Darwinian Motion

I want you to stop doing whatever it is that you’re doing right now and think back over the last 20 years.

How many times have you heard about kids being allergic to nuts or some shit like that?

Or how about going to visit a medical specialist for important tests and finding out that the office is a “fragrance-free zone”, and then get sent away because you committed the terrible offence of putting on goddamn deodorant when you woke up that morning?

And let’s not forget the endless parades of lawsuits seeking damages against major corporations simply because the plaintiffs lacked any common sense and used the company’s product (in ways the average person would be smart enough not to) and somehow managed to hurt themselves.

In any other species on Planet Earth, these things would result in the animal dying and being removed from the gene pool as a matter of Natural Selection – the #1 rule of evolution: that only the best and fittest examples should live to procreate, thus ensuring continuation and improvement of the species.

We humans (at least the educated type) have long championed the theory of evolution since Charles Darwin set it forth – and yet, we’re actively interfering with and preventing Darwinian processes from taking action inside our own species.

Ignoring Evolutionary actions in the bigger picture is what is leading to global overpopulation, and as we continue to re-order our society around these abnormalities – as opposed to just letting nature play itself out – we are actively damaging ourselves as a whole.

Before you call me a monster who’s in favour of eugenics, let me be clear: I’m not saying we should just stop caring for the sick or those with handicaps.

What I am saying is that we should – for the long-term survival of humanity – stop looking at the individual and start seeing how these people actually fit into our ecosystem.

By encouraging the assimilation into society of those people who would diminish the population as a whole, we are entering into a mathematical certainty where the future has greater numbers of abnormalities.

Of course, medical abnormality isn’t the only threat: stupid people present just as great a threat.

Instead of rewarding sheer stupidity with monetary gains via court settlements, we should be casting scorn at them and making these people social pariahs.

We should stop including warnings on products that any reasonably intelligent person would be able ascertain on their own.

CAUTION: THIS COFFEE IS HOT!

Really? Are you fucking kidding me? You boiled the water in order to expedite the quick release of oils from the coffee grinds, but somehow – in the 15 seconds since you poured the coffee into my cup from the carafe containing more boiling hot coffee – the liquid hasn’t magically cooled itself to room temperature or lower?

CAUTION: DO NOT STICK HANDS UNDER LAWNMOWER WHILE THE ENGINE IS RUNNING!

Wow! You mean that if I were to insert my hand into a space where there are metal blades flying around at 300 miles an hour, I’ll lose my hand or something?

Jesus H. Fucking Christ!

The people who can’t figure these things out on their own should be allowed to simply stupid themselves out of existence to keep them from spreading their mentally deficient genes in the form of children.

But no… we have to plaster everything with bright warning labels loaded with easy-to-understand typefaces and words in effort to keep Donnie Dumdum from drowning in a Porta-Potty – when we would have simply shaken our heads during generations and times gone by and accepted the fact that Donnie was too stupid to live.

As a society, we’ve taken to the assumption that every human on this planet is of the same value: that every child is a special and precious snowflake that should be coddled and protected from the natural deficiencies that Mother Nature visited upon them when, in fact, nature is simply seeking a way to balance the scales – despite humanity spending trillions of dollars to do away with any notion of a scale in the first place.

When we watch the news on television – or read about it in an issue of Time Magazine – we are confronted with scenes of suffering, hunger, sickness, and all-around strife in 2nd and 3rd world nations in Africa and the Middle East… and we’re urged by the talking heads and columnists to feel bad for these unfortunate souls because we’re better off and civilized.

The harsh reality is, of course, that what you’re seeing is a more balanced ecosystem – where the natural attrition of the physically/mentally deficient is let to go ahead with fewer impediments than would occur in our nice and comfy 1st world countries.

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The End Of McGuinty’s Marathon

If there’s been one equal reaction around the world to the global financial meltdown and its enduring fallout, it’s that the electorate of every country, state, and province – at least those who subscribe to the free market and democracy in general – has blamed the standing government.

Everybody loves their elected officials right up until those same elected officials reach the end of their budgetary ropes and start asking the people to tighten their belts as the government is forced to tighten its purse strings.

Yes, we’re all familiar with the riots in Greece as that government ushered in drastic austerity measures… the Arab Spring uprisings that stemmed from the citizens of those countries being unable to make ends meet within what the corrupt regimes had laid out… and the Occupy Wall Street/99% movement.

Other governments around the globe have dealt with the financial fallout in a more quiet fashion – at least in so much that there aren’t angry hordes of protesters filling the streets and boulevards in the seats of power.

Canada is one of those places – with the exception of the province of Quebec, which had a spring and summer filled with angry post-secondary students.

Yes, there were some tricky or tumultuous elections from coast to coast where the incumbents were either given a black eye or completely tossed from office – but for the most part, order has been maintained.

