Streetcar shooting

Sammy Yatim was killed on a streetcar in Toronto’s west end just after midnight ET Saturday. Much of the incident was captured on amateur video.

What we do know is that the entire incident transpired in about 10 minutes. Just after midnight, Yatim reportedly stood up and brandished a knife on the 505 streetcar on Dundas Street West near Trinity Bellwoods Park.

A few minutes later, police arrived at the scene. At that point, Yatim was alone on the stationary streetcar. A standoff quickly ensued, and within the space of 13 seconds one officer had fired nine shots.

There are many questions and on the surface, the amateur video looks pretty damning. Having said that – let us wait until the official inquiry is complete before rushing to judgement.

Our cops do a difficult job, and the level of hostility that has been leveled at them over the last few days sickens me. Protest all you want, but getting into a persons face and screaming at them isn’t what I would call civilized protest. I know what would happen if you did that to me, and the cops are showing remarkable restraint.

The second point is that I am very disappointed in the Chief of Police – he has already suspended the officer and established a separate investigation. This is not normal process and in my eyes has shown this officer has already been thrown to the wolves. Isn’t it the role of the SIU to investigate things like this?  If the SIU is ineffective, then deal with that. Do NOT play politics – just let the SIU get on with its job. If it whitewashes or tries to whitewash the investigation – then deal with that, but until they do, let them work. Our police, just like our citizens deserve that due process be observed when a potential crime is being investigated. Anything less is just another word for mob justice.

Air Canada

Here I am stuck on hold with Air Canada

I want to make a simple change to a flight and have to work my way through their phone system. Not the end of the world – and then I hear  – all of our agents are busy – current wait time is between 22 and 45 minutes. This is on a Monday afternoon at 3:00 – it is not even overnight or out of office hours in any way. Unless Air Canada customer service has just contracted office wide dysentery, this is completely unacceptable.

Then to add insult to injury I have to listen as they brag about being ranked a 4 star carrier and the highest ranked north american airline. If that is the case then either customer service isn’t one of the metrics or the other airlines that service Canada are really awful, which I sort of doubt. Having dealt with Porter and Westjet in the past I can tell you that they actually do take customer service seriously, so you have to wonder about these ratings. I must admit I wasn’t listening too carefully to which rating agency was the one that gave them glowing marks – I wonder if it was their own in-flight magazine? Nah – it just played again – so it is Skytrack. Well Skytrack – I have news for you – your rating doesn’t match up with mine

Transit disruptions

About two or three times a week, I have the sheer joy of driving downtown via Kingston Road in Toronto. Those of you that are familiar with this area know that there are major road works being done, both for dealing with sewer deficiencies and for transit street car track maintenance. While the sewer maintenance is well overdue, and is of value to all residents in the area, I have a question regarding the transit maintenance. Right now, the access to the various shops and businesses is very poor, and a conservative estimate is that trade is off by over 25 percent (and this is for the gas station at the far east of the extensive roadworks), so I would expect that trade is off much more for businesses located in the middle of the mess. This situation is going to continue for the next year or so.

Ipso facto, a lot of these businesses will fail through no fault of their own.

The question I have, is as the TTC is directly responsible for potential failure of these businesses, why are they not being held responsible for this, or have mitigation policies in place?

At minimum, the TTC should be paying the local taxes for these businesses. A business owner should be responsible for running their business efficiently, but when another entity such as the TTC deliberately does something that affects that, there should be some form of recompense.

I know there are people that believe that transit is sacred and that any sacrifice is acceptable, but I have to feel that the businesses and well being of this small group of people should not be sacrificed so cavalierly. I wouldn’t like it to happen to me – why should they?

Senate reform

The provincial premiers say that senate reform isn’t one of their priorities.

They are so wrong on this. Yes – there are many pressing matters that have to be dealt with – but shoveling this smelly pile of beaver droppings under the rug isn’t the right message to send out to a tired electorate. Not only that – it re-enforces the view that a significant number of Canadians have is that the average politician is a mouth with no morals, whose only aim in life is to get re-elected enough times to qualify for the gold plated pension and other perks such as the senate. I know this view is being unfair to the politicians that are out there doing a good job, but when your nose is rubbed into a scandal like this  and you don’t actively seek to resolve it, then the odor clings, and quite rightly so.

Let’s be fair – the senate is a political bag-mans retirement home, and while it keeps a low profile and doesn’t make too many waves it can slide under the radar. Well, it broke the cardinal rule and because of that the rules have to change. If and I say IF the senate deserves to survive it needs significant public scrutiny to see that the pigs at the trough are only snuffling what they are entitled to, and what they are entitled to needs to be very rigorously looked at, and as soon as possible. It is actually possible to work on many priorities at one time and this should be one of the priorities.

Papal utterings

Pope Francis reached out to gays on Monday, saying he wouldn’t judge priests for their sexual orientation in a remarkably open and wide-ranging news conference as he returned from his first foreign trip.

“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis asked.

Laudable sentiment – but I’m going to call him on it – you are reaching out to gays – how about reaching out to women and permitting women priests?

Public safety

The inquiry onto the collapse of the Algo Centre Mall in Elliot Lake is heating up with a  stunning admission from the owner.

It came almost at the end of a third long day on the stand in Elliot Lake, Ontario.

Mall owner Bob Nazarian said he had $2.6 million from the sale of a property, but chose to spend it buying another property rather than fix the roof. He knew that there were problems with the place and made a decision not to deal with them.

