Friday, October 31, 2014

Kathy Shaidle: Lessons on Being a Grown-Up from… Vincent Price?



The Seventies was a lousy time to be a kid.
Oh, sure, it wasn’t all bad:
We didn’t wear bike helmets. Our parents made us play outside (“Get out of this house, and don’t come back ’til the street lights come on!”).We “bounced around in the back of the station wagon.” No one was allergic to peanut butter, or very much else.
Evel Knievel was a role model.
But something freakish, sinister, and incomprehensible was always being talked about, over at the Me Decade’s grown ups’ table:
Watergate (which had something to do with “bugs” invading America, I concluded; men in suits talked about it on TV so much, they interrupted my lunchtime Flintstones for months), the Patty Hearst kidnapping, Vietnam, Jimmy Carter, Bicentennial toilet seats, The Gong Show, hijackings, the Loud family, D.B. Cooper, divorce, things called “muggings,” crying Indians, gas station lineups and an unprecedented combination of high inflation, unemployment, and interest rates that adults muttered about in worried voices just out of earshot.
Epitomized by Howard Hughes’ will, fakery was epidemic:
We decorated our houses with plastic flowers and fruit. Squeaking drugstore paperback racks were laden with books about astrology, crypto-zoology, alien astronauts, and other junk history. “Everyone knew” that some all-powerful “They” had gotten away with killing the Kennedys and King. What chance did a timid, puny seven-year-old girl have?
If a rich child porn aficionado could bury a bunch of kids in their school bus, what the hell couldn’t happen?
A kid needed a break.
If you lived in my part of the world, starting around 1971, that respite came in the form of a cheap local TV show called The Hilarious House of Frightenstein.
More HERE

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Canada praised for leadership on standing up to Iran

 OTTAWA - Canada was praised for its "tough stance" on Iran one day before the Islamic Republic's human rights record is up for review before the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Foreign Minister John Baird welcomed the UN's rapporteur on Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, to Parliament Hill Thursday and proffered that Shaheed's work was "crucially important."

Shaheed said Canada's strong stance served as encouragement to those living within Iran...


John Gray: The truth about evil

"...Ever since it was spun off from al-Qaida some 10 years ago, Isis has made clear its commitment to beheading apostates and unbelievers, enslaving women and wiping out communities that will not submit to its ultra-fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. In its carefully crafted internet videos, it has advertised these crimes itself. There has never been any doubt that Isis practises methodical savagery as an integral part of its strategy of war. This did not prevent an abortive attempt on the part of the American and British governments in August of last year to give military support to the Syrian rebels – a move that could have left Isis the most powerful force in the country. Isis became the prime enemy of western governments only when it took advantage of the anarchy these same governments had created when they broke the state of Iraq with their grandiose scheme of regime change.
Against this background, it would be easy to conclude that talk of evil in international conflicts is no more than a cynical technique for shaping public perceptions. That would be a mistake. (Tony) Blair’s secret – which is the key to much in contemporary politics – is not cynicism. A cynic is someone who knowingly acts against what he or she knows to be true. Too morally stunted to be capable of the mendacity of which he is often accused, Blair thinks and acts on the premise that whatever furthers the triumph of what he believes to be good must be true. Imagining that he can deliver the Middle East and the world from evil, he cannot help having a delusional view of the impact of his policies.
Here Blair is at one with most western leaders. It’s not that they are obsessed with evil. Rather, they don’t really believe in evil as an enduring reality in human life. If their feverish rhetoric means anything, it is that evil can be vanquished. In believing this, those who govern us at the present time reject a central insight of western religion, which is found also in Greek tragic drama and the work of the Roman historians: destructive human conflict is rooted in flaws within human beings themselves. In this old-fashioned understanding, evil is a propensity to destructive and self-destructive behaviour that is humanly universal. The restraints of morality exist to curb this innate human frailty; but morality is a fragile artifice that regularly breaks down. Dealing with evil requires an acceptance that it never goes away... "

Christian priest tells UN: "Israel is the only Mideast country not persecuting Christians"


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The message from the Toronto Global Forum: The Future is Technology

Yesterday and Monday, Toronto's Royal York Hotel was filled with hundreds of high-powered financial and political notables who were there to mingle and listen to panels prognosticating about economic growth at the International Economic Forum of the America's Toronto Global Forum.