Ontario – which had been the wealthiest of provinces for the longest time before Alberta got it’s oil sands operations into full swing and took the title – was forced into a corner when the American economy collapsed, and the government at the time had to make some difficult choices.

The most visible – and the most quoted – was joining the U.S. in bailing out General Motors and Chrysler who were bankrupt from decades of bad deals with the auto worker’s union that had bled their coffers dry in a time where neither company was innovating at a level to compete with their counterparts from abroad.

Before I move on, I’d like to point out that those bail out loans have been paid off as both companies managed to pull their asses out of the fire.

As in America, the average citizen didn’t think the government had any business propping up private interests like Fortune 500 companies that had made bad choices – that it was perfectly acceptable to let those industrial giants die and take every job they created with them to the grave.

However, it was actually cheaper to prop up General Motors and Chrysler than to have all their workers (plus all the workers from companies that  manufactured parts for the auto industry) suddenly flood the nation’s unemployment benefit system – which would have crumbled under the load of 500,000 new applications since there was barely enough money to go around for the existing case load.

Plus, unlike money paid out to unemployed workers, all the money loaned to General Motors and Chrysler would come back to the government plus interest.

Anyhow, after the putting out the most immediate fires, the government of Ontario was left with a basic truth: all the smaller companies that either went bankrupt or had to radically downsize their workforces removed a sizeable chunk of tax income from the province’s spreadsheet.

Added on to that problem was the strategically leveraged investment tools that governments use to grow their bottom line – mainly investment bonds issued to raise capital – took the same kind of hit that the primary stock exchanges did… which turned billions into millions practically overnight.

People who drink the Hudak & Horwath flavor Kool-Aid fail to take that into account when they blame the Liberal government – and Premier Dalton McGuinty himself – for all the financial woes that have fallen on Ontario.

I’m not here to say that the McGuinty government hasn’t made any number of mistakes: a few programs have turned into total clusterfucks due to the lack of oversight.

Most notable are the eHealth and ORNGE debacles – and those two messes are all kinds of bad… but it’s one of those situations that make people say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Both programs were created to save the province money, and they should have… but the Liberals decided to save money on top of those savings by not appointing the number of provincial overseers that would have prevented the repeated foul-ups at eHealth and the insider kickbacks at ORNGE.

The eHealth program – which, by the way, was set in motion under the previous Progressive Conservative regime – was designed to/still has the potential for measurable savings to the province’s public healthcare system by creating a singular patient database that would eliminate layers upon layers of redundant paperwork across hundreds of hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices… pointless duplication that costs millions of dollars in working hours needed to fill it out, process it, and file it.

The sort of electronic data system to store the patient information – which would include everything from your family doctor’s written notes to blood work results to x-ray images – doesn’t exist anywhere in North America… which means that it has to be built from scratch.

Information servers, remote client software, unified image/video protocols… and that’s just a fraction of the problems facing just the technology vendors – and doesn’t account for the legal teams necessary to create a framework that protects both the patients and the healthcare providers.

The very nature of public healthcare makes it even more complicated as governmental agencies aren’t really suited to the kind of R&D (research and development) that a company like IBM does routinely – so, regrettably, the staff at OHIP took a stand-off approach with the idea that the ‘professionals’ that were hired would figure things out on their own without much input from the government.

Obviously, that hasn’t worked – and it’s going to be a long, hard road before the eHealth concept comes to fruition because the province is trying to compete with the private sector for the management staff needed to make it happen.

Looking over towards ORNGE, the same hands-off policy lead to a disaster – albeit for different reasons.

Prior to the province incorporating ORNGE, the health ministry leased the aircraft it used for air ambulance services from private contractors which meant that Ontario was losing money on the service in 2 out of 3 categories: while the pilots were trained and managed by the province, the fuel costs and aircraft use/maintenance was sold to Ontario at a moderate mark-up.

ORNGE was formed so that the province would own all the aircraft – purchased directly from the manufacturer – and would be buying the fuel for those planes and helicopters at open market prices.

Over the projected service life of the aircraft, the province would save hundreds of thousands of dollars – if not millions – in the same way that owning a home saves money over a 20 year cycle in comparison to someone renting an apartment for that same 20 year period.

The problem was that the province picked the wrong people to manage ORNGE, people who felt they weren’t beholden to the people of Ontario – managing ORNGE like a private company instead of a subsidiary.

When you run your own company, you can arrange all the kickbacks and shmoozefests you want – but when the money you’re playing with is supplied by the public, you’re responsible to the public.

Again, the Liberals had a little too much faith in the people they chose – and it came back to bite them in the ass.

Other problems that people want to hang around Dalton McGuinty’s neck – things like the poor relations with the province’s educators for instance – aren’t really the fault of the government when you look at the bigger picture.