He said he had worked too long to save money for his family, and didn’t want to throw it into what he called a black hole. Well I’m sure that is comforting to the people that were killed and injured. This despicable human should be jailed and all of his assets seized to compensate the victims. Not only that, but also seizure of assets that have been hidden or transferred to other family members. Additionally, there should also be harsh penalties applied to the engineers that inspected the building. I suspect this will not be the case, but if so it will prove there is yet another disconnect between the law and justice. What is more likely to happen is this will become politicized and the tragedy turned into self serving sound bites.

Chicken

There has been a minor news article about a hiccup at the Safeway meat department. Apparently a chicken foot got mixed in with the chicken breasts and no one noticed.

This prompted a twitter posting by a potential customer:

“Hey, @Safeway, does this look like “chicken breast” to you? I’m vomiting,” she wrote.

Gee – you have a fairly low tolerance level to what makes you barf. It looks clean, it is still chicken, not rat or something else that would be lunch destabilizing and is an honest to goodness mistake. What happens next? A law suit where the plaintiff swears that they can’t sleep because of visions of dancing chicken feet?

The West Wing

TV – what has commest of thou

It is summer, so a lot of the shows that I watch are on hiatus. In the meantime, one of the specialty channels in Canada has been rerunning the early seasons of the West Wing. It has been a while since this played, and my memories of it have been coloured by the last few seasons, where it started to flag and the writing took a turn for the worse. The early seasons are absolutely wonderful, filled with flawed characters, zippy writing and an administration and president that you really would like to see in office. It exposed the political world for what it is, and showed us all that even if you disagreed with the politics that were the underpinnings of the writing you could side with the “good guys” while you said no to what they were saying.

I so miss television like this – no blood, no gore, no “reality stars” that have no talent other than self promotion.

That is not to say there isn’t good television being produced – there is,  but it is few and far between, and is getting lost in the ever increasing number of so called reality shows, where the only reality is that there is a script every morning of shooting.

Overrepresentation

I saw a headline today about the annual meeting of premiers to discuss aboriginal concerns. The headline read:

Aboriginals are so vastly overrepresented in Canada’s federal prison system that current policies are clearly failing them, said Howard Sapers, the correctional investigator for Canada.

This also echoes the statements from the US regarding blacks being proportionally overrepresented in the prison population.

These are interesting statements and paint a picture that can be interpreted a number of ways. The first interpretation is that these communities are being discriminated against by the powers that be. In the US, this is the basis of a significant proportion of the protests in the Trayvon Martin aftermath, and in Canada is being used as a wedge to increase funding to Aboriginal programs.

The second interpretation is that these communities are failing, both themselves and in a larger societal sense. There is no doubt that historically, both of these communities have significant grievances to what has been done to them, but just like any victim group there is a choice. The first choice is to wear victimhood as a badge, and the second is to move forward, use it as motivation to improve things. The race card  is played regularly, usually by people that have something to gain on both sides of the discussion, the latest being Obama and in Canada by groups that again have vested interests. The aftermath  tends to be ugly and polarizes rather than fixes.

I’m tired of it all. I’m sick to death of agendas being put in front of progress and I’m sick of political correctness being used as a shield to stop meaningful discussion of solutions. There are huge problems with both of these communities, far larger than the Trayvon Martin case or meaningless hunger strikes in the Aboriginal community by the same people that are ripping their own communities off. Lets truly discuss these problems in an open way and then maybe, just maybe there may be some actual progress. I don’t claim to have the answers, but hiding the problems sure as heck isn’t going to help.

Americas Cup a bust so far

I’m a sailor.

I race boats.

I thought that I would enjoy the Americas Cup. High tech boats, crewed by the best sailors in the world, great TV coverage – what is not to love.

Well I don’t and I will tell you why. There isn’t a sailing competition going on here – this is a first through the gate competition. The new boats are fantastic examples of technology, but they have one fatal flaw – if you are behind then you are pretty much done. The key to match racing is to get in front and then stay in front, and the boat behind will try anything they can to get on your wind.  Upwind, if you are behind you try to get out of phase and find better wind and above all try to stay close enough so that downwind you can block the wind of the boat in front.

With these really high tech boats there is an incredible penalty if you are the boat behind. Your speed differential to the boat in front of you is something that it is going to be very difficult to overcome, as you won’t be able to foil as well downwind and foil to foil gybes start to become impossible. Not only that – as you don’t have any opportunity any more to try to block the wind of the boat in front on a downwind leg there are few opportunities to pass. The only way is to get out of phase with the boat in front and then pray for a gift of more wind. Any half decent match racing tactician is going to counter that by tacking to cover so the boat in front will gain and continue to gain. It has ever been thus in match racing, but with these boats the penalty for being behind is so severe I’m not sure it can be overcome, especially as there is no real offwind leg.

I hope I’m wrong and we will know when  Team New Zealand, who are currently the class of the challenger field, screw up a start and Luna Rossa gets ahead at the gate. Will Team NZ get a chance to get back in the race or will the story from Saturday play out again?

The other thing I have against this Americas cup is the price tag – it is a hundred million entry fee – that is what it is estimated it costs to field an entry, with these amazing but very expensive boats, high tech development and huge shore teams. Because of that there are only three challengers in the Louis Vuitton cup, one of whom are not yet competing because of their earlier capsize. These boats are so complex it will take them months to recover, if at all, and I would much rather see a larger field. There would be more races and the challengers would have much more of an opportunity to hone their skills racing against each other.

We saw it in the race on Saturday – the Kiwis got a great start and the race was over – lets hope that isn’t the way it plays out through the whole competition, because if it is – the sailing world will have lost a great opportunity to reach out and show the general non-sailing public what a great sport we have and simply reinforced that sailing is a boring sport for rich people. The summer of racing will be the summer of napping and yet another Americas Cup will be passed from one rich team to another.