I was a guest of one of the Forum's sponsors, the wonderful people at The Stampede Group, and the message that came out loud and clear at the sessions on Monday that I attended was that the future lies in the fields of technology and infrastructure development.

A fascinating lunch panel moderated by the CBC's Amanda Lang provided some interesting perspectives from former New York City Deputy Mayor and current (although soon to be outgoing) President and CEO of Bloomberg L.P., Daniel Doctoroff and Michael Sabia, President and CEO of the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, which manages that province's public pension funds.

The staggering figure of three to four trillion dollars annual required for global infrastructure development and maintenance that Mr. Sabia mentioned was the catalyst for some difficult questions about the balance between the need for investment and the challenges of paying for it. Infrastructure development contributes to productivity by easing transport and flow of goods and people, which is something much on the minds of Torontonians, who face the worst traffic congestion of any major city in North America. Infrastructure investment also, in addition to providing jobs, contributes to technological developments and the ability to make further economic gains.

During a speech prior to the lunch panel, Ontario's Finance Minister Charles Sousa had committed, on behalf of the provincial government, the willingness to spend $120 Billion on such projects during the current government's term. He also pledged to balance the provincial budget by the fiscal year of 2017/18. For a province facing an enormous debt load by which about 10% of all taxes are used to pay interest on debt, it will be intriguing to see if and how those commitments are achieved.

The question of income inequality came of, as it almost invariably does at economic discussions these days, and Mr. Doctoroff provided some insightful perspectives on how the subject is in effect a red herring.

He believes it is "middle class fear" that is driving much of that perception, but the reality is that so-called income inequality is not a dangerous economic factor. That suggestion is borne out of data that indicates that poor people in developed countries are in fact richer than ever, with more access to services and technology, and with more potential for upward mobility than at any other time. Beyond that, on a global scale, poverty is being alleviated at a greater rate and widespread famine is on the verge of becoming a thing of the past. The "income inequality" argument is frequently based, not on any actual detrimental effect on lower economic classes, but on a manipulative effort on the part of some social and political activists to serve their own ideological interests.

At a later discussion on the future of technological Sony Computer and Science Lab's President and CEO Hiroaki Kitano, Sophie Vandebroek, Xerox's CTO and President of its Innovation Group both expressed the view that the big thing coming that will have a major effect on how we all live will be Artificial Intelligence. Integrated systems will be a major game changer, including self-driving cars, voice-controlled, and self-regulating appliances, and more.

By an extraordinary coincidence, almost at the same time, Tesla Motors and Space X founder Elon Musk, with whom I'm acquainted and who was kind enough to give me a tour of the Space X plant a few years ago,  came out with a warning while speaking at MIT that Artificial Intelligence could actually represent an existential threat to mankind. Musk referred to it as "summoning the demon" which we may not end up being able to control. Those of us who are fans of science fiction have been aware of that nightmare scenario for some time.

One thing that is certain is that those who are informed of and educated in science and technology will be the ones who decide our future. But whether the technological advances coming ease the human condition or threaten it are all confusing questions to which only time will provide the answer.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A tactical election loss but a big strategic win for education and democracy

Entering the race for Toronto District School Board Trustee in Toronto's Trinity-Spadina district was something I did for what I believe were and are very important reasons. There are serious issues plaguing the education system in Toronto aside from the mismanagement, waste, and incompetence that so obviously are pervasive in the Board.

Among the most egregious issues that afflicts education as a whole in Ontario are the asinine ideologies shaping the Province's curriculum, which, under the guise of "equity," are in effect racist and help to perpetuate racism. This type of backwards thinking that is pervasive in the top ranks of the TDSB in manifest in many ways but nowhere more clearly than its "Afrocentric" school.

Some of the most vocal opponents to the Afrocentric school are African-Canadians who rightfully see it as racist and a backwards step towards racial segregation. While any sensible person would understand that a child who immigrated to Canada from Somalia three years ago, and a child who has lived in Canada all her life and is from a family that has been here generations, and a child who is a second-generation Canadian with grandparents from Jamaica are all of very different backgrounds and are informed by extremely different cultural values, the TDSB would place them all in the same category if they are "black." That's right, the TDSB is in essence saying skin color is the most important determining factor of a person, and there is no other way to describe that reprehensible view than as being racist.

It was issues like those that I had hoped to highlight in the TDSB trustee campaign.

But things took an unexpected turn.

