Fares fair

I’m not a fan of public transit, but that is primarily because 99% of my journeys are impossible by transit. Not only that but the roads that I have to use have been crippled by streetcars, which are more effective at stopping traffic flowing than a series of red lights.

Normally I am carrying loads that simply are not viable to take on transit, or I am travelling a route where if I used transit I would get old before I got to my destination.

A typical example of this would be getting from my home to my sailing club takes 30 – 40 minutes by car, and over two hours by transit with 3 changes of bus.

Now the TTC consumes $1.7 billion of the city of Toronto’s operating budget – a whopping 17.7 percent, and Toronto has budgeted $6.3 billion over the next 10 years of the capital budget – an even more whopping 38%, which is well over twice that of repairing roads, and we all know how good a shape the Gardiner Expresswayis in.

Having just run the gauntlet of downtown roads I can tell you that pretty much all of them are in dire need of repair, so I simply don’t get it. Has the TTC got a direct line to the funding gods, or pictures of the Mayor in a compromising position (forget the last one – everyone has those pictures)

Working Families Coalition

Day one of the advertising war in the election campaign, and a vocal PC opponent is about to open up the big guns.

Obtained by Global News, a new advertisement by the Working Families Coalition paints PC Leader Tim Hudak as untrustworthy and “misleading voters again.” The union funded organization will release the ad on Thursday.

Now I’m not against any organization taking out public advert time on any form of media, however I would like a little clarity. The coalition, which includes the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, and the Ontario Nurses’ Association, spent $2.1 million on .ads attacking PC Leader Tim Hudak during the 2011 election campaign and it looks like they are planning on doing similar this year.

.What I would like is a clear statement on these ads regarding exactly who is sponsoring them, rather than the somewhat benevolent sounding Working Families Coalition.

The Ontario Election

I’m just a voter, I’m not a political commentator or a candidate, but please don’t interpret that to mean that I am stupid. The Ontario Liberals must think exactly that.

Firstly, I am not going to forget about Orange or the Gas Plant fiascoes. It is not past history that  is water under the bridge, it is indicative of how the Liberal Government works. Dalton McSquinty may have been Premier, but Kathleen Wynn was at the big table during all of this, so her bleating that it wasn’t under her leadership rings very hollow. Wynn was not elected to the top job as an outsider, she was very much part of the leadership cabal that is directly responsible for these disasters.

Secondly, the Liberals have been in power for 10 years, so blaming anything on prior government again is very hollow. If you can’t fix it in 10 years, or at least make significant progress, then I don’t want you as my government because you have shown that at the very minimum you are incompetent.

Finally, again as the Liberals have been in power for 10 years, how come there wasn’t any movement on all of their brand new promises before now. These are just election promises that will be thrown to the political winds as soon as someone is stupid enough to vote for them. For both the NDP and the Conservatives, their promises need to be viewed with a cynical eye as to whether this is true direction that they are going to follow or just election rhetoric, but in the case of the party in power, if they aren’t already moving on some of these promises, then you know how much you can depend on them following up.

With a party in power, they have a track record and you can look at that record. With opposition parties, you have to take their promises with cynical faith. The liberal track record is not something to be proud of and that needs to be reflected in a resounding rejection of them on polling day.

Electronic Pervasion

Most people these days have an electronic profile. Be it twitter, Facebook, Blog or LinkedIn, it is getting very difficult to live your life without one.

Furthermore, most people are showing classic signs of addiction when their electronic devices are taken away from them. If you want to see what I mean, take the cell phone away from a twenty-something or a teen and watch the fingers start to twitch and the furtive look in their eyes. I haven’t seen one break out into a cold sweat yet, but I would imagine it happens.

Back a few years ago, the ubiquitous Blackberry that every corporate type carried was nicknamed the Crackberry and for a very good reason. It was difficult to get peoples attention in any sort of gathering, as they were all continually looking down at their devices and even though most had it set to silent, there was always one whose phone went off and then they just HAD to answer it. Now, corporations are having to face pressure to allow people to use their own devices on corporate networks, with the headaches that brings.

Where I am going with this is that these electronics have intertwined themselves into our lives over the last ten years or so to the point that most would be lost without them. Even for me, when posed a problem, my first resort is a Google search, and I can’t tell you the last time I used a dictionary that wasn’t on-line.

This has huge downsides as well as convenience. You are exposing yourself in an unprecedented way to the rest of the world, and there are a lot of not-nice people out there. I’m not just talking the out and out crooks, I am also talking about intrusive governments (both foreign and domestic), intrusive corporations and many basement dwelling trolls who only have an on-line life and spend most of it on the edge of the dark net and hacking sites. In the good old days all you had to do to protect your identity was to keep the checkbook under lock and key and shred any bill that had personal information on it before you put it into the trash.

Now you have to be something close to a network administrator to control everything and quite frankly, even those of us with the skills to do it aren’t disciplined enough to really close all of the holes. We leave electronic trails everywhere and for those unscrupulous enough to use them, we are making ourselves incredibly vulnerable.

The genie is out of the bottle, but it really does make sense to at least try to shove the cork part of the way back in.

Ukraine self rule vote

As a publicity stunt, you have to admire the Russian masterminded self rule votes in the Ukraine. The master stroke is Putin coming out in public and saying the votes should not go ahead, while the majority of the groups that are actioning these are heavily, if not completely influenced from the Kremlin.

I suppose there must be at least three people on the planet that believe these votes are going to be fair and not rigged about as tight as the highwire act at the circus, but those three must be buried in a mine somewhere in the Arctic. This bunch could give the crooked politicians that were rampant in Chicago in the last century lessons on how it is done.

All this is, is a way of giving the West some wriggle room. Western leaders are publicly criticizing Russia, but in the meantime France is still selling them warships, and it is business as usual except for some highly publicized “economic sanctions” that are frankly laughable.

What do you want to bet that the results of these votes are that 80% of the population voted and overwhelmingly they wish for self rule, and then the next step is a request for Russian annexation.

**late update – the so called results are now being made public and it is 90% in favor, which is even higher than the 80% I predicted. Now all I am waiting for is the annexation request.

Bring back our girls

The Twitterverse is merrily twittering, it is being positively birdlike with the hashtag #bringbackourgirls. Every celebrity on the planet, and that includes Michelle Obama, who I count as a celebrity is passing this on at the speed of light, and it has now been retweeted at least two million time.

While social media has a purpose of enabling the spread of information, this is a broken record. Yes, we all now know about it, gawd it has been center stage at Entertainment Tonight, which as we all know is the pinnacle of hard news programs. It is allowing celebrities and politicians to take positions that they know no one can disagree with, so it is a win-win all around.

I suppose Twitter is allowing this issue to outlast the normal news cycle of 25 milliseconds until it is trumped by the next hot item about Kim or Kanye, so it has some value, but tweeting about this is simply not going to @bringbackourgirls.

Nigeria is a country of 170 million people so it is half the population of the USA, and 5 times that of Canada. It has graft and corruption down to a fine art and most officials wander around with their hand out. Any aid that goes there, 90% gets siphoned off into the 1%’s pocket. If the country was well run, it would be rich as it has great natural resource wealth, but that isn’t what is happening. It has a poor human rights record, with Islam vs Christian, tribe vs tribe painting a pretty bloody picture, and Boko Haram are just the latest lunatic group that are disguising terrorism and lawlessness under the guise of religion.

Public pressure may have some influence, but until the government in Nigeria is serious about wishing to deal with groups like this, rather than wringing its hands. nothing is going to happen. I’m firmly of the belief that countries like the US, that have advanced ELINT capabilities may be able to point Nigeria in the right direction as far as locating these girls, but it must be Nigeria that goes and gets them back. That will be the acid test of whether all of the hand wringing is just for public and world media consumption.

**Update

There is now a term for it – it is called slacktivism, which is people making themselves feel good through acting about a currently trendy subject, while putting out the minimum effort.Earth to slackers. Posting on Twitter is NOT being activist.

 

 

FDA and vaping – ridiculous part 3

I just thought I would post this to ensure anyone reading this blog is up to speed. For any of my fellow vapers in the USA, you need to get active on this before big brother and big tobacco take your vaping away from you. For those of us in Canada, we need to keep a very close eye on Canadian regulations, as it is quite typical for Canada to follow the USA’s lead

WASHINGTON, April 28, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its long-awaited draft regulations for electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and other low-risk alternatives to smoking. The regulations offer little benefit, according to The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA), the leading advocate for the current and future consumers of low-risk alternatives to smoking. However, CASAA believes that should the FDA finalize the rule in its current form, it will inflict devastating harm on consumers.

“This is a classic case of government imposing a ‘solution’ and then looking for a problem,” said CASAA President Julie Woessner, J.D. “The regulations do nothing to address real concerns, and instead are a slow-motion ban of the high quality e-cigarettes that have helped so many smokers quit. The rules would mostly require busy-work filings that impose huge costs with little apparent benefit.”

The proposed regulations are based on a faulty understanding of the science, reports CASAA Scientific Director, Dr. Carl V. Phillips. “FDA has cherry-picked the available evidence,” says Phillips, “blindly accepting any assertion that favors aggressive regulation and ignoring the overwhelming evidence about the harms that these regulations would cause.”

Although the regulations do not openly ban the refillable devices that are preferred by experienced users, they impose a costly registration and approval process that would effectively eliminate them. Such registrations offer minimal benefits, but ensure that only a few large companies who mass-produce small and disposable products would be able to afford the necessary filings. Additionally, while the regulations do not immediately ban the variety of popular flavors for e-cigarette liquid, they signal an intention to do so in the future.
“Our research and others’ shows that higher-quality hardware and appealing flavors are important for smoking cessation,” says Phillips. “Many former smokers report that they were always tempted to go back to smoking while using the smaller devices with imitation tobacco flavoring, but they quit smoking for good when they found better hardware and flavors that no longer reminded them of smoking.”

It is estimated that as many as a million American smokers have quit or substantially reduced their smoking thanks to e-cigarettes, and many are already making plans for a black market if these regulations take effect. Those smokers who are using e-cigarettes in a transition stage could easily return to smoking–and future potential switchers may never be able to make the transition–if the restrictions on high-quality products are imposed. Woessner, who quit smoking thanks to e-cigarettes, fears such impacts. “If I had been limited to only those products that would exist under this regulation, I would probably still be smoking.”

CASAA is preparing a response that will point out the flaws in the proposed regulations and is organizing its members and hundreds of thousand of other e-cigarette users in an attempt to persuade FDA about the harms this regulation would cause. Should that fail, it plans to fight the regulations in court.

CASAA is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, public health, membership NGO. It does not represent the interests of industry. Donations are not tax-deductible as a charitable contribution.
Contact: Carl V Phillips, CASAA Scientific Director, 651-503-6746, cphillips@casaa.org.