Friday, November 20, 2009

Talkin' 'Bout Torture at ThePolitic.

You can read my thoughts on the revelations of Richard Colvin here.  Long story short: I have no doubt that mistakes have been made.  The more the government and the military circle the wagons, the more we desperately need a public enquiry.

Until then, the Conservatives are complicit in torture.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Teh World is Ending !!1!!!1!

At ThePolitc, I write about the climate change debate.

I don't really have much more to add here; I just wanted to use this post headline, which wouldn't quite be appropriate at ThePolitic (and, no, there are no typos in it).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Peter Hume Deserves to Get Turfed Out of Office

From The Ottawa Citizen:
The leader of the city council committee bringing in a new service charge to pay for the green-bin program says it’s too late to make significant changes to the program.

Councillor Peter Hume said Tuesday that contracts have been signed and bins are being distributed, so it’s not possible for the city to retreat from the $17-million program now.

Addressing councillors on the planning and environment committee and reporters later on, Hume said the communication of the project, including the method of paying for it, hasn’t been very well executed. But Hume said the city must proceed with an organics diversion program to save space at the city's big Trail Road landfill and improve on a second-to-last-place performance on waste diversion among major Ontario municipalities.

Councillors have been getting an earful from residents who don’t want to pay for the green-bin service and don’t even want the bin.
So, Peter Hume thinks that the communication for the Green Bin program has been poorly executed.  Well, guess who's ultimately responsible for that: Peter Hume.

Of course, the councillors are circling the wagons:
Several committee members blamed media for misleading reporting of the issue.
Well, that certainly put me in my place.  It's all the media's fault.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What Have I Done?

At ThePolitic, I penned a bit of a comment on a recent essay by Scott H. Payne at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen.  The basic topic was gay marriage and promiscuity.  As I've mentioned, ThePolitic tends to be conservative, and, consequently, one generally doesn't witness a whole lot of support for gay marriage.

That's fine.  Here's the amusing part.  I guess, because of my post, the ad that is currently being displayed in the sidebar is this.

So, how about I include The Smiths:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

All Politics Is Local, Ottawa Edition

There's lots going on in Bytowne these days, and little of it is encouraging.

Spending is out of control at city hall.  Tax increases and special levies are on their way, much of them hidden; all the better to hide the ineffectual leadership of the city.
The city’s budget for next year appears to be headed toward increases far beyond this year’s 3.9-per-cent tax increase. As of Tuesday, the property-tax increase from various departments stood at 3.26 per cent, but that doesn’t include a two-per-cent special levy for fixing infrastructure, or the library or police budgets. The police budget is expected to add about one per cent to the tax increase.

A major increase in fees is proposed with the transfer of waste collection — blue box, black box and a new green-bin compost-collection program — onto the garbage collection bill, which is part of the annual property-tax bill. If council approves this change, the current tab of $86 for garbage would see the addition of $41 for recycling services and $68 for the green bin, bringing the total bill to $195.
Because there's nothing better in the middle of a recession than a tax hike.

So, what are we spending all this money on, that is prompting the tax increases?  Well, for one thing, "Green Bins".  The city will now collect biodegradable substances that we used to throw in the trash.  It sounds great - and, no doubt, it has its benefits - but it appears that it wasn't really thought out that well.  It's going to cost a mint, no one can opt out of it, and we're on our way to having a garbage gestapo:
City homeowners will not be able to choose not to take part in the green-bin program. In fact, the city is hiring five inspectors to see that waste that can be recycled is kept out of landfills.
The cost of the green bins will be added to residents' utility bill, so that the city can keep the tax hike as low as possible.  This is such a neat trick that they've decided to shift the cost of all recycling programs from the regular tax bill to the utility bill (though don't expect to see any corresponding property tax deductions).  The genius behind this (from a gouge-the-taxpayer standpoint) is that residents tend not to notice (or, at least, complain) about increases to these special fees.  That's what they've seen with the water and sewage bill.  It regularly gets hiked by 9% a year with nary a peep from the citizenry.