The NDP-backed candidate in the race turned out to be someone who had spoken at a rally which could easily be characterized as supportive of the terrorist group Hezbollah. Even more significantly, there were numerous articles in the University of Toronto's newspaper, The Varsity, detailing how she was deeply implicated, while a union official, in election-rigging and a serious undermining of democracy.

For the NDP to run a candidate such as that without any valid explanations suggested serious contempt for the voters and I thought it important to highlight these issues, since no other candidate was doing it. It was particularly important since the dire problems at the TDSB mainly arose from a lack of openness and integrity.

By raising those issues and proposing serious reforms for the TDSB, I was able to run a very effective campaign for a time and put the NDP on the defensive. This was true up until the last week of the election even though the media was focusing on the Hezbollah aspect while for weeks, I was desperately trying to get them to talk about the much more concerning issue of election-rigging.

Then things went off the rails at the very end due to the intervention of disgusting morons and cowardly bigots who decided to insert themselves, mostly anonymously, into the race. Some of those idiots tried to prevent Ms Malik, the NDP Trustee candidate, from speaking at a public meeting and I had to shout at them repeatedly to respect her right to speak, as did at least two other trustee candidates.

Then deplorable cowards anonymously started leaving door hangers in the ward, trying to tie Ms Malik directly to Hezbollah. It's difficult if not impossible to conceive how anyone in their right mind could have come up with such an imbecilic plan. If their intent was to help her get elected, they couldn't have possibly done a better job, since quite naturally and predictably, they created a massive sympathy movement for her in the ward. I was half-tempted to declare that I was going to vote for her myself when all that happened.

It was appalling, and as it happened just days before the election and got widespread publicity, she quite naturally won the Trustee election on Monday.

And to her credit, though I detest Ms Malik's politics and radical positions, as a person, she comported herself with courage and dignity throughout the whole process.

Because of the debacle of the final weekend, I finished next to last in the election, but all-in-all, it was a huge strategic victory from my perspective.

Realistically, there was virtually no chance I would have won the TDSB race in Trinity-Spadina entering it about eight weeks before election day.  I was up against an organized NDP campaign that had been going on for six months, where two high-profile Council candidates were coordinating their campaign with their trustee candidate who had union resources and money behind her.  That two council campaigns which are legally barred from accepting union donations could share an office, use common signage, and coordinate campaigns and campaign literature with a trustee candidate who, the way the law is structured, can accept union donations, is an open invitation for an investigation into the way elections are conducted in Toronto.

Though the focus was sidetracked, the Trinity-Spadina race became the highest profile Trustee race in the province and it made vast numbers of people more aware of issues facing the public school system.

It forced the NDP and unions to allocate huge resources, including push-polls, phone banks, robocalls, and finance, into what would normally have been an effortless win for them, and in so doing, altered the public to the records of those politicians involved.

I believe through all of this, I helped to remind people that democracy doesn't only matter around election time, but that we as citizens must be vigilant, always, of what happens in our School Boards and City Councils. We must be aware of who is making decisions for us, what they are doing and why, and to speak up, very loudly, when they are not acting in our best interests.

I want to offer my sincere thanks to all of those who supported me through this tumultuous campaign, particularly family, friends, volunteers, endorsers, my "War Room Director," and those of you who cast a ballot for me.

Now I can go back to working on things that are more fun and interesting to me than the prospect of being a municipal politician. But make no mistake, though I didn't get elected as School Board Trustee, the results of what happened will a big long term 'win' for those who believe in democracy and accountability from politicians, as long as we keep our eye on the ball.

Richard Klagsbrun

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Teachers paid to canvass for union-backed candidates

TORONTO - Toronto secondary school teachers are being given paid time off by their union to canvass for a slate of union-approved municipal candidates, the Toronto Sun has learned.
Teachers who canvass for two three-hour stints get a day off teaching. Their union, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), reimburses the school board for their time.
The union representing Toronto’s public secondary school teachers confirmed teachers are being given paid “time release” to canvass for a union-backed list of school trustees, councillors and mayoralty candidates.
One teacher, who spoke to the Sun on condition of anonymity, said some teachers oppose the deal because they do not support the union-endorsed candidates.
“Yes, some members have received time release to work for candidates,” said District 12 (Toronto) OSSTF President Doug Jolliffe.
“This is allowable under the Election Act,” Jolliffe said by e-mail.