Remember how I said the province is taking in a lot less money than when the Liberals ousted the Progressive Conservatives due to this shitty economy?

Well, that kinda means that the Liberals – or any government for that matter – can’t make the pay scales continually rise like in days of yore.

Up until quite recently, the McGuinty Liberals were the darlings of the public employee unions because the Liberals were happy to spend money to maintain the status quo where all the nurses and teachers had their demands met.

Problem is that the province can’t spend money it doesn’t have… and that fact fails to register with the unions.

There is already too much red ink on the provinces budgetary tables, and to pay for what the teachers are asking – and what the nurses will soon also be demanding – would require adding a lot more debt… the same debt that the ignorant public wants to hang around the government’s neck.

The same kind of thinking – though modified by a lot of NIMBYism (people saying ‘not in my backyard’) – is what has caused the power generation snafu that the opposition is beating the Liberals over the head with.

By and large, the people of Ontario had given the Liberals an environmental mandate – demanding that dirty, smog-creating power generations stations be replaced by cleaner alternatives like natural gas plants and wind farms.

Problem is that nobody wants these things near their homes – regardless of the fact that they had already grown up in the shadow of the coal power smoke stacks, and that they would only be trading one for the other.

No… they demand that these new power generation facilities be built far from their homes – which would be an okay idea if it weren’t for the problem of transmitting electricity from far-off locations to the average home with 2.5 kids and an ever-growing collection of electronic devices.

Which means that on top of the costs of replacing coal with renewable/environmentally friendly alternatives, the province would be on the hook for the cost of building new transmission corridors – which, coincidentally, nobody wants in their backyards either.

The natural gas power generation facility that the Liberals cancelled was called off due to NIMBY pressure – cancelled so that the voters in that area would be happy.

Those same voters are now angry because the province now has to pay a cancellation fee – a fee incurred on their behalf.

Doesn’t make a lot of sense to be mad about getting exactly what you asked for, does it?

However, John Q. Public isn’t known for making sense – he depends on his elected officials to make sense of the world for him in the form of a sound bite that requires him to think the least amount possible.

The only time John Q. Public wants grand visions of the future is during election season – the rest of the time, he doesn’t want to be challenged.

Which is why Dalton McGuinty is stepping down as premier.

The truth is just far too complex for the average voter… which leaves them to be influenced by the more basic name-calling and finger-pointing done by the leaders of the opposition.

It’s a hell of a lot easier to blame someone than to help that same person fix the problem.

South of the border, we see that in the Romney/Obama contest.

If Romney wins, it will be because the public at large – who doesn’t follow/understand the machinations of their government – has swallowed all the bullshit that the GOP opposition has thrown out there… when the truth is that Obama didn’t meet a lot of his promised goals because the GOP/Tea Party has refused to work with the White House on just about anything.

We here in Canada like to think we’re smarter than our American neighbors – but honestly, if we’re so easily convinced by the person who yells the loudest, then that isn’t the case at all.

Dalton was never perfect… but he has always tried to do the best thing possible for the people who elected him.

Resigning now is a less-than-ideal option, but it’s what was left in his toolbox: the PCs and NDP won’t work with him as they’ve painted an image of the premier that they won’t reconcile with in the interest of the province.

No… that’s not entirely accurate.

The Progressive Conservatives sided with the Liberals on the salary freeze for the province’s teachers – which means the PC’s are capable of working with the party that the electorate chose to govern… but in larger scheme of things, they don’t want to because they want to have their own hands on the levers of power.

Mr. McGuinty made it clear that he was resigning in an effort to give the Liberal party a new face – one that doesn’t carry 8+ years of name calling with it whenever the next premier appears to the public.

Of course, the next premier and leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario won’t have that long of a grace period before the opposing politicos start flinging mud.

It’s the nature of the game – and no matter what anyone says, politics is a game that’s paid for by the public.

It’s just not a game that people keep track of – unlike something like baseball where the fan at home can cite any number of statistics for their favorite team or player.

No… the public at large has no stomach for politics and therefore has a very short memory.

They’ve clamored for McGuinty’s head on a pike – but have no idea what to replace him with.

They still remember the shit Mike Harris did, so the voters don’t trust the Progressive Conservatives.

The public service unions remember the cutbacks they received at the hands of Bob Rae and the NDP (coincidentally, this happened during the last time there was a recession even remotely like the one we have now), so they don’t really trust the current New Democrats all that much either – but it would seem to be the only option in a 3 party system.

Anyhow, I’m going to bring this blog to a close since you probably came into it with your mind already made up as to whether Dalton McGuinty has been a good premier or not.

However, the facts are indisputable: the Liberals under Dalton McGuinty healed a very fractured province that was left in the wake of the Mike Harris/Ernie Eves era.

They also brought a socially responsible agenda – one that was expressed once again mere hours before Mr. McGuinty announced his plan to resign at the earliest possible convenience… a message that I’m going to leave right here instead of the usual clever graphic that I normally end my blogs with.

*

Way Out There

That’s where our future lies.

Way the hell out there… beyond the moon… and beyond even Mars.

If you haven’t been paying attention to all the noise being stirred up by the global scientific community – specifically cosmologists and those fields relating to astronomy – and watching all the pleading videos on YouTube from the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye, we Earthlings on this blue marble that circles the sun every 365 days are driving our species into the ground because we can’t be bothered to spend tax dollars on endeavors that will eventually lead us away from our home planet.

Every year, this situation gets more dire – especially in these lean years where governments have had to drastically slash their budgets.

You’ve heard of NASA, right?

Yeah, yeah… they were in that movie about the asteroid – they supposedly had a bunch of people just sitting around dreaming shit up!

Well… in reality, I’m sure there are a bunch of people at NASA whose job is to “dream shit up”, but the American agency’s main job has been – since the late 1950s – to further humanity’s understanding of the cosmos by sending humans and robotic probes out into the big black yonder.

In the beginning, there were the Mercury and Gemini rocket programs that put Americans into space after playing laggards to the Commie bastards in the USSR.

And then there was the Apollo program… the one NASA program that has accomplished a feat so complex and daring that nobody has been able to duplicate in 40+ years since: putting a living human being onto the surface of the moon.

Before any of you conspiracy wingnuts try and set the comment section ablaze down below with your lunacy (see what I did there?), be of the understanding that all comments have to approved by me – and not one word of how you think the lunar landings were faked will ever see the light of day on this blog.

Why am I so certain that NASA put Neil Armstrong and the astronauts that followed him onto the moon’s vast plains of regolith?

For one single reason: the Red Soviets never said that the Americans were fibbing.

Why would the Kremlin stand by and let the U.S. of A. boast about landing on the moon if it actually hadn’t happened? Especially when that kind of press made the Soviet space program – which was National Priority #1 during the 1960s – look like a total and utter failure?

It would have been in Moscow’s best interest to dispute the American’s claims if they had definitive proof that NASA was actually filming the moon footage on a soundstage somewhere – but the only thing that came down the wire from the Soviets was a begrudging congratulation.

What made them privy to the actuality of the Apollo capsules heading to the moon? (And no… they weren’t paid off as some nuts insist).

The Russians had deep space tracking facilities just as powerful as the Americans… radar facilities that could track anything in Earth orbit or beyond – all the way to the moon and past it

So, as the Apollo missions unfolded, the Soviets watched with detached fascination on their radar tracking scopes – probably cursing aloud and hoping that each trip to the moon would go horribly wrong so that they could (politely and in political terms) laugh at the American’s bungling of something that they could then claim was easy and that they were going to successfully carry out via their superior scientific apparatus.

But, like I wrote up above, that didn’t happen – and the Commies were forced to eat crow, quickly killing their own moon landing program before it had even gotten off the ground.

So, yeah… humans have walked on the moon… drove around on the moon… played golf on the moon… and looked at porn while on the moon.

If you need more proof, check out the Mythbusters episode regarding the so-called Moon Hoax: Adam and Jamie thoroughly debunked all the most popular “theories”.

Okay… I’m gonna get this blog entry back on track.

Like I was saying before I went off on the wingnuts, space exploration – and human space exploration specifically – has gone off the rails almost globally due to the lack of political will to spend big money on things Joe Public had begun to take for granted.

The average person out there – who hasn’t studied the various doings of NASA, the ESA, JAXA, and other space agencies around the world in any depth beyond the 20 second blurbs on the nightly news when a space shuttle launched – kinda assumes that human space flight is routine, fairly easy, and is already half-way to Mars.

Sorry, space cadets: humans have been stuck in low Earth orbit for the past fortyish years since the Apollo program concluded – the farthest we’ve gone off the face of the planet is to service the Hubble Space Telescope…  570 kilometers straight up, or 350 miles for our Imperial measurement friends.

The moon is  385,000 kilometers away.

In the waning years of his presidency, George W. Bush tried to build himself a legacy by commanding NASA to start planning for humankind’s return to the moon before foraging outwards to Mars – something that the American people could surely get behind in the way that they embraced John F. Kennedy’s vision of man going to the moon for the first time.

However, elections came to America.

At first glance, Barrack Obama was good for NASA since he was science-friendly… and maybe Bush’s Orion/Constellation program would have maintained forward momentum if a class of representatives hadn’t been elected to Congress that were more interested in nickel and diming important federal prorgams in order to service that 1% the Occupy movement loves to hate.

