palestinians running their own affairs with the exception of borders, external security and monetary policy over which Israel would maintain control. I also believe, however, that inasmuch as the Palestinians should have the right to govern themselves, Israel should have the responsibility of guaranteeing Palestine's nascent democracy so that events like the Hamas takeover of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 do not happen again. I believe that only with Israel's help will the Palestinians be able to establish a strong, genuine democracy. Without Israeli supervision, any Palestinian-controlled entity, whether an independent state or not, will undoubtedly become a bastion of dictatorship, tyranny and terrorism.





  


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Toronto Needs More Subways, Not More Boondoggles

There's a proposal before Toronto City Council to make a part of King Street more friendly to mass transit, pedestrians and cyclists. Okay, everyone who's ever been on King St., especially during rush hour, knows what a mess it is. Well now our incompetent politicians are going to make a bigger mess by taking away lanes that cars use, forcing drivers to use other nearby streets that are already bumper-to-bumper most of the time. What our leaders should be doing is building subway lines downtown so that traffic doesn't have to idle constantly behind those annoying streetcars.

But of course, who's going to find the money for that? Certainly not the folks who run this city now. They're too busy enriching their friends in the various special interest groups with what little money is available. Hell, even if there was money for new subways, our leaders would squander it as they always have. Just look at the red ink flowing from the subway extension to York University, or the price for the extension to Scarborough that keeps going up and up. Not to mention the fact that these extensions are going to add even more riders to our already overcrowded subways. And it's not like the stiffs who run the show in Toronto haven't had the chance to build new subway lines downtown before. Instead, they built the boondoggle we now call the Sheppard subway. You know, the subway to nowhere. Never mind the fact that there are more people that ride the streetcars on King St. than ride the Sheppard stub-way.

To make a long story short, the folks responsible for governing this city made bad choices and continue to make bad choices. When is it going to end? 

Monday, 13 February 2017

Line 2 TTC Riders Deserve Respect

Toronto City Council intends to spend another $80 million more on transit in the upcoming budget. In a column published by the Toronto Sun yesterday, Mayor John Tory specifically mentioned signal upgrades on the Line 1 subway, among other things (see: Keeping our city on the move). Indeed, the Yonge-University-Spadina line seems to be getting all of the attention these days. Folks on that subway line get to ride new, modern trains and will soon be reaping the benefits of automatic train control and trains running closer together.

In contrast, folks on Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) still have to make do with old, klunky trains and are not going to see significant service improvements any time soon. Most people on Line 2 would probably settle for working air conditioning on trains so that they don't have to go through another summer of the hot subway, never mind yearning for fancy new trains or automatic train control. It's time for the mayor and City Council to start showing riders on Line 2 some respect.