But, you may ask, there must be more that is driving the need for these explicit and implicit tax increases?  Well, there's transit.  The operating costs of OC Transpo far outstrip the revenue that it generates.  For some reason, this isn't seen as a problem with their business model, but as an obligation to be foisted on the rest of us through increased taxation.  OC Transpo is so horribly managed, that they were proposing to raise rates by 7%.

This rate increase was suppose to keep the increase in the city's transit budget at a mere 12.7%.  However, the conventional wisdom of the city's Transit committee is that it is unfair to expect riders to pay anywhere close to the actual cost of riding the bus.  The 7% fare increase is out and the burden on the city will now be rising by 16%.

(This seems like another good argument for getting the city out of the transit business.)

Police and emergency services are getting more expensive, too, but surely there can't be much to complain about when we're wasting resources (and risking lives) with a pointless war on drugs.

'Luckily', with all the problems we're having with our budget we have the province and the feds wasting money in Ottawa, as well.  If nothing else, it's nice to see all three levels of government working so well together.

Thankfully, there is a tiny bit of good news.  Councillor Alex Cullen had presented a motion to have all landlords licensed by the city.  Despite his conviction to this awful idea, the rest of council voted against it:
He argued it would make bad landlords comply with property standards for fear of losing their licenses. Opponents cited the cost and ineffectiveness of licensing as reasons to vote against it. Instead, the committee passed a motion by Somerset Councillor Diane Holmes that encourages the city’s bylaw officers to work with community groups in pro-actively inspecting problem rental properties.
 See, there are some good things about Ottawa.  Like Emjay:

And Capital Sound performing at Winterlude:

(Yeah, I'm kidding.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

To Ignore an Argument has Three Legs Does Not Make it So

At five feet of fury, Kathy Shaidle links to an "observation" about Latinos (I assume in America) and academic success:

* Latino and white infants share a fairly equal level of cognitive skills — vocabulary, listening and problem-solving skills. But by the time they’re toddlers, Latino children are lagging in all three areas, according to a study led by researchers at UC Berkeley ( 10.20.09) .
* The reasons? Larger Latino families and Hispanic-dominant mamás working full-time means there's less individual time with each child. Also, Latina mothers tend to be less educated than their white counterparts, so they read fewer books and share fewer stories with their children. That's fundamental for building a growing child's skills.
Ms. Shaidle's response, in a post titled, Last time I checked, lots of white women worked full time too:
But the real explanation can't possibly be genetic or anything!
Now, I'm disinclined to think that the explanation is genetic or anything.  I'm more inclined to think circumstance, social life and, possibly, culture are better explanations.  Nonetheless, Ms. Shaidle's implication is correct; I have no data or evidence that the explanation isn't genetic.  That's not really my issue with this post.

I have a good deal of respect for Ms. Shaidle.  She's been a prominent warrior for free speech and she uses that freedom with few inhibitions.  There's never much guesswork needed to determine what Ms. Shaidle truly believes.  However, I think this post of hers is disingenuous.

To be clear, I think the title of this post is disingenuous.

Of the "reasons" that are given to explain the disparity between the academic success of whites and that of Latinos, not one is that Hispanic women work full time.  Period.  Full stop.  The argument is that Hispanic families have a greater reliance on mothers than have white families and Hispanic families tend to be larger and an increased number of Hispanic mothers are working full time.  It is the convergence of these three 'facts' (along with Latino mothers having a tendency to be less educated than white mothers) that leads to the disparity in academic success.

This Hispanic-Dominant-Mama hypothesis might be complete bunk, but if Ms. Shaidle wishes to demonstrate that it's complete bunk, she needs to do more than attack just one facet (and, arguably, the weakest facet) of this complex argument.

Naturally, if there is anything resembling a nature vs. nurture debate, I have to post this: