Thursday 30 July 2009

not a blog III

Up, Down.

T.W.I.T. True Worshippers of the Ineffable Tetractys.
Tetractys (OED): A set of four; the number four; esp. the Pythagorean name for the sum of the first four numbers (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10) regarded as the source of all things.

Tim Flannery 2007 speech: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

1. Mind traps of Toronto's late strike, Rick Salutin, Friday July 31 2009.
2. Braidwood means a whole new start, Editorial, Friday July 31 2009.
3. Green Premier's agenda hits snag as energy plan rejected, Mark Hume, Wednesday July 29 2009.
4. Former lover of Quebec multimillionaire fails to get $50 million, July 16 2009.
5. Former model loses bid for cut of ex's millions, Ingrid Peritz, Thursday July 16 2009.

Mind traps of Toronto's late strike, Rick Salutin, Friday July 31 2009.

What kind of victory do the critics want – unconditional surrender?

Cutting labour costs is bad economics. I'm speaking from a macro view. The current economic crisis largely arose from a yawning gap between most people and the very rich. As it grew, public goods – roads, schools, etc. – diminished. In a healthy society, the majority earn decently and can afford taxes for the services they use. But income declines caused people to borrow more in order to maintain their living standards and keep economic demand up. That led to the creation of opaque financial instruments and “financialization” of the economy. All governments now address this problem through stimulus programs. But cutting back workers' incomes de-stimulates. So the pressure to lower costs, as in Toronto's strike, runs against the larger societal need for more spending. Yet for 30 years, we've been told government is a business and should be run like one. Toronto Mayor David Miller crows like any boss about how he drove wages down and eliminated benefits. The Miller “achievements” will contribute to those negative economic trends. How about government behaving like a government instead? Could it maintain good contracts and contain costs? Yes. If it pays its way as it goes, by raising taxes. I pause to allow the catcalls to subside – there, feel better? And add: only on the richest. Call it a re-redistribution in response to all the redistribution that's gone from the majority to the very rich. They are different from you and me, Scott: Unlike most people, they don't and can't spend all that they have, so they salt the rest away in the Caymans.

Solidarity for never. The labour movement's watchword is unity, but it also has the potential to divide working people, especially in hard times, between those well-organized or in less vulnerable sectors, and the rest. Solidarity is the goal, but the war of all against all, looms. Why didn't the strikers at Toronto garbage dump sites help citizens bring in their bags instead of delaying them pointlessly? There was lots of spite from non-strikers too, based on a sense that, if you're doing badly, you'll feel better if others like you are also in trouble. That's probably human nature, not capitalism, at work. Union people recognize these forces and often say unions don't suffice; they need a political party to fight their battles or a larger vision of “social unionism.” What would that mean concretely? Take the banking of sick days for retirement, which aroused such anti-strike rancour. Could you defuse it with a political measure? Yes, by creating a decent, universal pension plan, just like universal health care.

Class war from above. The Globe's Marcus Gee wrote that at most, the mayor won a “partial victory.” Others said he “caved.” The National Post headlined, “Unions won, hands down.” His last press conference was like a lynch mob. Please note that the war talk didn't come from the unions. What had they “won,” to so annoy the class-warmongers? Exactly nothing. They gained nothing, never even aimed to gain. Their goals were to preserve what they had, and they got at most a partial victory. They held onto a diminishing (unto zero) part of their sick days bank, and a fraction of the wage increase that others, like police, received. What kind of victory do the critics want – unconditional surrender? Maybe the mayor should have A-bombed the picket lines. But if you call for social warfare, you might get it. There are scattered signs: VIA went briefly on strike; in South Africa, there are riots against the failure to deliver social justice as promised since the end of apartheid; even in the United States, people have been arrested, calling for single-payer health care. What causes social upheaval is not so much desperation, which is always in supply, as it is overdoses of sanctimony, hypocrisy and double standards.

Braidwood means a whole new start, Editorial, Friday July 31 2009.

If the taser can kill in B.C., it can kill in New Brunswick or Ontario. Its use should be drastically curtailed, everywhere

Everything known about tasers – everything the provinces and police forces think they know – should now be treated as junk. Canada has a state-of-the-art manual that says the taser can kill, and its use by police forces needs to be severely limited. But have the provinces noticed? The silence of most of them on last week's 556-page Braidwood report has been, well, stunning.