Unfortunately, NASA’s budget kept getting scaled back in the years that followed Dubya’s departure (and even while he was still Commander In Chief)… cut down so much that Obama was forced to take a scalpel to the American space program – paring away costly items that Congress just refused to pay for.

The costliest of these items being human space flight beyond Earth orbit – whether that be to the moon or to Mars.

On paper, not all is lost: Obama has endorsed sending humans to an asteroid or a Martian moon by the year 2030… by which time the Chinese Commies will have set up a permanent base on our own moon.

You see, only the Chinese are taking human space flight seriously in the here and now – aggressively pursuing space flight at a rate of speed that would almost put the 60s space race to shame.

Of course, the Chinese have more money than they know what to do with – we buy nearly all of our consumer goods from them, after all.

I suppose it also has to do with the fact that they don’t spend a dime on basic human needs – but I digress.

So, on top of building entire metropolitan cities from scratch for people who won’t move to them, Beijing has spent billions of yuan on building rockets, space capsules, and other space-related infrastructure that will put them on the moon within the next decade.

You might be saying “So what? What does that have to do with me?”

I’ll tell you what: humankind needs a new home… and that home will be out there – first amongst the planets in our own solar system, and then out among the stars you gaze at every night.

This isn’t some panicky prediction based on environmental concerns (though our rapid depletion of natural resources here on Earth is certainly making a good case for it) but simply based on the fact that Earth will eventually run out of space for our massive populations.

If we – as a species – want to continue growing our masses without check, then we are going to need new places to put our children/grandchildren/great grandchildren/etc. so that they can thrive in environments capable of supporting them.

…And we can’t allow the Communist Chinese to control that stellar high ground – not when the individual human lives under their control mean so little.

The last thing we need is abysmal-pay sweatshops on the moon.

No.

Just no.

We need to band together as a species on united human space exploration front so that all of the ground that humankind can travel to will be open and fair to all.

I know that may sound like a rehashed speech from a Star Trek episode, but it’s true: when humankind’s destiny is clearly out into the cosmos, we all need to get behind that destiny to make it happen.

We need to speak up and force the people we elect to office to spend tax dollars that will help us into the future… instead of spending money on the same old crap that we’ve done for a 100 years or more: big business and a military to pursue the interests of big business.

Big business is only interested in pacifying the masses with goods and services… and the military’s only interest is in how to kill the masses.

Those two things do nothing to preserve our species – a species that has barely existed for a million years… which is inconsequential when taken in context with the actual age of Planet Earth.

We will certainly be our own undoing if we don’t get ourselves off this planet – not all of us, of course… but a number that will ensure our survival in case something untoward should happen to our homeworld (cataclysm, environmental collapse, alien invasion, etc.).

The only way we will do this is by spending money on human space flight… no matter how small in scale it may seem at first.

The  313,286,000 people who live in the United States Of America (minus the native population) didn’t all arrive on the Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria with Christopher Columbus – they got here by being the children of those who immigrated to North America in the years after Columbus “discovered” the New World – an expedition of discovery that was paid for with money from Spain’s tax coffers.

Exploration on a grand scale is done by nations (and currently with the help of private companies).

Those nations now need to spend the money necessary to send our species way out there.

It’s our only real chance to make sure our species… well… lives long and prospers.

Tim Who ‘Dat?

Ontarians – from border to border, and from Hudson Bay to the Great lakes – are on the verge of going to the polls again.

How and who they vote for will shape the government of Ontario for the next 4-5 years, and that is no inconsequential responsibility: North America is pretty much three inches and a market fart away from falling back into an economic recession that will no doubt put further pressure on the unemployment safety net as thousands of workers are let go.

The province of Ontario is a very complex machine… and when a machine breaks down, you want the right tools in your hands to fix it, right?

Unfortunately, Tim Hudak is just a tool (in the most derogatory sense).

During the 2011 election campaign, Mr. Hudak has tried to paint himself with Mike Harris’ left over cans of Tremclad Rustoleum in the supposedly trendy colour of ChangeBlue™… but he’s failed to realize that colour has been out of style for more than a decade.

While LiberalRed™ is still the preferred colour of the Ontario electorate, they’ve also developed a hankering for Andrea Horwath’s truckload of LaytonOrange™ – at least in small doses.

Tim Hudak may be good at mugging for the cameras,  but he’s been overly terrible at public policy ideas – a failing that’s always terminal in a politicians’s case, and one that can make you a laughing-stock at what’s supposed to be your defining moment.

At the start of the campaign, everything was coming up roses for Timmy and his merry band of Harris leftovers because Ontarians thought that change would be nice after 8 years of Premiere Dad – and that’s bound to happen, no matter who’s been holding on to the province’s keys: people like change now and then.

Instead of always getting the pepperoni pizza, sometimes you go out on a limb and get the Hawaiian with extra pineapple.

After a week or so of glad handing voters around the province, Hudak firmly took his campaign off the rails by repeatedly saying the word “foreigners” – and in a province that only grows with the importing of landed immigrants from other countries around the world (because the Canadian birth rate is abysmal), that was just the wrong thing to focus on.

Suddenly, Tim Hudak was all about white guys – despite him looking out over Toronto sidewalks that skewed a bit more towards yellow and brown.

On top of that, the Progressive Conservative party – that’s led by Mr. Hudak – has always been the champion of big business.

So… Tim Hudak is all about rich white guys.

And yes… I’m using white guys on purpose since the PC party has never really been on board the women’s rights train – paying lip service to it when necessary, but always mumbling quietly about finding ways to outlaw abortions.

The funny thing about the “Foreigner” debacle is that, by and large, the immigrant population are the people most likely to agree with the PC platform since most of them have come from moderately- to radically conservative countries… which makes them more likely to drink the HarriBerry Blue™ Kool-Aid.

The idiocy of Hudak’s derailment is based on one glaring fact: they have no serious issues to grab the undecided voter’s attention.

Television advertisements paid for by the PC party have only harped on about taxes: Dalton McGuinty and his Fiberals are supposedly raising taxes every other week and twice on Christmas.

While it is true that taxes have gone up in Ontario, they’re not disproportionate to the rate of inflation… and there’s been a concrete need for any taxes implemented by the Liberal government over their past two mandates.

Evil Tax Number One a.k.a. The Health Care Premium: Do you have any idea how much money is needed to care for the rapidly aging Baby Boom generation?  To care for the existing senior citizens?  To battle health concerns like SARS and swine flu?  Billions of dollars… billions of dollars that can’t be completely extracted from the amount of money brought into public coffers through various levels of personal and retail taxation – so the government needed a way to continue paying for our universal health care without digging itself further into debt.

Evil Tax Number Two a.k.a. The Eco-Tax: More than a million metric tons of used electronics used to go into landfills across the province before the turn of the century, and many still do… but that’s changing under the auspices of the Ontario Stewardship (a program that was itself set in motion by the previous PC government as a way to boost their environmental credentials) – and the money that’s required to start complex recycling programs province-wide has to come from somewhere… and where better to get that money than at the point of sale for the widescreen LCD television that you will discard in the next 5 years? That way, you’ve already paid for it’s recycling long before it’s necessary… instead of the government having to dip into it’s already strained and tattered pocketbook.

Evil Tax Number Three a.k.a. The HST: I’ve already explained why the HST is a necessary evil in previous blogs, so there’s not much I can add here. At the end of the day, Ontario needed to have the HST so it’s businesses could compete with other business entities around the world in our Global Economy because other jurisdictions in Europe, Asia, the U.S., Mexico, and South America already had in place single-point or so-called “value added” tax systems that made paying corporate taxes easier and more streamlined… and therefore cheaper over the long run.

With that Evil Tax Trifecta, surely Hudak could have made a better case for lowering taxes for the masses, right?

No… he couldn’t – and didn’t.

The HST couldn’t be revoked without activating a ‘poison pill’ scenario that was inserted by Hudak’s Conservative cousins in the federal government: if the province of Ontario were to revoke the HST, it would have to pay back $4 billion dollars in equalization money that’s already been sent to majority of Ontario citizens by those four special cheques you found in your mailbox over the past year – which would immediately be added to the province’s debt load and sinking the S.S. Ontario further into the Sea Of Red Ink… and would necessitate a rise in income taxes.

The best Hudak could promise on the HST front (and to be fair, Horwath has said the same things) was a modification of items that were included on the list of items taxable under HST – mainly removing the federal portion of the taxes on heating oil and electricity bills.

I suppose that would be nice, but hardly practical since it would cause a headache for the taxation department – a department that would eventually find a way to make up the difference from some other way of taxing you.

Onto the Health Care Premium.

Has Mr. Hudak said he would do away with those?

Nope. In fact, he’s said – very quietly and far away from voters waving little blue flags – that he will keep those in place because they do what I said they did a few paragraphs upwards from this one.

At the end of the day, the only one of those three Evil Taxes that Mr. Hudak and the PCs could tamper with in any meaningful way – and the meaning wouldn’t be necessarily good – would be the Eco-Tax.

However, as I hopefully made it clear up above, that would simply be a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul – letting you off the hook at the point of purchase and then raising your personal taxes to maintain funding for the recycling facilities for your disposable iPods, Blackberries, flat screen televisions, and laptops… and to also pay for the water purification plants that remove the chemicals you put down the drain every day.

Outside of he Evil Tax Trifecta, Hudak doesn’t have a platform.

Healthcare? It can be argued that Ontario’s health care system is in the best shape it’s ever been in.

Yes… there are still crowded emergency rooms at hospitals across the province, but the wait times are getting better on the whole – especially for surgeries that can change people’s lives… or let them continue their lives as whole persons.

A few years ago, I was in serious bicycle accident and I snapped my leg in three places – something that would have been seriously debilitating in decades and centuries past…. even so bad that amputation would have been considered in more primitive times.

Guess what? The accident happened just after 1 o’clock in the afternoon… and I was in surgery to have a titanium rod permanently inserted down the middle of my tibia with attending screws and other hardware required to regain structural integrity – allowing me to walk on it again within several months – at 6 o’clock in the evening on the very same day.

So, I went from mangled to mostly fixed in five hours… and I didn’t have to pay a single cent – not even for the ambulance ride.

No… our healthcare system may not be perfect, but it’s still pretty damn amazing when you consider how much it has to struggle when it comes to finances.

The Progressive Conservatives, during their last stint as the province’s controls had taken a slash n’ burn approach to healthcare – firing doctors and nurses, and closing nearly twenty hospitals across the province… which caused such systemic damage that Ontario’s healthcare system was amongst the worst in the country, and it’s only now (2011) that it’s gotten back to the top.

Hudak & Pals don’t have any where to go with education, either.

The Liberals under Dalton McGuinty have made some radical improvements to public education in Ontario.

More students are sticking it out all the way through high school, graduating with marks that they can be proud of.

Smaller class sizes have helped students get the attention they need from their teachers, which means they get the help they need if they need it – either in that same classroom, or in more specialized learning environments.

The biggest change, of course, was the implementation of full-day kindergarten for all youngsters – which had two effects: the first being that children started experiencing a constructive learning environment sooner than most other children in North America… and it eased the financial burdens of working families that would have otherwise had to pay for daycare or babysitting services.

There’s very little to complain about when it comes to Ontario’s public schools.

In fact, there’s very little for Ontarians to complain about on the whole as the province simply works.

Compared to the Mike Harris years – an era where nearly every public sector union in Ontario was on strike – that Tim Hudak clearly yearns for deeply, Ontario is firmly planted in the Garden Of Prosperity.

Yes… there are many people across the province who are out of work because of the current global financial climate that isn’t particular to Ontario.

However, there are many people who’ve either regained or retained their employment because of programs that the current Liberal government forced into being with their majority… programs that cost many billions of dollars, but had very clear and tangible results.

Sure – the bailing out of General Motors and Chrysler (now owned by Fiat) was a popularly unpopular move… but it kept those two massive companies who employed thousands of Ontarians (either directly or through companies G.M. and Chrysler depended on to build their cars and trucks) alive.

The manufacturing sector in Ontario – and the world at large – has taken a beating as money becomes tight for consumers.

Companies that face certain peril if they don’t downsize their workforce have no choice to let employees go… and this is not the fault of the Ontario government.

It’s the fault of American banks and financial institutions who squandered and pissed away more than a trillion dollars in crooked investments and other equally worthless endeavors – actions that had a ripple effect across the entire world of stock exchanges and investment banking from New York to Tokyo.

The current hard financial times facing Ontario are not something that was caused in Ontario, and is most definitely not the fault of the McGuinty Liberals.

However, Tim Hudak has done his best to blame Dalton McGuinty for it… and in the end, the blame hasn’t stuck.

Maybe because the average Ontario voter is smarter than that… and I would really hope that’s the case.

However, I think the Ontarian electorate is sticking with the Liberals because Ontario is in a better place than a lot of jurisdictions in North America – and even the world.

Dalton McGuinty goes on television and shows you all the  good things the Liberals have done over the time they’ve been in charge – most of which I’ve discussed here.

…And Tim Hudak challenges McGuinty and Horwath to a BBQ cook-off.

If that wasn’t a sign of non-existent political platform, I really don’t know what is.

No, Timmy.

No you can’t.

It’s A New Year: 2011

So… we’re one year away from the foretold 2012 Armageddon, and what are we all promising to do this year?

Lose weight? Be kinder to hobos? Cutting back on the kicking of puppies?

Sure… why not? They’re all worthy goals!

However, I lack such moral inspirations… so I’m going to list the things that I can probably handle pretty well in the year Two Thousand & Eleven.

Stormcastle’s List Of Resolutions:

01) Eat more nachos – specifically, nachos with bacon. Sadly, I lived the entirety of 2010 without making contact with nachos of any kind.

02) Have more sex.

03) Eat less asparagus.

04) Drink less beer.

05) Take more road trips.

06) Legalize my name.

07) Buy more Blu-Rays.

08) Avoid blatant corporate pandering.

09) Be less trendy.

10) See more movies.

11) Take public transit to save the environment.

12) Spend less time making fun of Stephen Harper.

13. Buy more things made in Canada.

14) Find new ways to make interracial exchanges.

15) Eat less Kraft Dinner/Macaroni & Cheese.

16) Appreciate the special people in my life more.

17) Spend less money on music.

18) Wear cleaner socks.

19) Spend more time in Second Life.

20) And finally… try to blog more.

There you have it, boys and girls of the world – the ways that I’m going to change myself in the first year of the 2nd decade of the new millennium.

Now… what are you gonna do?

Yay!

Grace Lake: The Return

After 12-15 years, I returned to what used to be my home – the shores of Grace Lake in the northern reaches of Central Ontario.

The view from the beach was the same as ever with the eye’s attention drawn to the ‘large’ island in the center (which is actually not that big when you look at it from the side or at it’s rear flank).

However, from the shoreline to the main highway a kilometer away, it’s very hard to pick out the features that are so ingrained into my memories.

Gone are the open spaces where you could roam around at will – replaced with trees and bushes so thick that they’re all but impenetrable.

All of the landmarks that I saw every waking day for the first 12 years of my life (okay – more like 10 years since I was two years old when my mother shacked up with my stepfather) were nowhere to be seen, and let me tell you, that is an incredibly disorienting feeling.

You folks out there who have been born and raised in urban centers can’t possibly understand what that feeling is like since it can’t really occur to you because no matter how much the city changes around you, there will always be something to help you find your way: a bridge, a street, a statue, a park, a landmark municipal building… none of these thing ever go away.

Sure, your favorite stadium might be torn down… or that crappy shopping plaza down the street from your parents house might have been razed so that a new movie theater and restaurant can be put in it’s stead, but the fact is that the road it fronts on to will still be there and you’re not going to get lost because you can’t see the busted sign for the dilapidated bowling alley.

However, imagine going away to college, then university, and then getting employed overseas – a journey through life that takes you 15 – 20 years before you make that trek back to where you started from.

Now imagine the entire city simply having vanished with nothing but a few broken bricks strewn about to even say there had been anything there.

How lost would you feel? How stupid would you feel for not knowing which way was what?

That’s how I felt upon returning to Grace Lake after my family’s property had been sold, divided up, and remade to the new owner’s visions – and make no mistake: the property that my grandparents sold to former MPP Chris Hodgson measured in multiple hectares.

Hell, I had to walk a kilometer just to catch the school bus every morning (and yes, I’m aware of sounding like an old timer when I tell you that).

That very road that I walked along through sun, rain, sleet, or waist deep snow now has homes built along it – each with sizable lots.

The cottage resort with 30 slots for recreational travel trailers was completely gone… not that I expected it to be there.

I knew that the wealthy had come and built a series of million dollar cottages on the shores of Grace Lake, but I had no idea that those buyers would let the land go to seed – that they would plant so  many trees that you wouldn’t even know that there was a lake to be seen if you didn’t already know it was present.

I had to access the shoreline via a family friend’s property, and even then, it was only about 15 – 18 feet of undeveloped trees and sand… looking out onto a breath-taking body of water that drew me into it’s grasp: I couldn’t control myself and waded out knee-deep into the crystal clear water that seemed to welcome me like a long lost relative.

But all I had to do was look to my left and see the perversion of what had been all mine: docks and floating piers supporting pleasure craft and luxury speed boats – instead of a pristine sand beach longer than the length of a football field or soccer pitch.

Grace Lake 2010

However, we all know that time stops for no one – no matter how we wish for it sometimes.

Every step we make, every breath we take, and every time we blink our eyes only moves us further and further along time’s highway… and it’s a highway filled with speeding cars and trucks that only go one way – so there’s no point in trying to thumb a ride back towards the beginning (at least not yet).

To borrow a lyric from Gordon Lightfoot – and one that seems to apply here: Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?

As you’ll see in the attached video, Grace Lake has no shortage of waves, and they just keep rolling in without stop… furthering the days and years until there will be nobody left that remembers a cottage resort named Birch Villa – which is a certainty.

All that remains is the faces and the names… of the residents… of the customers… of 30 years or so of seasonal visitors.

Sure – there are photographs tucked away in dusty attics all over this continent that show what the lakefront used to look like.

But how long are those going to last? A generation past those who actually camped at the lake?

How long before those pics get shoved in a trash can by some kid in the future who thinks they’re lame – and kids already think the outdoors is a waste of time as it is.

It’s not like they can hop in a car and visit what’s in the photos in the grand tradition of road trips of self-discovery.

If it’s not going to be there for me – who lived there 24/7/365 – then it’s not going to be there for them.

All that’s left for me is a fading road sign that bares my surname…

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…pointing towards a lake that you can’t see.