Among the most egregious and most influential pieces of junk is the “research” report of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police on the supposed safety of the taser, notwithstanding the 25 people who have died in this country, and 300 in the United States, after being tasered. That report can now be tossed in the garbage bin where it belongs. The chiefs, who were hardly impartial anyway, undermined any claim to independence by accepting roughly $100,000 in sponsorship money from the taser's manufacturer. The chiefs' report contributed to the prevailing view among police in this country that people don't die from tasers, they die from excited delirium: overheating.

Thomas Braidwood, a retired appeal court judge in British Columbia, after a public inquiry, has dismissed that as plain wrong. Mr. Braidwood looked at the best evidence, and heard from experts in a variety of fields: emergency medicine, cardiology, electrophysiology, pathology, epidemiology, psychology and psychiatry. Unlike the Canadian police chiefs, he had both eyes open when he reviewed the evidence. He was impartial.

Police guidelines in much of Canada allow for tasers to be used at very low levels of threat – even, in some jurisdictions, when people who are not dangerous are merely walking away from an officer (even a Vancouver transit officer). Mr. Braidwood would limit their use to truly dangerous, though not life-threatening situations. If the provinces follow B.C.'s lead and accept his ideas, they would develop uniform policies, rather than leaving matters in the hands of local forces. They would insist that, where mentally ill people are involved, the police try first, where possible, to de-escalate. Any officer with a taser would also have a defibrillator. Tasers should be used for only one five-second cycle, not several.

The Braidwood recommendations should also be embraced by the RCMP. The national police force appears to have accepted them for its B.C. detachments, but has yet to say whether it does for the rest of the country. RCMP Commissioner William Elliott, unlike the police chiefs, had already publicly conceded that tasers can kill, but Mr. Braidwood said his policy revisions did not go far enough.

It would be unconscionable if most provinces sat on their hands and pretended Mr. Braidwood's report is relevant only to B.C. The truths he uncovered apply everywhere, even if his jurisdiction was limited to B.C. If the taser can kill in B.C., it can kill in New Brunswick or Ontario. Its use should be drastically curtailed, everywhere.

Green Premier's agenda hits snag as energy plan rejected, Mark Hume, Wednesday July 29 2009.

Commission says British Columbia government's initiative not in public interest

Vancouver — The British Columbia government's energy plan and the future of new renewable-power projects in the province have been shaken by a ruling from the B.C. Utilities Commission.

After hearings that lasted almost a year, the commission has rejected BC Hydro's long-term acquisition plan as “not in the public interest” and has refused to endorse its push for clean energy.

The government's clean – or green – energy plan has been a key initiative pursued by Premier Gordon Campbell and was a major issue in the May election. The ruling could call into question the viability of the B.C. government's policy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020. That promise, and a long term goal of an 80 per cent reduction by 2050, was put into law last year with passage of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act.

Some analysts say the ruling – which shocked the government and the stock market – indicates B.C. has been over-estimating the amount of power the province needs in order to justify the development of independent power projects.

“We have a very flawed energy plan in this province … the government cannot continue to exaggerate the need for power,” said Lori Winstanley, a spokeswoman for the professional employees' union known as COPE, which has long been critical of BC Hydro's energy plan.

For years the opposition NDP has questioned the Campbell government's energy plan, claiming independent hydro projects that harness some of the province's rivers – known as run of river projects – pose hazards to the environment, and sports fisheries.

The ruling delivered a quick blow to independent power producers (IPPs), with shares for Plutonic Power Corp. plunging about 24 per cent yesterday, falling $1.00 to $3.08.

A spokesman for Plutonic, the biggest bidder in B.C. Hydro's calls for new projects, said the company would react later.

Dow Jones Newswires said the commission's decision “could put the development of new renewable-power projects in the province on hold.”

But Blair Lekstrom, B.C.'s Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, tried to steady the market by saying the government remains committed to pursuing the development of more clean, renewable energy through IPP's.

“We are focused on developing clean and renewable energy resources. We are going to continue down that path,” said Mr. Lekstrom.

He said he was surprised by the ruling, which included a refusal to allow BC Hydro to downgrade the Burrard Generating Station. Burrard is a conventional thermal plant fuelled by natural gas that supplements hydroelectric generation in years of low water flows.

BC Hydro wanted to rate Burrard as capable of producing a maximum of 3,000 gigawatt hours annually, while BCUC said the figure should be 5,000 GWh. If the Burrard potential is rated 2,000 GWh higher, then the need for private power would have to drop by the same amount.

“Fully the biggest surprise is Burrard thermal, talk of moving that from 3,000 to 5,000 [GWh],” said Mr. Lekstrom. “That certainly doesn't fit with the direction that we have set as a province … and that's clean renewable energy and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions where we can.”

Bob Elton, CEO of BC Hydro, said the 236-page decision is a detailed and complicated ruling.

“It will take us two or three days to really be clear about what it does mean for the clean power call,” said Mr. Elton.

“As a matter of urgency, we are going through [the ruling] and we will figure out what our position is, what we intend to bring forward. As we've always said a lot will depend on the prices of those [IPP] projects,” he said.

He said BC Hydro did get much of what it wanted in the ruling.

“We were looking for a bunch of things, a total of $630-odd-million of expenditures on different things … and they approved all but $2-million,” he said. “They approved, for example $418-million on demand side management, that's a huge thing for us. ”

BCUC also approved $41-million to continue consultation on Site C, a proposed mega-project on the Peace River.

On the rejection of the overall long-term acquisition plan, Mr. Elton said BC Hydro will be back before the utilities commission next year with a revised proposal.

Ms. Winstanley, director of strategic communications and campaigns for COPE, the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union, said the ruling has three key aspects: the rejection of the long-term acquisition plan, a refusal to endorse the clean energy call, and a refusal to allow BC Hydro to downgrade the capacity of Burrard thermal.

“Those are the most significant pieces of the decision, but also there were deficiencies in the government's [energy] conservation plan,” she said.

Tom Hakney, vice-president of Policy for the BC Sustainable Energy Association, said his organization “is frankly surprised and somewhat concerned,” by the ruling.

“The commission is telling BC Hydro to go back and rely on Burrard thermal for energy. We're concerned about that. That is antiquated technology,” he said.

“The commission essentially told them to rely more on Burrard thermal, and there would therefore be less need for [new renewable] energy,” said Mr. Hakney. “Our view is there is a real need to develop renewable energy in B.C. to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.”

Former lover of Quebec multimillionaire fails to get $50 million, July 16 2009.

MONTREAL — A woman who had three children with a Montreal multimillionaire without marrying him has lost her bid to get a lump sum of $50 million as well as alimony payments.

The couple, who met in her native Brazil in 1992 when she was 17 and he was 32, lived together for seven years before they split up in 2001.

The woman was also seeking a monthly payment of $56,000 for herself and a share of the family estate.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Carole Hallee rejected the requests but said in her ruling Thursday the woman is entitled to the $34,000 a month she currently receives in child support.

Hallee's ruling states the couple's relationship could not be called a marriage under the wording of federal or provincial legislation.

She said Quebec deliberately chose to not subject live-in couples to the same obligations as those faced by married couples, especially with regard to spousal support and the sharing of assets.

Quebec is the only province that does not recognize common-law unions.

Hallee said the province has respected a basic human right - the freedom to decide whether one wants to get married.

And Hallee added there is nothing to prevent live-in couples from signing financial agreements either during or after their relationship so they can benefit from the same rights as married couples.

The couple can't be identified under a provincial family law aimed at protecting the identity of the children.

When he appeared in court last January, the 49-year-old businessman insisted he shouldn't have to pay because he never legally married the woman.

The defendant testified he told the woman during their relationship he didn't believe in the institution of marriage.

"It's not my cup of tea," the frustrated man said when grilled by his ex-girlfriend's lawyer for his opinion on holy matrimony.

He argued that even though they broke up in 2001, he bought her a $2.5-million home, continues to pay for her servants and takes care of many of her other bills, which totalled more than $200,000 last year.

Former model loses bid for cut of ex's millions, Ingrid Peritz, Thursday July 16 2009.

Woman had been seeking $50-million plus $56,000 in monthly spousal support in key Quebec case

Montreal — The Brazilian-born ex of a super-wealthy Quebec businessman has lost her bid to get a share of his millions.

The former model went to court to argue that she deserved alimony from the multi-millionaire even though they lived together for years without formally marrying. In a highly publicized case, she went to court to seek $50-million plus $56,000 in monthly spousal support.

But a Superior Court judge today rejected her attempt and constitutional challenge. Under Quebec law, live-in partners who split up don't have the same rights or financial benefits as married couples who divorce.

The woman, who met the Quebecker on a beach in South America when she was a teenager, split from her ex in 2001 but has shared custody of their three children. She had been receiving $35,000 a month in child-support payments and wanted a separate sum of $56,000 a month in spousal support for herself.

Today's ruling carries major implications in Quebec, where many couples choose to live together without tying the knot. About 35 per cent of couples shack up in the province without going down the aisle, while in the rest of Canada, the rate is 13.5 per cent.


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